by Aliza T. Greenblatt

Flash Fiction Chronicles interviewed Dustin Adams about Every Day Fiction’s Top Story for November, “The Gift”  a thought provoking tale about the dangers of knowing and not knowing.

ATG: A few weeks ago, you mentioned in a blog post that you were reeling from the news that “The Gift ” is one of the EDF’s top stories of all time. Have you gotten used to the idea yet?

DA: Is it still up there? Wait, don’t tell me. To be honest, I had to stop checking after the first two weeks. I took a screenshot and saved it as a .jpg, immortalized. I was glad to receive notification that this story was tops for November. Guess it’s still going strong.

What’s really fun is that where normally I’d social network the news of my story’s publication, but this came out on November 2nd, which was just after Superstorm Sandy. Thus, I had no power and didn’t get to tell those I know for a few days. By then, the story had reached #1 on its own.

Dustin AdamsATG: Was there any particular prompt or inspiration for this piece? Did you have any specific goals when writing this story?

DA: I’m a bit of a shut in. I live in the middle of nowhere, and I work from home. So when I get around people, I often wish I already knew them, that they were old friends and we could shake hands and I’d ask how they’ve been.

Specifically, while sitting in an airport, I spotted an elderly man in a wheelchair. He was all alone, and I wanted to know his story. He’d had an entire life of experiences and stories and yet there he was just sitting there alone, smacking his dry lips together waiting for whoever plopped him there to return.

If I knew him, if everyone knew everyone, there would be no stranger barrier between us, and I could have kept him company. I like to think that loneliness would disappear because we’d all know each other’s plights and we’d all have empathy for each other.

Which brings me at last to the second part of your question. My goal was to show that Jessica, the main character, had no empathy. That the gift merely gave her information, but didn’t hurt in the way it pained the other two characters. Lines like: “I’m so sorry, Phil.” I said what I thought I should. and “But why was he crying?” were supposed to accomplish this, but my feedback has been that this didn’t quite hit that mark, but that it didn’t matter. (Whew!)

ATG: Can you tell me a little about your writing process?

DA: I don’t have a process per se. What I do is force myself to get up at 5AM every morning. (OK, sometimes I hit snooze once or twice.) I write every day unless I’m fighting a cold. I’m not a finesse writer, I write far more words than I submit, but I keep pounding away. Momentum is key.

ATG: Part of what I loved about this story was how just enough information was given to keep the reader comfortable, but not enough so that it ruined the mystery of the story.  I think it’s safe to say that it’s the unanswered questions in this piece makes this story so captivating. Was it a struggle to find the right balance of information?

DA: One of my writing tips is to imagine dropping important information or backstory or scenery/sensory information into the story like chocolate chips. They usually take the form of a single sentence between longer paragraphs. They’re the sweet stuff. What’s a chocolate chip cookie without the chocolate chips?

My favorite chip is, “Jean glared at me.” Phil’s recent frown (read: cookie) sets this up. My hope was that aiming these negative words toward Jessica would alert the reader, subconsciously or consciously that we’ve turned a corner story-wise and that we’re sliding into a darker tale.

I’m not sure that answered the question. Was it a struggle? Indeed. When writing, everything makes perfect sense to the author, it’s only after others read it that we learn if what we wrote works or not. I’m glad this one did.

ATG: The main character, Jessica, argues that knowing her past actions without knowing her motivations paints an incomplete picture of her. Like seeing the final scores of a close game, but not the actual match.  Do you think this was an oversight by the aliens or did they design The Gift so that humanity keeps asking questions about itself?

DA: I love the sports reference! That’s exactly right. I believe the aliens have no clue. They’re so used to being in each others heads that they have no idea the damage their gift causes when given to the inexperienced.

Imagine giving a car to an Australian Bushman. We all have cars, right? He could use one. First he’d be confused, then, when accepting this gift is part of his life, gets behind the wheel and promptly crashes.

ATG: What other projects are you working on now? Are there other stories of yours, either upcoming or published, that you can point readers to?

DA: Jennifer Campbell-Hicks (multiple EDF author) and I write one flash fiction a month, exchange with just each other, then submit. So to answer the question, I’m working on a flash. *grin*. I’m also perpetually editing my fourth novel. Before I’d written one, my plan was that the first three don’t count, and I’d submit the fourth. So far so good, but I’m afraid that’s hamstringing me into never actually finishing the darn thing. I want it to be perfect, and while I know that’s not possible, I continue to try.

I’ve got three stories here at EDF, and one elsewhere. The best place to keep up with my publications is on my blog. http://dustinadams.wordpress.com Although I don’t update it nearly as often as I’d like, the publication section is always current.

ATG: Thank you very much for taking the time to chat with us. Best of luck with all your writing endeavors.

Thank *you* for this opportunity. I want to give a quick shout out to Joseph Kaufman. Without his input, this story (and my other EDF stories) wouldn’t have been nearly as good. If anyone has a gift, it’s him.

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Dustin Adams owns and runs his own Customs brokerage business. It’s an intense, mind-stimulating job that requires extraordinary focus and attention. He began writing short stories while in high school. Then for some unknown reason (video games) he stopped for a decade or so (really fun video games). Now, knocking loudly on age 40’s door, he’s writing full-on with piston engine fingers. He writes in the morning, in the dark, and has seen the sun rise several thousand times.

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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