Welcome to the blog, Tara! Could you tell us a little bit about Where the Dog Star Never Glows?
Sure, though it’s a bit odd describing my own work. It’s a collection of 17 short stories, most of which are of standard length, but some are flash fiction. The stories are set in different countries and in different states, with both male and female narrators. My writing is very invested in the natural world, so each story uses landscape and flora and fauna as some sort of foil to the character’s dilemma. A few stories are set in the past (I love historical fiction), one is a ghost story, and many focus on realistic depictions of relationships between lovers and family members. But I often stress that each story is very different, so it’s hard to describe the collection as a whole.
What led you to write this collection of stories?
I didn’t set out to write a collection. The stories span about two decades of writing. I simply imagined stories—stories that I felt I had to get down on paper or to explore in writing. Finally, I realized I actually had enough to put into a collection. It’s not a huge, thick book, but a nice size. Many of the stories can be read in one sitting, and while I’ve read the whole book in a few hours, I’ve heard readers prefer to take their time and read one story before bedtime. Or they tell me they need time off in between stories because some of them are intense and hit home in a personal way. When I hear that, I know I’ve succeeded in some way.
Water plays a pivotal part in some of your stories. Why do you think water makes such a powerful symbol?
I grew up on Long Island, part of New York State. We are surrounded by water on all four sides, so water becomes something you both take for granted and something that becomes an important part of your psyche, as life on the shores of LI is all water-based. We learn to swim in the Long Island Sound or in pools, we socialize at the beaches and on the docks, we smell the salt water, hear the sea gulls, comb for driftwood, seashells and seaglass. Even when you move away from it, it’s still there…and since everyone begins in a watery world, and it’s essential to all life, it’s something all readers can relate to, even if they live in a dry, inland climate.
What was the biggest challenge you faced when writing this collection, and how did you overcome it?
Since I didn’t really set out to write a collection, I can’t really answer this literally. But the big challenge is always in finding a publisher for a story collection. You always hear, We like this, but want a novel to go with it. If you don’t have a novel, that can be really discouraging. So, I decided to try small presses, and found Press 53.
What is your best advice on writing?
You have to be ready to take rejection at every level. Beginning writers think that the rejection comes just at the start of submission. Well, it continues. Even after you get accepted, you have to deal with being rejected by potential book blurbers. Then you deal with rejections from reviewers, then contests you enter, and bookstores that won’t give you readings—it’s endless. And you just have to believe in your writing and really appreciate the acceptances, in any form, when they do come.
Does your work as an editor help your writing?
Yes. I freelance edit, and many of the early books I worked on reprinted classic stories. This was the best way to learn, reading the same stories by the masters over and over. Also, as a line editor, learning all the grammar and punctuation rules enables me to edit my own writing. This is always a plus when looking for a publisher. Even though we editors still need another eye on our work, it saves publishers time and money if they have less to do.
Thanks so much for stopping by, Tara!
Thank you, Rachel, for asking me to be part of your wonderful blog. Sites like yours are so important to us indie authors.
Tara L. Masih is editor of The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction (a ForeWord Book of the Year) and author of Where the Dog Star Never Glows (a National Best Books Award finalist). She has published fiction, poetry, and essays in numerous anthologies and literary magazines (including Confrontation, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Natural Bridge, The Pedestal, Night Train, and The Caribbean Writer), and several limited edition illustrated chapbooks featuring her flash fiction have been published by The Feral Press. Awards for her work include first place in The Ledge Magazine’s fiction contest and Pushcart Prize, Best New American Voices, and Best of the Web nominations.
Tara Masih can be found on TaraMasih.com, Goodreads, and Facebook.
Where the Dog Star Never Glows is available at Barnes and Noble and at Untreed Read.