Saturday, May 23, 2020

Q&A with Charles Souby

Charles Souby is the author of the new story collection A View from the Borderline. He also has written the novels Winifred and A Shot of Malaria, and his work has appeared in a variety of publications, including the California Quarterly Review and Bohemian Magazine. He is based in Kapaa, Hawaii.

Q: Over how long a period did you write the stories in A View from the Borderline?

A: There are stories that date back as far as 10 years ago along with one that I wrote around 2003. I’ve added to, revised and re-edited the volume periodically through the years as my understanding of each and my craft grew. I’ve also strived to keep them relevant.

Q: How did you decide on the order in which the stories would appear?

A: I looked for balance and diversity. I tried not to have stories with themes that might seem too similar or share similar style humor back to back. However, I got help from my editor in this. She has a great eye for organization and arc.

Q: How was the book's title chosen, and what does it signify for you?

A: It was organic. The subtitle of the story ("Christa’s Case") from which it was drawn suddenly presented itself to me as a recurring theme of so many of the stories.

This, despite the fact that "Christa’s Case" was probably the most uniquely different of the entire collection.

Most of the main characters in the book are in one way detached from reality and living in their own worlds. Ironically, in many ways the characters in "Christa’s Case – A View From the Borderline" have the most clarity despite the fact that they are clearly damaged by their families and environment.

Q: What do you hope readers take away from the collection?

A: Firstly, I hope they are entertained. While I believe art is intended to enlighten, I’m not a philosopher and if readers find great take-aways from the stories, it would probably be as much of a surprise to me as to them.

One of the things I love about art is that it is a process of discovery. I like the concept of the sculptor who finds his piece hidden in the marble slab.

Typically, if I go into a work with some kind of “message,” it either comes across as contrived and pedantic or the message quickly gets drowned by a greater idea that is trying to manifest.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: I have almost become a hostage to my poetry. I started writing and revising poems “between projects” and became obsessed. I have started studying with a local Kauai poet Laura Lentz who has helped me discover a new and fascinating voice – almost “Beat” in a sense and it’s been fun to work with.

My third novel is awaiting representation. It’s a coming of age story of a college grad hitchhiking across Canada while his father is on his deathbed.

I also have an entire second anthology of short stories that I feel are of especially high quality that still need some revision and am adding new ones periodically. I’ve started a sci-fi novel but am afraid to fully commit for fear that I will have wasted time on a project that has no future.

Q: Anything else we should know?

A: I love improv theater. I was a student of Keith Johnstone, an improv (or “Impro”) pioneer, who lives in Calgary and his teachings along with my friend Stephen Kearin in L.A. have transformed my understanding of art.

I’ve come fully to believe in something like a muse that (good or bad) dictates to me while I’m in complete unawareness (this is my belief btw, not theirs).

Complete spontaneity without judgment or embarrassment opens me up to almost infinite possibilities. So many times I have written things that seemed incredibly stupid or lame and then looked back on them and found gems hidden within the initial drafts.

Sometimes, in review, the draft itself excites me beyond belief. Often I feel (especially with my novels) that someone snuck into my computer late at night and changed a bunch of sentences and created a fabulous new addition that wasn’t there when I finished the day before.

--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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