Thomas Pluck’s relentless “We’re All Guys Here”Â studded our July issue. Read on for Chekhov, Contrition, and guns that can’t stay unfired for long.
1. Chekhov says something about how if you have a gun on the table in the first act, by the second act someone should have fired it. So I guess what Iâ€™m asking is, when will Ron fire that gun?
When he teaches his ex about faith. I like Chekhov’s endings, myself. This one is inevitable, but I left it to the readers’ imagination. Maybe Ron will show up where she works. Maybe he’ll put the gun in his mouth when the landlord evicts him. But the gun will go off.
2. This story has such tight pacing. How do you piece your work together to make it exactly right?
There are many rules to writing, but I find that one of the most important is learning what to leave out. I could have shared the thought processes of the two scared boys, but I was pretty sure the reader would identify with their fear and fill in the gaps just fine on their own.
3. Thereâ€™s some pretty intense clashing in this story between generations and traditions. Is there a happy medium for these characters?
That’s a good one. Ron may be a loser, but he has a strict sense of entitlement when it comes to women. The younger men are a little more enlightened in that respect, despite being religious. I’m not religious myself, but I find it too easy to make religious people seem out of touch and fanatical, and I tried to avoid that. Ron has his own personal religion, a twisted sense of fate and punishment that he’s taken from his own Catholic upbringing. We all have our own ideologies, and we tend to flock with those of similar beliefs. When we meet someone outside that circle, the thought processes are so different that we can’t even communicate without a translator. Words mean different things. For example “entitlements” to one person means handouts to the undeserving, and to another, it means the unspoken expectations of those with power. Use the word without defining it, and you can’t discuss it.
4. List three Acts of Contrition that Ron or any of the characters in this story might undergo for atonement.
You have to remorse to ask for forgiveness, and Ron certainly doesn’t feel any.
5. How do you deal with telemarketers?
I ask them to remove me from their list. Then I block their number. They’re just some poor bastard who has a job worse than mine. I hope I never have to perform a job I despise to put food on the table.
6. Can you talk about the work you do with PROTECT?
PROTECT lobbies for legislation that protects children from physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. Every politician says they want to save the children, but PROTECT backs laws with teeth, and fights to keep them funded. They’re like the NRA for children’s rights. One cause, no dilution.
I have published two anthologies to support them. The latest, Protectors: Stories to Benefit PROTECT, includes work by PANK editor Roxane Gay, Treme and The Wire writer George Pelecanos, Ken Bruen, Andrew Vachss, Joe Lansdale, Jane Hammons, PANK contributor Keith Rawson, World Fantasy Award winner Charles de Lint, and 33 more. 100% of proceeds go to PROTECT. It is available in the usual places, including Powell’s and independent bookstores. You can also buy it directly.