Friday, January 03, 2014

Interview with Susie Moloney, author of Things Withered - January 3, 2014

Please welcome Susie Moloney to The Qwillery. Susie's most recent book is her first short fiction collection - Things Withered.

TQ:  Welcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?

Susie:  Thank you for having me, Sally! I was one of those kids who was always writing “books.” I have to say my earliest epic was “Blackie the Water Beetle.” It was about a water beetle. He was black. I loved him right up until the moment my sister impaled him with a sharpened pencil. There’s some symbolism in that, I think. I did, honestly, write stories from a very early age, and I have my grandfather to thank for that, and for my thick skin. Once he crossed out a full page of prose and wrote, “Bullshit!” across it. I was probably 10.

The “why” is probably more complicated. My mom read books, my father read the papers, but I didn’t set foot in a library until I was ... maybe 11? We had a book mobile—and for those out there who are too young to remember what that is, it was a trailer that drove around in mostly poor neighborhoods full of books for kids. You could borrow them, but you had to have your parents sign shit and my parents were preoccupied with other things. So I never borrowed a book from the book mobile, but I do have memories of sitting on the curb outside the trailer, reading them.

My grandfather was a big reader, mostly pulp stuff, a lot of science fiction, pot boilers, crime fiction, things I never should have read. I read a copy of Margaret Lawrence’s The Diviners at the incredibly inappropriate age of 11, not to mention The Exorcist around the same time. Who the hell was supervising me?

It was of course a gift to read Bradbury, Lawrence, Blatty, and Benchley (I read Jaws too; seriously, who was watching me?!) at an early age. It upped my game. And I think made me want to tell those kinds of stories, so brilliantly told.

TQ:  What is the most challenging thing for you about writing? Are there different challenges when writing a short story versus a novel?

Susie:  I always joke that the hardest thing about writing a book is making stuff up. And it all goes back to that. It’s easy enough to come up with a thread of an idea, but to sit down and outline a thread into a full-bodied story is so terribly difficult. To develop real, fleshy characters, put them in danger or pain, and then drag them through the dirt and hope you can haul them through to the hope on the other side—it’s a little like raising a child (fewer dishes, I must admit). Then to turn around and do that in 5-8,000 words, well, short fiction is a craft I am still very much learning.

The thing about short fiction, or maybe why I write it at all, is the immediacy of satisfaction. I love getting that germ of an idea and then placing it quickly, and just kind of whipping it off. They’re never ready then, of course, they always need a few rewrites. But the ideas can be more intimate, smaller. I don’t need the scope of a wide world to place them. You can jump into the middle of a world, and as long as the necessary guide posts are there, you can tell your germ. I’ve probably written 40 of them, and will likely write 40 more before I feel like I could say I am a “writer of short fiction.” It’s a real art, and kudos to those who do it well. I’m grateful that ChiZine Publications trusted me enough as a writer to go public. It’s a little like flashing your boobs on the subway—people will look, but getting them to stare is a whole other thing.

TQ:  What were some of your inspirations for the short stories in Things Withered?

Susie:  My horrible, evil, nasty life. Ha. Kidding (sort of). I do find that I pick things up in the ordinary and turn them upside down sometimes, so that a nice thing becomes a little dark. For example: I have a story I used to tell about my youngest son. He was just 3, and he wanted to go outside by himself. We lived in the country at the time, our house was set back from the road, there were no real dangers. All I had to do was stand at the door and watch him. He was very into animals at the time, and there were a lot of deer that passed through the yard. So I thought, gee wouldn’t it be cool if he saw a deer? I initially imagined a sweet little doe coming up to him, giving him a sniff. Then I imagined another one. And another one, all converging on my POOR LITTLE BABY YOU GET BACK IN HERE IT’S NOT SAFE OUT THERE!!

So, my inspirations are from real life, ha. Sometimes too, as in the case of “The Windemere,” I’m not quite finished with a subject matter. That particular story was written after my last novel, The Thirteen, came out. I wasn’t quite done with witches. “The Truckdriver” is based on a friend’s ugly truck. “The Last Living Summer,” has another very good friend in it. You never can tell where inspiration will come from—and I think that’s beautiful.

TQ:  In the short stories in Things Withered, who was the character who was the most difficult to write and why? The easiest and why? The most surprising?

Susie:  The young woman in “Night Beach,” was a real tough one for me. Without giving too much away, I had to create someone likeable who had done a very unlikeable thing. I rewrote that story a number of times. I’m still not entirely sure that she’s exactly who I wanted her to be, but I did want to show that you could be angry and remorseful about the source of the anger at the same time. Fingers crossed.

My easiest character, and one I love just to bits, is David in “Poor David, or The Possibility of Coincidence in Situations of Multiple Occurrence.” He was just a delight. I’m also pretty partial to the narrator in “I (heart) Dogs.” The only character who really took over a story, and made it “her” own, was the wife in “Wife.” She is similar to the character in “Reclamation on the Forest Floor,” in that I was surprised by the rage I felt inside them while I was writing them. It was probably pretty cathartic. But we’ll never know, because all that rage ended up on the page.

TQ:  What’s next?

Susie:  It’s going to be a very busy year for me, Sally. And in a very good way. I have two projects on the go right now, tv/film scripts, that are teaching me storytelling in a whole other way. I’m loving being a newbie at something again. It’s thrilling, like a love potion. I’m also outlining a new novel, but that process takes me forever, so I won’t say much about that. And I have a new gig writing humour at VitaminW, an online feminist magazine. And of course, I’ll probably write a couple of short stories. I usually do.

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Susie:  Thanks again for having me! This was fun.

Things Withered

Things Withered
ChiZine Publications, December 31, 2013
Trade Paperback,
eBook, December 10, 2013




For the first time in one collection, award-winning author Susie Moloney unveils thirteen of her most dark and disturbing short stories.

A middle-aged realtor makes a deal that could last forever. A cheating woman finds herself swimming in dangerous waters. A wife with a dark past can’t bear the fear of being exposed. The bad acts of a little old lady come home to roost. A young man with no direction finds power behind the wheel of a haunted truck.

From behind the pretty drapes of the average suburban home, madness peers out.

About Susie

Photo by Richard Wagner
Susie Moloney is the bestselling author of four novels, Bastion Falls, A Dry Spell, The Dwelling, and The Thirteen. Her new book, a collection of short fiction, Things Withered, is available now at bookstores everywhere. She lives in New York City with her playwright husband, Vern Thiessen, and a blind, but loveable, dog named Scrappy.

Website  ~  Twitter @Susiemoloney  ~  Facebook

The Giveaway

What:  One commenter will win a digital copy of Things Withered from ChiZine Publications (ePub, Kindle/mobi, or PDF).

How:  Log into and follow the directions in the Rafflecopter below.

Who and When:  The contest is open to all humans on the planet earth with an emailing address. Contest ends at 11:59 PM US Eastern Time on January 12, 2014. Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 years old or older to enter.

*Giveaway rules and duration are subject to change without any notice.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. Congrats to Susie on the new release! Thanks so much for sharing :) It's a lot of fun to learn some of the behind the scenes on these new releases.