VIRTUAL AUTHOR VISIT WITH NANCY CHRISTIE
Nancy Christie is the award-winning author of two short story collections: Traveling Left of Center and Other Stories and Peripheral Visions and Other Stories (Unsolicited Press), two books for writers: Rut-Busting Book for Writers and Rut-Busting Book for Authors (Mill City Press) and the inspirational book, The Gifts of Change (Atria/Beyond Words). Her short stories have appeared in numerous literary publications, with several earning contest placements.
A member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, and the Florida Writers Association, Christie teaches writing workshops at conferences, libraries and schools. She is also the founder of the annual “Celebrate Short Fiction” Day.
About PERIPHERAL VISIONS AND OTHER STORIES
Publication Date: May 5, 2020
Publisher: Unsolicited Press
Genre: Literary Fiction
What do you do when the hand that life deals you isn’t the one you wanted? In Peripheral Visions and Other Stories, the characters choose to play the best game they can with the cards they’ve received. For some, it’s making the most of the circumstances in which they find themselves, even if it’s not the life they planned. For others, it’s following an unconventional path—not the easiest course or the one that others would take, but the one that’s right for them. But they never lose hope that life will get better if they can just hold on.
Peripheral Visions and Other Stories won second place in the Florida Writers Association 2018 Royal Palm Literary Awards (RPLA) competition, with three of the stories having also earned contest placements.
Buy the book: Peripheral Visions and Other Stories
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Unsolicited Press: https://tinyurl.com/ya5o2dhm
Interview with Nancy Christie
What triggers your story ideas: a character, a setting, plot or dialogue?
Some of my stories are inspired by dreams, while others are the result of overhearing (okay, eavesdropping!) on conversations between strangers. Some stories arise from a technical challenge I set for myself. One (still in progress) is a children’s story about a princess who lost her passion. I wanted to use as many “P” words as I could, preferably ones that were fun to say aloud. Another story, “Still,” is a flash fiction piece using the same word but in its different forms: as an adverb, adjective, conjunction. And then there are others that I have no idea where the ideas for them come from!
Do you have a theme you return to time and again?
Loss and loneliness, the difficulty that people have in navigating through life, the fear of change coupled with the awareness that change will come, whether they want it to or not.
What part of the writing process do you enjoy the most? The least?
When I am writing just for writing’s sake, and the words flow out and they are expressing exactly what is in my mind and heart, or the minds and hearts of my characters. That’s a joy that has nothing to do with money or publication but all to do with fulfillment.
Like most authors I’ve talked to, the marketing is the least enjoyable. While I love interacting with my readers, I am often frustrated by the time-sucking, nuts-and-bolts tasks associated with promoting my books, and never knowing which one will work!
What is your most recent book?
Peripheral Visions and Other Stories is my most recent book. It’s my fifth book and my second short story collection. In a way, the stories in this book are a counterpoint to those in Traveling Left of Center and Other Stories. While the stories in that book are about people who either can’t or won’t take control of their lives, the characters in Peripheral Visions and Other Stories are choosing to play the best game they can with the cards Fate has dealt them, hoping that life will get better if they can just hold on and stay strong.
Tell us an interesting fact or hidden secret about one of the characters that we wouldn’t know by reading the book.
“Waiting for Sara” and “Going Home” are the only two linked stories I have written to date. The first, part of the Traveling Left of Center and Other Stories collection, is told from the viewpoint of the mother. The second, included in Peripheral Visions and Other Stories, is told from the viewpoint of the errant daughter.
Also, I wrote the first draft of “Peripheral Visions” years before either of my parents had developed cancer, but wasn’t able to finish it until after my father’s death in 2015. (I had been his caregiver for several years.) I re-created the character’s road trip from Ohio to St. Augustine to get the geographic details correct, but also found that the trip and the solitude helped me deal with the loss of my father as well.
Excerpt from “Peripheral Visions” from Peripheral Visions and Other Stories
“Shoot.” Lena caught sight of the sign pointing the way to the rest stop off I-77 almost a fraction of a moment too late. She turned the wheel too sharply, causing the right tires of her old Ford Escort to kick up bits of gravel from the shoulder, before she could navigate it safely onto the turnoff.
Shaking slightly, she slowed the car to a more sedate twenty-five-miles per hour before brushing the perspiration from her forehead.
“That was close,” she said to no one in particular. Talking to herself was a habit she had acquired since her mother’s passing. The young think older people talk to themselves because they are going senile. But when there is no one left to talk to, you have to talk out loud. Otherwise, the silence can be deafening. And after decades as a practical nurse where she routinely carried on conversations with patients simply to ease the sterile loneliness of the oncology ward, Lena knew the value of the spoken word even when there wasn’t anyone around to answer.
She glanced up at her rearview mirror, hoping the blue highway patrol car that seemed to be shadowing her since she crossed into West Virginia hadn’t caught her latest misjudgment. That’s all she would need: flashing lights, a request that she show her driver’s license, and then a trip to the police station, where they would no doubt confiscate her car and contact her niece Claire.
Claire. By now, Claire might have figured out what Lena was up to, but she still wouldn’t be sure exactly where her aunt had headed. For who would expect a seventy-two-year-old woman who had never driven beyond the Kingsville city limits to drive the nine-hundred-plus miles from Ohio to Florida?
Not Claire, that’s for sure. Claire would have expected Lena to be looking forward to her move to Golden Glow, to behave as the sane, sensible, and highly responsible maiden aunt she had always been.
“Not this time, though,” Lena said aloud, as she checked the parking area for other cars, including any with the telltale light bar mounted on the roof and distinctive twin gold stripes on the side, before pulling into a parking spot. “For once in my life, I’m going to do what I want to do, instead of walking a straight line right up to the end.”
That’s the biggest problem with the world today, she thought as she gingerly slid out of the car, carefully stretching her back to work out the kinks. The pain that had plagued her shoulder was even worse than usual this morning, undoubtedly aggravated by too many hours behind the wheel.
She moved her body slowly, continuing her conversation aloud. “People walk around with blinders on just like horses, their eyes glued on the goal, the ‘Big Picture.’ There’s no sidestepping, no walking off the beaten path, no road less traveled. You get ahead that way, it’s true. But what if where you end up isn’t where you should have gone?”
The West Virginia sunshine was welcoming and a darn sight better than the freezing northeast weather she had left behind almost four hours earlier. A wet, sleety snow had made the driving more than a little challenging, especially once she got on the interstate and had to contend with all the tractor-trailers that were crowding the roadway.
It wasn’t until she had approached the Marietta–Williamstown Interstate Bridge that would take her over the Ohio River and into West Virginia that the weather improved and the horizon looked brighter. Lena didn’t usually believe in omens but this time she took heart in the fact that across the border the sun was shining, the snow was non-existent, and that it would be a warmer, better place than the one she had left.
And now, safe in another state, even her back felt better—well, at least, compared to how it had felt all winter long. Of course, she knew that nothing would make it feel completely fine. Even the pills only dulled the edge of the pain, never relieving it entirely.
That’s really what decided her on this trip. She was afraid that if she waited any longer, either her nerve or her body would betray her and she would spend what was left of her time—three months, maybe less, she judged—in the fluorescent confines of the nursing home or hospital.
The whole time her niece Claire was talking—laying out stage after stage for her aunt as though Lena couldn’t put two and two together and end up with four—Lena’s mind flashed to tantalizing pictures of a bit of sand and sparkling water. It looked mighty appealing to her, especially since she was tired of shoveling snow from the driveway before she could leave the house. It was a good car, even if it was as old as dirt, and she thought it deserved better than to have its fenders frozen off for weeks on end.
For that matter, so did she.