“If you don’t push against the mirror, how do you know you’re standing in front of it?” asks author Martin Pousson. His PEN award-winning novel Black Sheep Boy, also an L.A. TimesPick of the Week, inspired Susan Larson (NPR The Reading Life) to say: “An unforgettable novel-in-stories about growing up gay in French Acadiana, so vivid and almost fairy tale-like, drawing on folklore from the region, and yet so brutally realistic. Brilliant. I loved this book.” I loved it too, for Pousson’s poetic prose, among other reasons. I’ve been able to ask Martin Pousson a few questions about the novel. His answers reflect his literary acuity.
In “Spirit of the Law,” a short story I’ve written, I wanted to explore life after death and something else—how the dead go on living or not living, if only in our memory, in the physical places where we’ve known them.
Of course, I’m not really capturing what life is like after death. It’s my imaginative portrayal of one woman’s experience, and it’s a way of articulating metaphorically how the dead live on in our minds.
It helped to read that Bernard Malamud would write eighteen drafts of a story, working until he got it right. It takes that kind dedication to find a story’s heart. To reach her readers, a writer needs the same kind of persistence as a religious person does in her determination to reach god.