The anthology, Urban Fantasy, published by KY Story, is a collection of stories with supernatural beings and events exploring contemporary themes. It contains a story by yours truly--"The Bull Riding Witch--and is now available on Amazon in print and Kindle formats (http://www.amazon.com/Urban-Fantasy-anthology-misc-authors/dp/149033016X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1377354125&sr=8-1&keywords=9781490330167).
To get you excited about the anthology, I am interviewing the other authors and making available an excerpt of their stories. I plan to publish one interview every Friday until I've interviewed everyone in the collection. First up is John Biggs, author of the story, "In an Instant." If you like what you read, please comment and check out the rest of the anthology.
Tell us a little about yourself?
I’m one of those people who wanders aimlessly until he finally winds up exactly where he was supposed be.
I fell in love with a hometown girl who lived down the block from me, but not till she went away to college.
I was born in Southern Illinois, but found a home in Oklahoma (by way of Maine).
I’m a dentist by training, but gradually shifted to writing. I did that in the slowest way possible, by editing the Oklahoma Dental Journal and writing research articles until boring facts and stilted syntax no longer satisfied me. Then I switched to fiction.
What made you want to become a writer?
I couldn’t stop myself. I tried my hand at writing fiction about ten years ago and was immediately hooked. There are no twelve step programs around, so I’ve stuck with it.
Why Urban Fantasy? What about this genre appeals to you?
I’ve never written a story with a market in mind. I wrote a series of linked short stories that evaluate the fall of civilization from an Oklahoma point of view. I know that sounds a little odd, but Oklahoma is a special case. Native American culture is alive and well here. There are cowboys everywhere you look. Religion plays a major role in Oklahoma society. We have the most fanatic sports enthusiasts in the world.
I’ve managed to place nine of these post apocalyptic Oklahoma stories. Some in literary magazines, some in horror venues, and some in fantasy publications. I found KY Stories in Duotrope and hoped “In an Instant” would be a match.
Could you tell us a bit about your story?
After society collapses, looting and shopping are the same thing. Raj, my protagonist, is trying to scrounge groceries from an abandoned Buy For Less, when he is captured by a roving band of men led by The Colonel. The men have no women. Raj looks like a pretty good substitute to most of them until they find a five year old girl named Mary. Raj takes charge of Mary. He manages to keep her safe until the band of men find a cache of ecstasy. Now he must decide whether to give her up and save himself or risk his life and try to save them both. As the title suggests, he has to make this decision “In an Instant."
What gave you the inspiration for your story?
Raj, my protagonist, is East Indian. I came in contact with a number of people from that part of the world and found their culture compelling. I wondered how these people might react to a complete absence of order.
Do you believe an apocalyptic scenario such as the one in your story is likely? Why or why not?
I think it is very likely. An enduring idea of Newtonian physics is that things proceed from order to disorder. Everything breaks down. The ruins of failed civilizations litter the planet. Ours is bigger and more technologically dependent, so it’s likely to fall harder than most and leave a bigger mess.
Are your characters based off real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination?
All of my characters are an amalgamation of people I’ve known.
Of all the characters you have created, which is your favorite and why?
Danny Riley, the protagonist of my second novel—still in process—is my favorite character. He is a classical outsider: a Laguna Pueblo who grew up on the Navajo Reservation and moves to Oklahoma in search of his missing family. Danny is capable of overcoming every obstacle that confronts him. I used him at various stages of his life in “Try-to-kill-you-days," in Cactus Country I anthology, and in Boy Witch, a story that won the grand prize in the 80th annual Writers’ Digest competition.
What’s your connection to the South?
I have several connections. My mother’s father was a coal miner from Kentucky. He moved his family to Southern Illinois in the early 1900’s.
Williamson County, where I was born, had such strong southern sympathies during the civil war that it succeeded from the Union. The succession only lasted until General John A. Logan and the Union Army convinced them the idea was never going to fly.
I live in Oklahoma, which is sort of a southern state, and my first novel, Owl Dreams, is being published by Pen-L Publishing out of Fayetteville, Arkansas.
Do you have a day job in addition to being a writer? If so, what do you do during the day?
I am now retired. I was a faculty member at the OU College of Dentistry and also maintained a private practice in the specialty of Endodontics.
What is your favorite writing tip or quote?
Write every day.
What else have you published?
My first novel, Owl Dreams, will be released by Pen-L Publishing in mid November.
“In an Instant” is my thirtieth published short story. Other stories from the linked post apocalyptic series have been published or accepted for publication in: Pravic, Kansas City Voices, Open Road Review, Constellations, Mystic Signals, Lightning Cake, Clerics Charlatans and Cultists, and Ruined Cities Anthology.
Tell us a little about your plans for the future. Do you have any other stories or books in the works?
I am currently working on two novels. Trial Separation is an 80,000 word magical realism piece that re-introduces Danny Riley, the hero of some previous short stories.
Popsicle Sticks is also magical realism. It is a 50,000 word novel which draws on Native American witchcraft.
Where can we find you online?
This site is currently under construction. It will contain both a website and a blog.
This site is present but inactive. It will be replaced by the blog site listed above.
In an Instant
The clock on our kitchen wall stopped months ago along with everything else that works on electricity, but my mother checks it anyway.
“Still five o’clock,” she says. “In India, mothers don’t measure time with machines.”
“All the really important things happen in an instant.” She kisses me on the cheek, brushes the spot with her fingertips and tells me, “You’re a man now, Raj.”
Just like that.
“Things change when the world falls apart.” Her Bengali accent turns everything she says into Eastern wisdom. “Now looting and shopping are exactly the same thing.”
“You see, Raj? Whether you’re in India or Oklahoma City.”
“Well . . .” I’d have more to say if my accent came from the other side of the world.
She puts her hands on my shoulders so I’ll have to pay attention; so I’ll know Bengali-Okie-men have to listen to their mothers. “Hunger makes all the difference, especially if someone’s already broken into the grocery store.”
She hands me a shopping bag made of recycled plastic. “Think of it as an adventure.”
My first assignment as a man is stealing dinner from the Buy for Less.
The rioters made a mess of things. Broken glass, pools of dried blood, piles of crumpled clothing that might have bones inside. I keep my eyes on the back of the store and my mind on canned goods.
Chef Boyardee, Vienna Sausages, Starkist Tuna.
I take careful baby steps through the deepest darkest part of Buy for Less, back where the seafood and meat have turned into a maggot factory. No wind inside the stores to move the odors around. They settle in layers that burn my eyes and turn my stomach but I’m still hungry enough to eat canned tomatoes and beets and wash them down with grapefruit juice. The looters left plenty of those things when they ran through the store days ago and cleaned out all good stuff: Wolf Brand Chili, Beer, Diet Coke.
I’m opening a can of sour croute with a one of the twenty blades on my Swiss Army knife when bright lights shine on me from two directions.
A voice behind one of the lights says, “Show us your hands, Jose.”
So I drop the knife and the sour croute and push my fingers toward the ceiling. Pigeons roosting in the girders shift positions, not sure if I’m reaching for them. They coo to each other—making plans.
The voice calls me a “Goddamned Mexican.” I hear a dollop of saliva splatter on the floor. I hear the hammer of a pistol click into the danger zone.
“I’m not Mexican,” I say before I can stop myself.
I point to the American Flag pin my mother made me wear to prove I’m patriotic. I draw a finger under the Kiss me! I’m an Okie! legend on my T-shirt.
“My name’s Rajneesh Patel,” I tell the pair of sealed beam lights. “I’m Bengali, not Hispanic.” The word Hispanic comes out like an obscenity—with accents on hiss and panic.
“My friends call me Raj.”