by Aliza Greenblatt
Carl Steiger lives in a house near Seattle overlooking Lake Washington along with his wife and two small children. Unless he decides to do something else with his limited free time, he tries to write stories at home when everyone else is sleeping, or at the office during lunch breaks. He keeps up on his reading while commuting on the bus. He has traveled extensively across Asia, less extensively in other regions, and generally enjoys “otherness” in literature, music and cuisine.
Aliza Greenblatt: So let’s get the obvious questions out of the way: What type of Bond villain are you striving to be? Weapon of choice? How are your plans for world domination coming along?
Carl Steiger: Ha! Two separate teams of amateur career counselors recommended this path to me (probably out of frustration with my snarky attitude toward the Myers-Briggs test). I think my preferred MO would be mass mind control, a la the Mule in Asimov’s Foundation yarns. Alas, the odds of making it as World Dictator are even slimmer than making it as a famous author. My best bet appears to be simply waiting for civilization to collapse on its own and then picking up the pieces.
AG: I’m assuming from your bio (and correct me if I’m wrong) that you do not write fiction full-time. What made you want to start writing in the first place? What types of stories do you tend to write? Do you mostly focus on flash fiction or do you like longer forms as well?
CS: You assume correctly. Some dear friends of mine (including a couple EDF contributors) have been writing fiction for some time, hanging out with writers’ groups, attending workshops and generally having the time of their lives, apart from the misery of marketing their work. Not counting a couple abortive stabs at fiction writing, I had been content to vicariously enjoy their strivings from the sidelines. But then my daughter woke up in the middle of one night, crying about being scared of sphinxes. I was actually pleased by this – after all, any child can be scared of monsters, but my kid, showing some creativity, is scared of sphinxes. Anyway, I thought I could make something out of that, and the result was my first appearance in Every Day Fiction.
Any story I write is going to have at least a small fantastical or surreal element. If I attempt any science fiction, it will have to be basic space opera, because I’m too lazy to do the research needed to get technical details right. I’d love to get some longer works done, but flash is ideal for me just because I can get a flash piece completed before I’m too distracted by other things.
AG: Can you tell me a little about your writing process?
CS: A little? I can probably do that. I seem to need something to get my attention, something peculiar, out of place, off-kilter. What’s the story behind that, I’ll ask myself, and then I’ll just make something up. The germ for this story was a photo I remembered seeing, of a sweet-faced old guy, all duded up in a suit and tie, with a tsantsa hanging on a cord around his neck.
AG: Luis is a collector of rare, beautiful, and eclectic things. But collections are made to be admired and preserved, which I believe (and again, correct me if I’m wrong) is why Luis originally struck up a conversation with the narrator. But I was curious, what other things does Luis collect? And why rare stamps?
CS: Yes, Luis desires admiration for his accomplishment. Certainly he has a fabulous library, probably full of awful, forbidden books that would bring damnation upon anyone who perused them. He treats his companions as accessories, so I guess to some extent he collects people as well. I envision his “museum” as something you’d expect to find in the Addams Family home.
Indeed, why rare stamps? As I was writing about this fiend, I noticed he was starting to remind me of myself, and I deliberately made mention of a field that I’m not so passionate about, just to create some distance. I do have a stamp collection, but it’s dwarfed by the coin collection. And at this point I should declare that I have no tsantsas, mummies or anything similarly appalling in my possession.
AG: In the story, the narrator has a morbid fascination with the shrunken head and Luis takes the opportunity to explain the history of tsantsas in detail. Which made me wonder, how much research on tsantsas did you do for this story?
CS: More than I should have, perhaps. A little searching on the internet got me what I wanted pretty quickly, although some of the information (or misinformation) was contradictory, but I went a little too far and wound up on the “taxidermy gone wrong” page on Facebook, and suffered psychic injury even as I was laughing at it.
AG: What other projects are you working on now? Are there other stories of yours, either upcoming or published, that you can point readers to?
CS: I just sent another flash off to EDF the other day. I’m also pecking away at two longer projects, both fantasies, but not feeling any hurry about either of them. Once I finish them, I’ll have to try to find a home for them, and I foresee a rough road when it comes to that. There’s an 8000-word SF fable (one I called an “abortive stab” earlier) that’s been rotting in tor.com’s slush heap for six months, and I wish they’d just send me a rejection so I can tinker with it some more. All I can point readers to at this time is the four previous flashes that have appeared at Every Day Fiction. And I should take the opportunity to thank EDF’s editors for the comments and encouragement they have given an entry-level writer.
AG: Thank you very much for taking the time to chat with us. Best of luck with all your writing endeavors.
CS: Thank you, Aliza! It was a thrill to get the honor!
Aliza T. Greenblatt works in a firmly non-writing field when the sun is up and writes under a desk lamp at night. Fueled by a sheer love of books and a tyrannical imagination, she writes the stories that appear over her morning coffee and won’t leave her alone until they are put down on paper. She writes, raves, and blogs at http://atgreenblatt.com. and on Twitter @AtGreenblatt