In my first interview with Heather Fowler, we discussed her debut story collection, Suspended Heart. We also spoke a lot about love, relationships, and how Heather meshes her real life experiences with magical realism and strong love-related metaphors. Today, you'll get to see Heather in a different light. As much as Heather provides strong and inventive commentary on the occult issue that is love, she is also a hilarious woman, with a strong sense of humor and a knack for utilizing it well.
Enjoy our conversation.
Heather Fowler: I think that humor is integral to a will to survive, actually. Humor tops love, at least the semi-perishable love of the romantic kind. I'm glad you see the humor in the stories. I love when I write that way, because if I'm going to make myself cry, I should at least get the pleasure of laughing too. Which stories did you find funny in the collection?
GD: I found real pithy and well-engineered humor in mostly all of the stories. There is a moment in "Psychic Pigeon" where you write "As he people-watched, he listened predominantly for women thinkers. Curiously, they thought as much about sex as the men, sizing up their fellow shoppers and making lewd internal comments, but were much quicker to attribute a love-related trait to a man or replace whatever provocative thought had occurred to them almost instantly with a mundane concern like what would be for lunch.” That is funny. You are funny. You go on to show the internal thoughts of a woman, in which she is looking at a man and thinks about how she would want to wake up to him making coffee, and then immediately her main focus turns to that of coffee. I find that sort of humor to be so well constructed and thought-out, but at the same time you are making a strong and perhaps personal statement.
HF: Oh, yes. I think about sex a lot.
GD: Does coffee triumph sex more often than not?
HF: I think that with women, sex and love are bound pairs more often. They want the animal appeal, but they also want the comforts of relationships, home, or friendships. Also, there's a sense that men are expected to think about purely carnal activities with no strings attached, but perhaps for women, many thoughts of sex lead to strings attached, or responsibilities, or other details.
GD: That's really interesting. So in regard to humor, how is it a part of your everyday life and not just present in your writing? I hear you have an obsession with peacocks, is that true? Now bringing up humor and your peacock obsession in the same question makes it seem like I'm mocking your peacock obsession, but so be it.
HF: Oh, peacocks are grand and glorious creatures. Aside from my deep and consuming love for Flannery O'Connor, who raised peacocks, they've always had such interesting stories and mythologies connected to them. I mock myself when I say I have a peacock fetish though--mainly because it is almost like a branding that attaches itself to me, so I go along. I get peacock presents in the mail from friends. What I love about peacocks is what a strange blend of reality they are, which I do find funny. One of the most beautiful creatures to view, photographed often, has a voice that sounds like screaming. Maybe I identify a bit. We want to be beautiful like these birds, but our voices come out how they're made. I love that oddness of this bird. I think the humor in my work goes along with that. I like the beautiful made ugly or the ugly made beautiful. I like to be playful with that. Because beauty is more than visual perception, beauty for me is complexity sometimes too.
HF: I love that you've slanted my gender here. I feel rather queered by it, in a good way.
GD: Flannery O'Connor wrote an essay with that title, in which she discussed peacocks.
HF: Thanks for that. I've been cracking myself up all morning, by the way, with dialogue of the appealing grotesque variety, so in a way, I'm blowing kisses to Flannery this morning. Nobody did that better than she did.
GD: I actually just remembered and looked up a quote from that essay, as it is extremely similar to what you said about their voices. O'Connor writes, "...seven of eight screams in succession as if this message were the one on earth which needed most to be heard."
HF: What a great Flannery passage to pull. I think I'm going to start saying, "Seven or eight screams in succession," every time I want to say something important, vitally important.
GD: This is a good spot to lead us into the topic of your next story collection. Can you tell us a little about it?
HF: Here is an example passage from one of the stories in progress:
This is when Ronnie interjected, like he wanted to add, “I never pleased Angie. Maybe if your boyfriends had never pleased you, you'd love them more. You would cut off their heads. There's something about complete rejection that turns women on.” He blinked while he awaited their response. Twice.
I slapped his cheek and covered his eyes before whispering, “You're a guest here, baby; don't forget.”
“I'm sorry,” he said. “I’m crabby. I kind of miss my body.”
“Sure,” I agreed. “You were better at running when full-bodied.”
Ariel touched his head. “Can I kick it?” she asked, tracing his temples and nose with her red acrylic nail, tossing back her ridiculous sweep of platinum blonde curls. His face just like an infant's, one who was about to scream. “Just once?" she went on. "I always wanted to kick a head, especially a man's head…. I don't have to do it twice.”
GD: I love that excerpt. A lot. I sense some more magical realism.
HF: Yes, I'm working on the next magical realism collection. I'm having a lot of fun with titling the pieces. But this is one of my great joys. Titles.
HF: Oh, yes. Right now, the collection is slated to be called PEOPLE WITH HOLES, after the title story. I think if I drop a few titles, you'll get an idea what kind of pieces the collection will house. A short, partial listing: "Ex-Boyfriend's Head," about a girl who cuts off her boyfriend's head because he thinks she's too happy; "Spontaneous Orgasm Guy, Dick Woods," about a guy who causes women to, you know, in public; "Anatomy of a Song," about a girl who takes up dart-throwing balloon popping when she starts walking on the ceiling; "Three Views You Might Have Had, Or Quack," about a woman whose lover turns into a duck; and so on. It's a lot of fun! A few of the stories are already available online. "Anatomy of a Song," for example. The duck piece too.
GD: That sounds like a lot of fun. Could it maybe be described as a more savage approach that still deals with some of the same questions related to love, life, and living that Suspended Heart touches upon?
HF: I think love is a question that can't be exhausted.
GD: I think I speak for all of your fans when I say I can't wait until the release of the collection. Thank you so much for the talk, it was truly a pleasure. Anyone who has yet to read your work is missing out on some magical writing.
HF: Thanks for having me, Greg!
IF you haven't already:
-Check out Suspended Heart
-Check out Heather's website
-Follow Heather on Twitter
-Check out Aqueous Books
-Make note that Heather loves peacocks and her last name happens to be Fowler.
Also be sure to keep up with all things Fix it Broken via Facebook and Twitter.