AJ: Good morning, afternoon, evening wherever you’re at in the world. My alter ego, H. Herbie Himperwheel III (I’m not quite sure why he’s a third, since he is the only one) came to me last week. It seems he was a tad disgruntled that during my interviews, he doesn’t get to asks any questions. Sure, he gets to jab the interviewee with a needle and drain them of life-sustaining blood and laugh maniacally as he does this, but apparently, that’s not good enough for him.
So, to appease him and keep him from releasing the other personalities currently imprisoned in my brain, he and I agreed that I would start a new, albeit smaller, interview series titled Five Questions. This is nothing like my former NiNe QuestioNs series or the Donor Series currently running at Type AJ Negative.
I even let him handpick the first participant, one of his favorite writer folk, Petra Miller.
Let me step aside and let Herbie take over. He’s giving me the evil eye and I really don’t feel like getting stabbed by another one of his needles.
Five Questions for…
Herbie: A few years ago–six or seven, I guess. It’s hard to remember as the years just seem to blend together–I met a young woman named Petra Miller. She and I hit it off immediately. For those who may not know, Petra is a writer–a good… no, a great writer. She’s also somewhat of a perfectionist. I’ve read several of her stories that the viewing audience probably will never see.
However, lucky for you, the readers, Petra has a story, Knowing the Deal, in the book The Yellow Rose Diner and Fill Station. I’ve read the story and, to be completely honest with you, it’s a winner. It’s powerful in its storytelling, and a testament to Petra’s ability as a writer.
So, let’s get to it:
Herbie: The Yellow Rose Diner and Fill Station recently came out and within its pages is your story, Knowing the Deal. Tell us a little about the book and then about your story.
Petra: Well, I’ll be honest – the book is a little difficult to label. Sideshow Press came to us with the idea of doing this novel/collaboration and of course, we jumped on it. Each story was written by a member of my writing group, Snutch Labs. Kurt Dinan, Erik Williams, John Mantooth, Kim Despins, Sam W. Anderson and myself. It’s a collection of six stories all centered around a diner, The Yellow Rose Diner and Fill Station. Every story addresses the same question: “What’s the worst thing you’ve done?” They are separate stories, but all connected in one way or another, which makes it much more than an anthology. By the time we’d finished the final draft, we all agreed to call it a mosaic novel, although privately we refer to it as a ‘story orgy.’ Mostly because the guys just like to say ‘orgy.’
In my story, Knowing The Deal, Pax Riley has a special talent that allows him to see how someone will die, three days before it happens. He makes a decision–a perfectly noble decision, really–to save a friend’s life, and realizes too late he was missing a crucial bit of information. The aftermath of that decision lands him in prison, where he has all the time in the world to contemplate the ‘worst thing he ever did.’
Herbie: Being that The Yellow Rose was a collaboration, what’s it like working with so many different people in trying to put this together?
Ha! That was a horror story all its own, let me tell you! I’m kidding. Kind of. In Snutch, there are no identical personalities. We are all so VERY different–in our writing styles, the way we all handle stress, the way we give feedback. But we’ve been together five years now, and in the midst of many threats of throttling, death and torture, we were able to put our hearts back in our chest where they belonged, instead of keeping them on our sleeve. Mostly.
The thing is, we all really respect each other’s work, and we knew that for this project, we needed our best work. And, because we trust each of us only wants the best for each other, we were able to get it done. This was my first collaboration and I’ve always shied away from projects like that, because let’s face it, I’m hard-pressed to relinquish control of anything. But these guys know how I work, and as crazy as I made them, as crazy as we made EACH OTHER, we knew deep down we had something great.
Herbie: I’ve known you for a while and I know that you are somewhat of a perfectionist when it comes to your writing. Was writing Knowing the Deal difficult for you, especially considering this was a group project.
Petra: Actually, the story mostly wrote itself. I love it when that happens; the excitement of going at it for days at a time is EUPHORIC! I had the first draft done pretty quickly–a month to be exact and that’s a record for me. It was the subsequent drafts that almost killed me. Because it wasn’t right, but I knew it could be GREAT! I knew how it was supposed to be, and I had to pour every ounce of emotion and feeling into it to get it right. I had to kill a few darlings, to say the least, but that was a good thing, because killing them made me see the REAL story. Kurt pointed that out to me many many times. Erik almost caused me to slit my own wrists and if it wasn’t for Kim, I’d have burned the manuscript. I’m kidding. Sort of. Truth be told, all of them kicked me hard enough to get the story out right. So then, that’s alright, I say.
Herbie: Recently, The Horror-Web
did a review of The Yellow Rose Diner and Fill Station. In it one of the comments made about Knowing the Deal was:
“This story reaches deep down into aspects of human pain and suffering that only a few have ever experienced. If zombies could shed tears, I may very well have shed some myself by the time this story was over.”
That is one heck of a compliment and testament to your ability as a writer. As a writer, how did that make you feel?
Petra: AMAZING! I felt amazing. I have a hard time taking compliments, but it’s a lot easier for me taking them from people I’ve never met. Don’t ask me why. With Horror-Web, they didn’t know me from the girl down the street. All he knew was my story. The fact is, he got it. He totally got it. That’s better than ANY compliment ever. He could feel what my character was feeling and the fact that I was able to convey that with mere words on paper was enough for me.
Herbie: Will we get to see more of Petra Miller in the future?
Petra: Oh, I certainly hope so! Ha ha. I just today found out that a story I submitted to a contest in Glimmertrain, was a finalist in their December Fiction Open contest. I had really hoped they’d accept it for publication, but maybe down the road I can crack that nut. I’m editing a story now, called The Girl, The Ivory Brush, and Eternity, which I hope will find publication soon. And then I really need to finish my two novels. So, I’m going to go out on a limb and say, yes. Yes you will.
[[A.J.’s Notes: You can find Petra at her blog: Rageful Bacon and the Angry Porterhouse.
Also, if you would like for Herbie to interview you for Five Questions, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org]]