I realized, though, as I was preparing to teach Flannery O’Connor’s “Good Country People” a few weeks ago in my English class, that the opening segment of “The Fascinator” is so much like the arrival of the bible salesman (who later steals Hulga’s prosthetic leg) in O’Connor’s story. I didn’t consciously realize this when I was writing it, but certainly, because of the subject matter and the location, I realize that most of my stories involving Appalachian characters seem to channel Flannery. Moreover, there are many stories from where I now live that seem to defy reasonable explanation. They are fabulist in nature or the characters themselves are so emphatically bizarre or amazingly quirky, they seem unreal. They might well be unbelievable if I were to write them as they actually happened. I have a stash of stories to last me years, but they must be handled with care, so their theme can be communicated honestly and purposefully without the subtle ironies being lost in reader skepticism.
The crow in "The Fascinator" is a kind of homage (<--I can't think of a better word here, although it sounds pretentious to my ears) to A.S. Byatt's story "The Conjugal Angel," part of the two novella collection Angels & Insects. A character in the story holds seances to connect with her first love, to whom she was engaged before he died unexpectedly and to whom she feels bound to by guilt, both projected and self-generated. It was an amazing story, filled with the kind of delicious descriptions I crave. The aforementioned woman owns a crow, who perches near her at the seance circle, occasionally preening itself and sometimes disturbing the spell created with a flap of it wings that is akin to editorializing. Its eyes are not sulfrous as my crows' eyes are, but I thought this acidy yellow, in conjunction with sulfur's association with the odor of hell would be appropriate under the circumstances.
In relation to "The Fascinator", I want to thank Necessary Fiction Editor (and The Bee-loud Glade author) Steve Himmer for his careful review of the story and his suggestions--without his input and feedback, the story wouldn't be the solid work I feel it has now become.
Excitingly, Karen Lillis has begun to put together a multi-part Small Press Holiday Recommendatons list, which features the small press titles recommended by fellow writers. My choices, along with those of writer Michael Kimball, poet Margaret Bashaar, writer Jesus Angel Garcia, and the owners of Pittsburgh-based store Awesome Books weigh in on some excellent titles to stuff stockings (or wrapped boxes) with. Read our selections at the hyperlink above.