BackStory: Five Questions with Guy Biederman

Europe: A Prophecy by William Blake

BackStory: Five Questions with Guy Biederman
Author of How Monday was Made

What inspired you to write this ‘How Monday was Made’?

I grew up with a basset hound so I completely understand why God might want one as a best friend. I’ve always been amused by various theories of the origins of ubiquitous not-so-sly code 420. One story suggests that it originated in San Rafael California, where I once lived and is not far from where I live now. But you know how urban legends go….

What writers, flash or otherwise, have inspired you? What do you particularly like about them?

Grace Paley for her grace and voice; Hemingway, especially in Moveable Feast, which rides the border of fiction and non; Eduardo Galeano for his insightful blend of philosophy and story and humor; Kara Vernor, who evokes what it was like growing up in the 80’s and 90’s in California, which now, in the blink of an eye, is historical. Her stuff is electric.

When I was just starting out as a writer I read a story by Ambrose Bierce called Coup de Grace. It was flash before flash. I loved the gut-punch, gotcha-ending and thought, I want to do just like that.

How much research did you do while writing and editing this piece? Did you discover anything that surprised you?

Aside from some method acting techniques that I used to explore the stoner’s mind of God in my story, I did have to research the solar storm in Quebec and the spelling of Genghis Khan. I relied on anecdotal hearsay for many of the other details, and my own fond memories of watching Marlin Perkins’ Wild Kingdom sponsored by Mutual of Omaha with my family on Sunday nights, while we waited for Bonanza to come on. The fact that I remembered watching Wild Kingdom with my family did surprise me.

I wanted to include Pliny the Elder. Not only was Pliny the Elder fascinating, but it is now also the name of one of the hoppiest, most heavenly IPAs in the world. But it turns out that God is more into Cosmos, which looking back, makes total sense.

If you could live for one year in any historical period, when and where would it be, and why?

1920, Paris. I would love to buy books at Shakespeare & Company and have a cup of coffee with Sylvia Beach, and enjoy the art at the salon of Alice and Gertrude, and talk shop with Hemingway over anise, and catch a Grand Guignol production, and towards evening, play Exquisite Corpse parlor games with the Dadaists, the original punk rockers.

What do you think is the most challenging and/or rewarding aspect of writing historical flash?

It seems to me that it is always more challenging to re-model a house around an existing chimney or wall, then to start from scratch and build a new house. When writing historical fiction, unless you’re Quentin Tarantino, you tend to leave established historical events, buildings, and perhaps characters intact and work around them, using your imagination and creativity between these points to explore new possibilities, soaring perhaps towards fresh, even visionary understandings.

Guy Biederman’s work has appeared in three dozen journals including Carve, daCunha, and Exposition Review. His collection, Soundings and Fathoms, will be published in September from Finishing Line Press. He floats on a houseboat with his wife and salty cats, writes on ATM receipts with low balances at high tide.

Image of ‘Europe a Prophecy’ (1794, Copy D, Object 1; Bentley 1, Erdman I, Keynes I; Europe a Prophecy — British Museum) by William Blake, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.