Interview with E. G. Fabricant

Why you? Why now?
Why not? Sorry--I learned this form of deflective discourse when my two boys were teenagers.
Why the nom de plume? What’s that about?
My literary hero is Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, or "America's Shakespeare." (That, according to a guy named Ernie Hemingway.) So, naturally, I had to have one. It reflects my preternatural obsession with wordplay, Read it aloud, slowly,
What caused you to turn to writing fiction so late in life?
Thanks to my parents and four older siblings, I came up a voracious reader, so I've always enjoyed literary fiction. I decided in high school to become a lawyer and change the world, so the nonfiction of post-secondary education, law school, and a career took precedence. I was between assignments in mid-2001 when I discovered the "A Murder, A Mystery, and a Marriage" contest in the Atlantic Monthly magazine. "MMM" was a novella written by Mark Twain--my literary hero--sometime between "Tom Sawyer" (1876) and "Huck Finn" (1884). For decades, he tried to convince William Dean Howells, the Atlantic's publisher, to mount a contest in which he'd publish a few chapters of "MMM" and invite other literary lights of the day to complete the story. Besides being a genius, Sam Clemens was an intense competitor. Howells knew no one in his or her right mind would come anywhere near it, so he put Twain off. The manuscript was though lost until this century, when the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library bought it from a guy in Texas, I think. So, they decided to fulfill the author's wishes. My partner, Geri, goaded me into entering three weeks before the deadline. I spent a good bit of that time plowing through the Great Man's papers housed at the Mark Twain Project at Cal-Berkeley. Needless to say, I was inspired. I was one of 10 finalists and was invited to Buffalo for the awards celebration. Three weeks after the 9-11 attacks, I spent three days meeting the other contestants and mingling with Twain scholars and geeks. Sublime. That's when I decided to scratch the itch and produce a short story collection.
In your past, you’ve done something very different from what you’re doing now. Does your past influence or inform your writing? How?
The easy answer is, as a lawyer I spent years writing lies--excuse me, "creative fiction"--for my clients, so I'd argue it isn't that much of a stretch. Good writing begets good writing, as far as I'm concerned. Most of my adult life was spent in public policy and politics, so my literary interests are grounded in real people, real problems, and real solutions.
You say your fiction is “contemporary, topical, and speaks to the human condition.” What does that mean, for prospective readers?
It means you're going to encounter real characters, whose real stories matter. If you're looking for post-apocalyptic or dystopian themes, or gangs of vampires, wiccans, wizards, or zombies, you'll be disappointed. Like my literary heroes, I haven't given up on us yet.
What inspires you to write a story?
Individual or collective experience--anything from an image to a life chapter, mine or someone else's.
“Matters Familiar” consists of 12 very different stories. Is there some kind of unifying theme?
The original title was "Family Matters," which I changed to avoid confusion with other works. The theme is "We're all in this together, in a tribal sense; others are suffering, too, but, as long as we're engaged, there's hope." I try to portray full-dimension people in conflict, with grace, humor, and forgiveness.
Among the stories in your collection, do you have a favorite? Which one, and why?
Without a doubt, my first: "The Jewel of Genoa." A whole gaggle of wild, relatable characters cleverly disguised as the frail elderly, in a situation that we Boomers and our kids are facing every day. I've never had more fun putting words in someone else's mouths.
If “Matters Familiar” had a subtitle, what would it be?
"People Matter: Stories."
Why short fiction? It seems to fall in and out of fashion, compared to longer forms like the novel.
I have a friend who's a successful genre novelist. She said, "I admire you--short stories are way harder than novels!" I don't have much use for dropping in on a character's "slice of life," without resolution. I love the challenge of producing a satisfying, three-act tale that someone can read and enjoy over a lunch hour.
Who among short-story authors would you say has had the greatest influence on you?
No contest--Sam Clemens, or Mark Twain. Besides the power and construction of his word entertainment, everything he wrote is anchored in the human condition. I learned more about slavery, racism, hypocrisy, and other darknesses in our souls, and about our potential for redemption, than from anyone else, fiction or nonfiction. Sholem Aleichem; Saul Bellow; Alice Munro; John Updike; Eudora Welty--anyone who can assemble ethereal humans onto a stage of pulp and spin magic out of their words and deeds. Ernest Hemingway for punch-power--see "Hills Like White Elephants." Elmore Leonard for character dimension and dialogue; the just-concluded TV gem, "Justified," was based on his novella, "Fire in the Hole." I admire George Saunders' work because he's crazier than I am, and at least as soft.
What is your writing process? How do you get from concept to “The End?”
I've heard John Irving say that he doesn't begin writing anything until he knows what the last sentence is, and everything that comes before it. I've also heard his protege, Abraham Vergese, say he began writing "Cutting for Stone" with a single idea: an Indian nun dies giving birth to Siamese twins. My process falls somewhere in between.
What would you say to those who might dismiss you because you haven’t “paid your dues?”
I'd ask them, "What does that mean?" I was born. I've seen; thought; studied; passed; failed; lived; loved; fought; suffered; hurt; healed; married; reproduced; divorced; endured. I'm a card-carrying Homo Sapiens--all paid up, with more to do.
Have you attempted to write in any form other than short fiction?
Some of my stories are long enough to qualify as novellas, I guess. I've written and published some poetry in the past and my adult career as a lawyer was dedicated to producing fact-based narratives as required for clients--in English, I'm proud to say. I'm working on a nonfiction book on political reform, to be published under my real name.
What should a reader bring to your stories, to get the most out of them?
An open mind, a sharp imagination, and a heart with a little room to spare.
Published 2015-08-05.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

A Call Away
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 3,950. Language: English. Published: September 23, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Anthologies » Short stories - single author, Fiction » Gay & lesbian fiction » Lesbian
"A Call Away" is built upon one of my free stories, "Me--Molly," which was my entry in NPR’s Round 10 of their occasional feature, “Three Minute Fiction.” There, the 600-word story had to be written "as a voice-mail message.” It was my first tale with an LGBTQIA theme--in this case, L--and I wanted to explore it in a wider, deeper, more emotional way. Thus, Molly's two-page struggle became 18.
Timeout
Price: Free! Words: 720. Language: English. Published: September 23, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Anthologies » Short stories - single author, Fiction » Plays & Screenplays » American
(4.00 from 1 review)
"Timeout" was my contribution to Round 11 of National Public Radio’s “Three Minute Fiction,” concluded June 9, 2013. Rules: 600 words or fewer; not “inappropriate;” and in which a character finds something he or she has no intention of returning. I wanted to cast the state of our growing economic inequality in more intimate terms.
GriffonRider
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 6,010. Language: English. Published: May 13, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Space opera, Fiction » Anthologies » Short stories - single author
It's six weeks until the scheduled launch of the first manned Mars fly-by, when Diana Erden--one-half of the married "Phobonaut" crew--loses consciousness. The choice facing the TransMars Collective, a private venture on the threshold of history? Proceed as planned, or fail. Under the circumstances, the replacement they find has some issues but seems almost perfect. Almost. ADULT SITUATIONS.
Me--Molly
Price: Free! Words: 710. Language: English. Published: March 19, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Literary collections » American / General, Fiction » Gay & lesbian fiction » Lesbian
(5.00 from 1 review)
"Me--Molly" is my entry in NPR’s Round Ten of their occasional feature, “Three Minute Fiction.” In this case, each story had to be written as a voice-mail message.” Had to be dialogue, right? I thought, "This is my chance." They did select a story with a similar theme, but--in my opinion--it didn't convey much power or emotion. See what you think, and let me know.
Midterms
Price: Free! Words: 770. Language: English. Published: February 9, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Historical » USA
"Midterms" is my entry in NPR’s Round Nine of their occasional feature, “Three Minute Fiction.” In this case, each story had to “reference a U.S. President, real or fictional.” The day before the September 23 submission deadline was the 150th anniversary of one of our history’s most momentous—and politically shrewd—decisions, I felt dutybound to indulge that reality.
Tapped
Price: Free! Words: 780. Language: English. Published: May 31, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Plays & Screenplays » American
(3.50 from 2 reviews)
My Round Eight entry in National Public Radio's "Three Minute Fiction" contest. As the rules required, less than 600 words and incorporating this sentence: "She closed the book, placed it on the table, and finally, decided to walk through the door." Tried to balance dialogue and narrative; still looking for that first reader who appreciates characters speaking for themselves, to some degree.
Jumpers
Price: Free! Words: 780. Language: English. Published: November 16, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Anthologies » Short stories - single author
Here's my entry for Round Seven of National Public Radio's "Three Minute Fiction," concluded November 12. As usual, had to be 600 words or less; this round one character had to come to town and one character had to leave town. Still not buying my theory that the reader should be able to watch and eavesdrop, rather than be read to; I blame Elmore Leonard.
Rants: Online Essays by E. G. Fabricant
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 770. Language: English. Published: September 7, 2011. Categories: Nonfiction » Politics & Current Affairs » Current affairs
What you’re buying into here are a series of 13 essays I posted as 35 blog entries to my website between the end of 2005 and just before the November 2010 election. Most of the first 32 were published weekly throughout 2006 and are organized around 13 distinct themes; the last three were random, and later. My personal therapy will be your burden--and amusement.
Shambles
Price: Free! Words: 760. Language: English. Published: April 9, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Anthologies » Short stories - single author
Here's my entry in Round Six of National Public Radio's "Three Minute Fiction," concluded April 3. As usual, had to be 600 words or less; this round one character had to tell a joke and one character had to cry. From the selections, seems the screeners are most fond of self-conscious, first-person exposition--tell, don't show. Cheats the reader, I think; let 'em make up their own minds.
Quincy
Price: Free! Words: 790. Language: English. Published: November 17, 2010. Categories: Fiction » Anthologies » Short stories - single author
Here's my entry in Round Five of National Public Radio's "Three Minute Fiction," concluded Nov.14. Had to be 600 words or less; had to begin with "Some people swore that the house was haunted;" and had to end with the line, "Nothing was ever the same again after that." Guess Michael Cunningham and the IWW minions don't like spooks with some basis in historical fact...
Rapid City
Price: Free! Words: 790. Language: English. Published: October 2, 2010. Categories: Fiction » Plays & Screenplays » American
A couple months ago, our writing group decided to do and review stories based on the Round Four rules for National Public Radio's "Three Minute Fiction"--600 words or less; containing each of these words: "plant," "button," "trick," and "fly;" and not "inappropriate." Two out of three ain't bad. It's about two veterans and a...new friend. Hope you enjoy it. Adult situation.
Boner
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 2,400. Language: English. Published: October 2, 2010. Categories: Fiction » Plays & Screenplays » American
After cutting school, two bored teenagers cook up some Spam-inspired mischief between the housekeeper and Grandpa. The result? Not what they bargained for. Adult situation.
Term Limit
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 10,060. Language: English. Published: October 2, 2010. Categories: Fiction » Plays & Screenplays » American
From "Matters Familiar." A scandal-plagued politician contemplates suicide, but checks in with his cousin first to sort things out. Adult language.
Robbin' Hood
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 9,630. Language: English. Published: October 2, 2010. Categories: Fiction » Plays & Screenplays » American
From "Matters Familiar." Worried about his sickly nephew’s future, a dutiful mob soldier finds inspiration an ocean and an age away. Adult situations, language.
Pipe Dream
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 8,560. Language: English. Published: October 2, 2010. Categories: Fiction » Plays & Screenplays » American
From "Matters Familiar." A top-dollar attorney complains about the bill and unwittingly becomes his plumber’s Zen pupil. Adult language.
Pallbearer
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 5,970. Language: English. Published: October 2, 2010. Categories: Fiction » Plays & Screenplays » American
From "Matters Familiar." Two boys, one mother; two lives, separated from birth.
Meridian
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 7,400. Language: English. Published: October 2, 2010. Categories: Fiction » Plays & Screenplays » American
From "Matters Familiar." An amnesiac accident victim recovers more than his health among strangers in a small Southern town. Adult situations, language.
Medalists
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 1,650. Language: English. Published: October 2, 2010. Categories: Fiction » Plays & Screenplays » American
From "Matters Familiar." A vignette, after infidelity was declared an Olympic sport. Sexually explicit.
The Jewel of Genoa
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 11,680. Language: English. Published: October 2, 2010. Categories: Fiction » Plays & Screenplays » American
From "Matters Familiar." A retired cowgirl and her best friend resort to drugs, kidnapping, and interstate flight to escape the nursing home and reclaim their lives.
Intentional Walk
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 7,680. Language: English. Published: October 2, 2010. Categories: Fiction » Plays & Screenplays » American
From "Matters Familiar." A girls' softball team rebels and instructs parents and coaches in the value of competition.
Gemini
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 5,600. Language: English. Published: October 2, 2010. Categories: Fiction » Plays & Screenplays » American
From "Matters Familiar." Two brothers try to make sense of their lives after their domineering mother's death. Adult language.
Chosen
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 4,940. Language: English. Published: October 2, 2010. Categories: Fiction » Plays & Screenplays » American
From "Matters Familiar." Adrift in his own life and desperate for a belief system, a young man finds direction and purpose from a surprising source.
Boys Will Be Men
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 2,660. Language: English. Published: October 2, 2010. Categories: Fiction » Plays & Screenplays » American
From "Matters Familiar." A recently-divorced father sharing custody of his young son learns about parenting in an unlikely place--Death Row. Adult language.
Ashley Alert
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 6,230. Language: English. Published: October 2, 2010. Categories: Fiction » Plays & Screenplays » American
From "Matters Familiar." A small girl, suffocating in the growing culture of fear around her, struggles to take the high ground.
Xenodu
Price: Free! Words: 11,950. Language: English. Published: September 6, 2010. Categories: Fiction » Plays & Screenplays » American
(5.00 from 1 review)
Dystopia Americana, anyone? "Xenodu" is my dark look--redrawn November 7, 2013--at our Nation's future, near mid-century. Fear, ignorance, greed, and a broken system of self-governance all have consequences.
Matters Familiar
Price: $5.99 USD. Words: 79,890. Language: English. Published: August 31, 2010. Categories: Fiction » Anthologies » Short stories - single author
(5.00 from 1 review)
Twelve tales from inside complex contemporary relationships. For one, two retired cowgirls resort to drugs, kidnapping, and interstate flight to escape the nursing home and reclaim their lives. For another, a dutiful mob soldier, worried about his sickly nephew's future, finds inspiration an ocean and ages away. Ten more about adults, kids, convicts, lawyers, politicians and other undesirables.