Today is the last day of the #StrangeLit #DarkestDreams blog tour, and the last day to be able to purchase the bundle (10 stories in one!) for only P45! For my stop, I am featuring an interview with the author of When it Rains in Mystic River, Therese Barleta.
When it Rains in Mystic River
Whenever sirens sound off, Naomi is always worried that Seth is somewhere being chased by the police, if not already gunned down by rival gangs that pollute the south side of Boston. “Please help me just this one last time,” Seth would always tell her, but Naomi just wants to live a normal life as a pretend human being, not Seth’s Encantada girlfriend who always bails him out of his shady dealings. As soon as Seth finds an out from this life he’s known forever, he takes the opportunity before Naomi can even say no. How could she when this is the exit they’ve both been waiting for? Or is it a shortcut to their doom?
Therese and I didn’t get to do a face-to-face interview, so Keyword Q&A wasn’t an option. This interview was done entirely via Google Docs (one of our favorite online resources), snuck in between answering e-mails and doing other work-related tasks.
Click on the Read More button below to read the rest of the interview.
Pfft, calling you by this name feels so weird, but I guess that’s okay since the #StrangeLit genre deals with the unusual, heh. Anyway, I would have wanted to do keyword Q&A with you but that’s much more fun in person, so . . . maybe some other time. For now, let’s do this.
First of all, please introduce yourself in the most #StrangeLit-y way possible. (In other words, tell us about a Therese that could probably a character from an urban fantasy/paranormal book.)
I’m blanking out again. My brain always does this when asked. I don’t know, I’m not sure. But I’m inclined to think that I’d be human, or at least I’d think I was, but I’m probably not. Cyborg maybe? I do always kid around about being one lol, but that’s more sci-fi than paranormal.
Reminds me of a joke I saw the other day it went like: Convincing your girlfriend she’s crazy or paranoid is called gaslighting and it’s a dick move. But convincing her she’s a robot with artificially implanted emotions is called bladerunning. It’s a Phillip K. Dick move. It’s funny. Except gaslighting. That’s not funny.
I’d probably be a cyborg in a dark comedy sci-fantasy book. Yeah.
Or you could be a cyborg in an urban fantasy. Fish-out-of-water type of character, haha. 🙂 I think that would be interesting to write, even if I don’t know how it’s going to pan out.
Anyway, I digress. Back to our interview. Can you share with us the origin/s of your #StrangeLit story When it Rains in Mystic River (WIRIMR)? Where did it come from, what were your influences–things like that.
I know! I was just thinking that. “Hmm another plunny to add in the spreadsheet.” Not a fan of writing about myself as the protagonist though LOL. Feels weird. Or at least not a fan of consciously doing so. The ‘I don’t know where this is going’ thing is the building block of a good story though, or so George Saunders says. You’d surprise yourself while writing and in doing so, also surprise your readers more or less?
I had to take a looong moment to think about where that came from. I feel like I wrote it so long ago and I can’t remember anymore. But from what I could remember, it came from a desire to write about a paranormal story that centered around the theme of “otherness”. When you’re paranormal, you’re not normal or are outside of what considered is normal. I thought that was an interesting angle to look at, a “substantial” approach. There’s a desire to write about deeper issues even if the genre is supposed to be paranormal–I thought that kind of hybrid would be great. I wanted a story that dealt with the feeling of being an outcast in an inferential way, which in this case was what both Naomi and Seth were about. Both of them are outliers in different ways, even if the other is a mythical being and the other is human.
My influence and inspiration definitely comes from Nic Pizzolatto. I think he makes beautifully worded stories with very complex characters. He likes examining how human nature works. I’m a fan of that kind of writing. You write what you enjoy reading so. I’m trying. Trying. I also like gloomy, somber moods, misty or arid backdrops, somewhat of a similar feel to what makes True Detective subtly scary. Hopefully I achieved that kind of feel with WIRIMR. I have a different notion of what’s scary, I suppose, subtly creepy vs. the usual shock and awe? Not sure if it works for other people though.
If you were gunning for that dark, somber feel then you’ve nailed it with this piece. As I was reading WIRIMR, all I could imagine were scenes set in dark or very dimly-lit places. Like if this were an actual film, it would probably look like (in my head, that is) The Godfather, with much less lighting. Does that make sense? No, but anyway…
I like the fact that you mentioned how both Naomi and Seth were outcasts in very different ways. Knowing that and recalling how the story went gives you this feeling of dread somehow, that these two characters could may well be translated into us, commonfolk, normal human beings who don’t feel normal in whatever standard or capacity. Both characters wanted to be free of their “otherness,” as you put it, and there’s a struggle there that’s just really painful for me to stomach as a reader. Did you ever think of writing another, alternate ending where both Naomi and Seth achieved what they wanted in a less than tragic way?
What you said about the mood, and Naomi’s and Seth’s situation–that definitely was the end result I was gunning for. I think I need to time out and let out a good cry in a corner now. That felt really nice to hear lol.
I haven’t really had the time to think about how it would have been if it ended in a different way because #StrangeLit had a deadline but I think it’s worth exploring–in a longer format story. Which what I realized I wanted to do with the story–but alas, time constraints. Thinking about it now, it would be a longer and more complicated adventure. And I think Seth would still be the one to end up getting hurt (lol sorry man) because Naomi wouldn’t have been forced to grow up in such a short amount of time so he’d be dealing with more of her naivete. I did actually have plans to introduce a third character and form a lil’ bit of a love triangle as well.
Aww. There, there. Need a tissue? 🙂
You’re the third author I’ve interviewed for this tour and the second who mentioned the pain time constraints. I do believe we had such a short time to put things together, but given the chance, would you be open to writing a spin off or a companion piece to WIRIMR just to explore some more of the possibilities you might already be playing with in your head?
Time constraint is a double-edged sword. You get shit done because there’s a deadline but at the same time not a lot of time to get all the shit you want done.
Definitely. WIRIMR is set in an alternate universe where paranormal beings are being integrated into society as registered citizens so I think there’s still a whole lot that can be done. Whether it’s expanding Seth and Naomi’s story or looking at another facet of the world they live in or another set of characters in that world, there’s still a lot left to be told and examined under different kinds of lenses.
It’s true what they say “the greatest motivation is the deadline.” Haha.
I do hope you get to explore this alternate universe you created because there’s so much potential for more stories to spring forth. I know this because we’re friends and we talk about it a lot, that you keep a list of plunnies you wish to write. Is anything in that list related at all to WIRIMR?
That’s definitely, definitely true for me. Lumped in with the fact that I hate not being to follow through with obligations, it really becomes a solid motivator.
There’s a lot of stories in that spreadsheet that can be integrated in a “Cards Against Humanity” kind of way. It can be interesting to mix one idea with a seemingly unrelated one, and you craft a bridge between two themes, and then end up with a story that gives sense to both as a whole. You also end up with unique stories that way. (Chuck) Palahniuk’s stories are good examples. And I recently found out that it’s an actual method. A technique on producing ideas explains it better than I can.
We are slaves of the deadline, it seems. Have you tried setting personal deadlines for future writing projects since it seems like you have an entire spreadsheet of them?
Thanks for that resource by the way, I’ll get to reading it soon and I’m sure that whoever’s reading this will also appreciate it. I’ve noticed you’ve mentioned several authors throughout the course of this interview. Would you say they’re your main influences?
I should haha. I’m at a point in my life where I just regained equilibrium. So I’m waiting for the ground to stop shifting beneath me and then I’ll try this again. Writing doesn’t really pay the bills and right now I’m waiting for that part of my life to stabilize so I can work out a writing schedule again. Check back after a month? Then you can tell me I’m just making up excuses after that haha.
Right now, definitely. I just discovered Pizzolatto about a year ago. Palahniuk around the same time so they are my most recent sources of inspiration and influence. I’d also add Alan Moore. Several years ago would have been different. I would have pointed more towards (Neil) Gaiman.
I’ll definitely check back after a month and you know it! 😛
I feel like I’d be getting stoned if I say I haven’t read the works of the authors you mentioned, but it’s true. (I’ve always wanted to pick up a Gaiman book though, but I’m always afraid reading him will paralyze me into not writing at all.) However, if their style influenced the way you wrote WIRIMR, I definitely want a sampling of their work too.
Speaking of which, how much of the work put out for #StrangeLit have you sampled since its release and what can you say about the variety that came out of the workshop? Would you join something like it again, if an opportunity presented itself?
To each his own. I don’t feel like it’s an issue if you haven’t read this and that author. Read what makes you happy. (We have weird ideas about what makes us ‘happy’ though, we’ve talked about this lol. Angst = Happy!) Yeah it’s the opposite for me. I feel more goaded to write when I read from great authors. After everything’s been written is another thing altogether. My paralyzation comes from my own self-criticism and self-doubt after I examine my own writing.
I have a very biased sampling haha but what I can say about the output after the class is that there’s a lot of Filipino authors who are interested in fantasy/paranormal fiction and I feel happy about that. It comes as to no surprise because Filipinos love horror flicks, though what’s sad is that I feel like there’s limited support for writers in this genre. But that’s just an assumption; I haven’t been in the scene long enough to know, though it certainly feels that way, especially when you compare to other genres. Nonetheless I’d like to give a lot of thanks to Ms. Mina and Buqo for the workshop. They made this thing happen when no one else probably would have. They walked the talk.
Without a doubt. I’d jump right in.
Finally (yay, last question!), since we’ve already established the existence of a plunny spreadsheet, let’s give the readers a glimpse of what they can expect from you, shall we? You don’t have to discuss things in detail, just perhaps an overview of the kinds of stories you’re thinking of writing in (hopefully!) the near future, whether or not they fall into the paranormal/urban fantasy genre.
The last thing I was working on actually came from Wattpad’s #LoveLetters prompt. Instead of something romantic I ended up going down a different rabbit hole–as usual. It starts with a prodigal son coming home to find his recently deceased father’s letters to a young woman, a very very young woman. I’m still working on the outline but it doesn’t seem like it’s going to be a love story.
I haven’t touched it in weeks but, you’ll be checking up on me again in a month anyway.
Thank you for the time you spent with me on this interview, Therese! ^_^ You can be sure I’ll be poking you for updates on your WIP/s, even if you tell me you’re not ready yet. Hihihi. I’m on to you. 😛
And thank you so much Bookish Diaries Book Tours for organizing this tour for the #StrangeLit bundles. Click on the banner below to visit their website.
Two more #StrangeLit bundles will be touring in the next couple of weeks: #KillerSeasons and #IncredibleTruths, so you can watch out for more author interviews here on my blog! In the meantime, enjoy your #DarkestDreams bundle and please, please, please don’t forget to rate/review the stories on Goodreads and Buqo. A little review goes a long way!
Therese Barleta is a human anomaly. This chill frat man trapped inside a 12-year-old girl’s body enjoys HBO and Netflix a little too much. She likes reading and writing depressing stuff.
Contact Therese at AuthorThereseBarleta@gmail.com