Thank you again for joining us today to discuss your book titled, A Box of Shorts.
MP: Thank you very much for having me. It’s nice to be had.
PBR: Tell us please, what is it that drew you to the short story format?
MP: Pace. The story unfolds, runs and finishes at a much quicker pace.
PBR: Why do you think people enjoy reading a short story as opposed to a novel?
MP: Again, pace. In a short story like A Song for Lena you knew all you needed to know about Chester by the end of the 2nd page. Because of a novel’s length, there is no rush to flesh out the character, you can do it over a chapter or two or more.
PBR: Who are some of your literary influences?
MP: I was a very poor reader as a youngster, so once I got the hang of it, I became a voracious reader. I read everything from history books to biographies to encyclopedias. Poe, Wilde, Hemingway, Spillane and Irving were some that I enjoyed. Alger, Emerson and Thoreau were a big influence. We studied ‘short stories’ but we read novels. I always tended to fall asleep during the novels but I enjoyed the ‘shorts’ that much more.
PBR: What inspired the stories in A Box of Shorts?
MP: It didn’t start out as a book. The first story was A Song for Lena. I found it funny that my first short story was a love story. The 2nd one I did was A Father’s Gift, that being a fictionalized story between my wife and her father who passed away when she was 16. I had the idea of The Only Practical Solution in the back of my mind for years. Characters, story-lines, current or past events; all of these pique a writer’s imagination. Some of the stories were very dark by nature but the one that was the most fun was The McFuddles. It took me forever and a day to write in that dialect. I have a number of friends who have autism in their families so Okum McFuddle was a homage to them; this sweet simple young man is the hero of the story. You’d think it was Grandy? Nope, it was Okum all along.
PBR: Are there certain characters in the collection that you feel particularly connected to?
MP: All of my characters are based on people that I have known in my lifetime. Chester, Mike O’Connor, Nick Sorello & Toots, Cledus and his brother Lester, Dr. Pete, Deacon; all characters from my past, all people that I have known, loved and spent a lot of time with. If you write about that which you know, it makes the writing easier and more authentic.
PBR: Life and death are the predominant themes in A Box of Shorts. What are your thoughts on these subjects and how they affect people?
MP: I didn’t start writing full-time until I had survived a series of strokes back in ’99. Both of my strokes were in my sleep so for the longest time, I equated sleeping with dying. From my own experiences, I can tell you that there is a very thin line between life and death. Life is precious and should always be perceived as such. But take the time to read between the lines in the different stories: Chester’s story was about unrequited love, A Father’s Gift is a story about a father’s love, The Angel of Death is about the love between Mike O’Connor and the Sorello’s. Yes, the stories deal with life and death but the stories, at their core, are about love. Where would The McFuddles story be without love, I ask you? Would you not move to New Morales in an instant? Why? The love and the charm in the town, the way things used to be…
PBR: This has been very interesting, and we wish you the best of success with your book.
MP: Thanks, Rebecca; I hope I didn’t talk your head off. Thanks for having me. See you again.