Interview with Gerald Costlow Winter 2006

Gerald Costlow’s story, The Persian Box, appears in the Winter 2006 issue of Shimmer

Questions about the story:

Where did the idea for The Persian Box come from?
I have a soft spot for stories told in a tavern or bar and wanted to try my hand at it. Beyond that, I had a fuzzy idea about a man with a cursed box, and the muse took over as I wrote.

Do you work with a critique or writers group?
I used to participate in the Critters online writing group, although it’s been perhaps a year since I dropped out of the queue. The critiques were definitely useful. No particular reason for not participating right now other than I’ve been putting more energy into novels, and I highly recommend some sort of critique group for any beginning writer.

How did the story change as you developed it?
The first draft of this story was written in standard third person POV, and while it received good critiques, I was never satisfied with it. I wanted to quickly draw the reader into the story. After tinkering with it for over a year, I decided to make the reader a character in the story. I liked the result and started sending it out. You might say this is an experiment that turned out better than expected.

Do you have any any interesting anecdotes about the creation of The Persian Box?
Every critique led to speculations on just what POV the story has. I started off calling it First Person Monolog, but many readers insisted it was Second Person Passive or some such hybrid.

Questions about writing:

Who do you write for? Yourself or someone else?
That’s like asking any actor or singer if they perform for themselves or someone else. I’m a storyteller in search of an audience. Sure, it’s an art form and some writers have inspired people to both noble and terrible deeds. But when you get down to basics, we’re in Show Business. The page we write on is our stage. If at the end of my act, I’ve taken you away from the mundane and into a world of make-believe, then I’ve completed my part of the deal. Applause appreciated, but I’d rather you throw money.

How long had you been submitting before you made your first sale?
About five years, although there were sporadic attempts before that to get published.

How did you celebrate your first sale?
I cashed the check and blew the wad on a trip to McDonalds.

What writing projects are you presently working on?
I have several novels in different stages of completion. I should be doing yet another edit of a novella where I’m trying to figure out whether to cut or expand on for market purposes.

Does popular culture/entertainment influence your writing?
Only to the extent that I find it impossible not to critique the plot of any movie and that’s good practice for my own writing.

What time of day do you prefer to do your writing?
New chapters are done in the early morning. I wake about 4 AM and have several hours of quiet, uninterrupted writing time on the computer. Then I spend time during the day thinking about what I’ve written and do editing in the evening. I’m not a very fast writer.

Favorite short story read this year?
I discovered the Lucifer series of comic books by DC Vertigo. It’s based on characters created by Neil Gaiman, but this writer is Mike Carey. Some issues are pure magic. I urge you to buy issue #33. It will haunt you.

Favorite book read when you were a child?
I loved Doctor Seuss. I grew up in a little town that didn’t have a library, but I’d check his books out over and over again from the bookmobile that stopped in our neighborhood once a week.

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