In September 2013, Z.Z. Boone’s “Kat” appeared in Bartleby Snopes. It was a unique story with an engaging voice that clearly demonstrated Boone’s talents as a fiction writer. Two years later, Boone is released his first collection of short fiction, Off Somewhere, available on November 17th through Whitepoint Press.
We were lucky enough to catch up with Z.Z. about his new book and the status of literary magazines. Here’s what Z.Z. had to say.
Tell us a little about how Off Somewhere came together. Did you set out to write a collection, or is this a collection of what you wrote?
I’m not big on planning. It’s kind of how I write. One sentence and then a second one based on the first. So I had all these stories that I’d written over the years, and I thought about how cool it would be if I could find somebody to publish them. A book that I could give people that would make future gift giving a snap. So I sent the collection out to every agent and every publisher in existence and I got pretty much the same response: No. Except then I lucked upon the brilliant Lisa De Niscia at Whitepoint Press and she apparently liked the stories and decided to chance it.
Character-wise, Off Somewhere feels like a pretty eclectic collection. Where do you find the inspiration for your characters?
I read once that if you see a face that you don’t recognize in a dream, it’s because it’s a combination of all the different faces floating around inside your head. I think for most writers it’s the same with their characters. I might start with someone I know well because it makes the dialogue easier to write. Then I’ll throw in a few characteristics from some stranger I spotted this morning. Maybe I’ll call back that guy from high school who used to throw my books down the stairs. Or the woman in the Amtak “quiet car” who wouldn’t stop taking on her phone. I’ll mix them together and see what I get.
Who is your favorite character from the collection? If you could punch one character in the face, who would it be?
Well obviously I’m not going to punch any female characters in the face because that’s how a guy gets in trouble. So I guess it would be the narrator in “Neutral Ground” who tries to manipulate Bianca into becoming a little less black, a bit less African American. The dumb bastard has love so close at hand, but he’s like Aylmer in Hawthorne’s “The Birthmark.” Unsatisfied with near-perfection.
The bullshit answer regarding my favorite character is that they’re all my favorite. But I read the story “Pitching” a lot, and each time I do my heart goes out to Patrick’s unnamed brother, that poor guy destined to always live in the shadows. Even when he manages to save his brother’s pregnant, cast-aside ex-girlfriend from humiliation, he fails at winning her devotion.
Your stories often mix humor with some rather delicate situations. How do you create this balance without disrupting the integrity of what you are trying to achieve with the story?
I guess I’m a genius.
Seriously though, I just tell a story, or more accurately I let the story tell itself. If I’m lucky, if the stars are aligned that day, I wind up with something that looks like real life but is hopefully more tense, more immediate. And like real life, one minute your heart is broken because the person you love has just flipped you off, and the next minute you see a fat guy slip on a sheet of ice and you wet your pants laughing.
I first became aware of your work when you submitted “Kat” to Bartleby Snopes. What role do lit mags currently play in your own writing career and in the literary world in general?
I’m insanely in love with literary magazines. I’m also rather old-school, so I especially get off on print. I subscribe to a bunch, and when I see that fresh copy of New Ohio Review, or 2 Bridges, or Eleven Eleven, I’m practically orgasmic. I can get, say, a collection of Alice Munro stories and love every one of them, but by now I know what to expect. Not so with lit mags. Voice, tone, and style are as varied as the treats in Willie Wonka’s chocolate factory.
What’s next for Z.Z. Boone?
As I said, I’m not big on planning. I’m hoping to have a second collection of short stories before too terribly long, but the creative art of writing has a tremendously large backdoor and a writer never knows what might walk in.
Z.Z. Boone lives in Connecticut with novelist Tricia Bauer and their daughter, Lia. His work has appeared in literary magazines including Bartleby Snopes, Berkeley Fiction Review, the Adroit Journal, the Roanoke Review, Smokelong Quarterly, The MacGuffin, and Weave. Z.Z. currently teaches creative writing at Western Connecticut State University. He can be checked out at http://zzboone.wix.com/fiction.