First, read Roland Goity’s Sand Trapped. Then, enjoy his lively interview where he talks about research, consequences, and the best war movies of all time.
1. “Sand Trapped” does an amazing job of putting you in the protagonist’s boots. Â Did you serve in the military? Â If not, what kind of research did you do to truly flesh out this story?
Military service? No, never. But I have always had an interest in politics and international affairs, as well as an appreciation for the men and women who protect and serve our country, and must do so at times in blind faith.
“Sand Trapped”Â evolved with the unsettling realization that the War in Afghanistan is now more than eight years old and only lately has received the attention one might expect, from the media and our political representatives. One aspect of the war I feel doesn’t receive the coverage it deserves is the effect all these ongoing deployments have on military families. I spent time reading about Marines in Afghanistan sent from the base in Twentynine Palms, and came upon a fascinating feature in the LA Times about a military wife who had so lost it after her husband’s multiple deployments that she eventually ended up convicted of kidnapping and false imprisonment along with a methamphetamine dealer with whom she’d struck up a relationship. So I was certainly influenced by her story when writing the piece.
2. One of the major themes in “Sand Trapped” is choice and its consequences. Â What was a choice you made that radically changed your life? Â If it’s a regretful choice, would you go back and change it?
Early in my professional career I had never written more than a postcard of my own volition, and was bouncing through sales jobs, happy for the money but not caring much for what I actually did. Then I read Sometimes a Great Notion. From then on I knew I had to write. Fiction, of course, but I started working in PR and Ad agencies to write by day and learn about becoming a better writer, and then wrote what I wanted in my own time. My only regret is that I hadn’t had such an epiphany long before. Better late than never, though.
3. What’s your drink of choice?
I’m a fan of many, but with lots of money in my pocket I’ll opt for a Laphroaig on the rocks or a very dry Grey Goose martini.
4. When it comes to Iraq and Afghanistan, how truthful do you feel our media has been with what’s really going on in both countries?
I’m not sure the media is necessarily at fault, but I think the situation in Afghanistan took a backseat for too many years to what had been going on in Iraq, largely due to U.S policy. Â Regarding the situation in both countries I think the media is too quick to parrot what they hear from U.S. and military officials about what the situation is tactically, and aren’t doing enough of their own research and critical thinking as journalists to present a view of what is actually taking place strategically, and providing analysis of whether or not current policy is in America’s best interests.
5. What are your five favorite war movies?
You can’t go wrong with these:
Full Metal Jacket
Best Years of Our Lives (postwar)
6. How important is using authentic dialogue in creating a believable character?
Really important. A reader can’t just rely on narrative description. If the character’s words (and actions) don’t add up, then the character is sunk.
7. You’re the editor of Lit N Image. How has that project influenced your writing?
It’s been really valuable editing an online magazine and I’ve learned a lot. “Sand Trapped,”Â however, has its narrative aesthetic closer to the print magazine I’d worked on (Fiction International) while an MFA student at San Diego State. There I learned so much from Editor-in- Chief Harold Jaffe, as well as fellow colleagues who’ve gone on to found their own literary magazines, Lawrence-Minh Bui Davis (Asian-American Literary Review) and Beverly Price (Armageddon Buffet).
But LITnIMAGE has helped in loads of ways. I haven’t had that much success writing flash, but I really enjoy flash pieces, and—thanks to all the wonderful submissions we get—I think I’ve been able to better determine what I like both as a reader and editor and what I can do as a writer to help myself in that vein. Also, I’m inspired by so many wonderful writers whose work I admired but didn’t accept for whatever reason, who keep at it, trying to break through, and many times do. It’s what writers must do to succeed.