Patricia Abbott is the author of more than 125 stories that have appeared online, in print journals and in various anthologies. She is the author of two print novels CONCRETE ANGEL (2015) and SHOT IN DETROIT (2016)(Polis Books). CONCRETE ANGEL was nominated for an Anthony and Macavity Award in 2016. SHOT IN DETROIT was nominated for an Edgar Award and an Anthony Award in 2017. A collection of her stories I BRING SORROW AND OTHER STORIES OF TRANSGRESSION will appear in 2018.
She also authored two ebooks, MONKEY JUSTICE and HOME INVASION and co-edited DISCOUNT NOIR. She won a Derringer award for her story “My Hero.” She lives outside Detroit.
Patricia takes some time to share insights about her latest work, I Bring Sorrow and Other Stories of Transgression and what she likes about writing short stories.
SR: You’ve released a short story collection. Tell give us a teaser for the oldest story in your collection.
PA: According to the TOC, it would be “Are You Going To Take Care of This Guy Or Not.” During the vice-presidential debate in 2000 much was made about the gentlemanliness of the two candidates. This story is about a recent convict who considers emulating Cheney after his release and how well he succeeds. I used various quotes from Cheney throughout the story, hopefully integrating them with the plot.
SR: Where did the title come from?
PA: The title comes from Cheney’s own words.
SR: Tell us about one of your favorite stories that’s included in your collection.
PA: My favorite story is the title story because it’s a story of an obsession that leads to madness. But whose is the mystery. I loved incorporating some tropes from fantasy and horror in it. I loved using the cello as the object of desire.
SR: What is it about writing short stories that appeals to you?
PA: That you get to tinker with your story a lot. There’s time to consider every word. And also you get to leave the characters behind in about six weeks.
SR: How do you think short story writing has strengthened you as a writer overall?
PA: I think it has taught me to be succinct. To consider carefully what is needed and what is not. Although it also handicapped my ability to write in more detail with the novels.
SR: Do you have any recurring characters you feature in more than one short story? If so, what is it about the short story format that suits those characters?
PA: The only characters that I repeated was in the novel in stories HOME INVASION. Or at least I think that is true. Although to some extent I write about the same sort of people quite a bit. They are usually blue-collar types, struggling to make it, damaged.
SR: Which story in the collection is the most personal story for you? Why?
PA: “We Are All Special Cases” happened to me in its entirety save the last paragraph. It is rare for me to use my own life.
SR: Is there something you hope the reader carries away with them after they’re done reading? An insight or philosophy that you wanted to come through in your work?
PA: I hope the reader carries away that we neither all good or all bad. That we are all injured in some fundamental way. Because of this we need to feel empathy for our fellow man.
SR: When you looked at your stories as a collection did you notice anything about your writing or themes that hadn’t really stood out to you before?
PA: I think I realized once again how hard it is for me to not write dark stories. When I looked for one to read aloud at a few events, it was impossible to find one that wouldn’t repulse or scare or worry the audience.
SR: What was the first short story that you had published? Tell us a little about it and how it got published. How did that experience impact you as a writer?
PA: Well, it was when I was a student and our professor insisted we send out a story. So I sent one to the North American Auto Show. It was about two robbers, (The Imprint) nothing to do with cars at all. But it got an honorable mention and they published it on their website. It gave me enough confidence to try again.
SR: What’s one of the first short stories that you really remember reading and how did it impact your approach to short stories or your writing style.
PA: I have always loved short stories and can’t remember the first one. But I do remember the writer whose stories I read the most early on and that was Alice Munro. Her stories spoke to me from the start. Her characters seemed like the kind of people I knew.