Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Q&A with Bradley Sides




Bradley Sides is the author of the new story collection Crocodile Tears Didn't Cause the Flood. He also has written the story collection Those Fantastic Lives. He teaches at Calhoun Community College, and he lives in Huntsville, Alabama.


Q: Over how long a period did you write the stories in your new collection?


A: Most of the stories in Crocodile Tears Didn’t Cause the Flood were written in my MFA years—from 2021-2022. A couple of them are from outside that time. They just didn’t fit tonally in my first collection, Those Fantastic Lives. Here, though, they fit, AND they feel necessary. This book was easier to write than my first one! Much easier!


Q: How was the book’s title--also the title of one of the stories--chosen, and what does it signify for you?


A: When I was writing the title story, I kept thinking about how I wanted the pain to feel real. The loss. The grief. Even the hope. I wanted it all to feel very earned and true.


Crocodile tears, those fake showy kinds of tears, weren’t what my characters were experiencing in this story. The flood of emotions at the center of the short piece is magical, but there’s truth in that magic. There’s truth in all magic, I think. 


When I finished the story, I knew my collection had its title. There are floods throughout the book, and each one is based on authentic emotion. At least that’s my hope. 


Q: The writer Alexander Weinstein said of the book, “Bradley Sides’ new collection is a traveling carnival filled with pond monsters, vampire girls, fire breathing children, and minor apocalypses. It’s also a collection of good-hearted people trying to make their way through unstable worlds of wonder and joy—in other words, the stories of our lives.” What do you think of that description?


A: Alexander Weinstein is one of my very favorite short story writers. I’ve been teaching his work for years, so it was so cool to have him lend his gracious support to my work.


It’s a beautiful description. My stories tend to be full of loss. But there is also that “wonder and joy” that he mentions at the edges. I was so thrilled to see him pick up on that lightness and love. 


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


A: I want readers to not feel alone in their grief and loss. The past few years have been tough. These stories will maybe be a comfort—a light—to seeing that there is hope and peace in knowing that we all have shared struggles and that we can get through them. 


Yes, our world is broken and full of pain, but I hope readers can see the beauty of our magical world, too. There’s lots of it. 


Q: What are you working on now?


A: So, I don’t want to jinx the project because I can’t believe that I’m working on a novel, but I’m working on a novel. Haha!


It’s Southern magical realism. It involves a guy, his dog, his grandparents, the South, and a volcano. It’s also full of loss and grief. That’s just my space, and I now embrace it instead of run from it. It’s also about faith and how our belief and/or disbelief shapes our individual journeys. 


I think, in many ways, it’s for my grandparents. They would be so thrilled to see my books, so this novel is my way to honor them.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: One thing I haven’t talked about very much so far with this book is form. The stories in Crocodile Tears Didn’t Cause the Flood are WEIRD, but they are extra weird because of the forms they are in. There’s a lot of flash. There’s a gameplay story, a work manual story, a state test story, a letter story, and a transcript story. 


The world is a strange place, and I felt that these stories needed to represent that strangeness. Yeah, with vampires, pond monsters, and a shark boy, but also by the ways in which their stories exist.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Bradley Sides.

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