Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Interview with Tara L. Masih

Briefly describe your journey in writing your first book. 
The stories in this collection span over two decades. I started writing publishable work in graduate school, and continued at my own pace, which is on the slow side. Work, parenting, etc., gets in the way, and I find I don’t have the output some writers have or the ability to rise at 5 a.m. to do my writing. So, I slowly built up a body of work, finally enough to collect last year. The stories are not thematically linked, but I was surprised, when I grouped them together, to find many similar themes running through them. That was the fun part, discovering myself, and what interests me, through my own writing.

What genre are your books?  Do you write in more than one genre?
I do. I love the relatively new field of creative nonfiction, and I’ve tried poetry (but it’s not my strength). Flash fiction is a genre I’ve been writing in for years, and some flash stories are included in my collection (I also have several flash/prose poetry chapbooks with Prehensile-Pencil Publications). The only other book I have out is one I edited and wrote a lengthy introduction for, The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction. That was a very different process, working with other writers. In many ways, it’s easier to edit others than to edit yourself.

What factors influenced your decision to sign with Untreed Reads?
Distribution and quality and acceptance of literary work. No one seems to have the distribution they offer; the quality of what they produce is high; and unlike many other ebook publishers who only take romance, erotica, SF, or horror, my literary collection was welcome. And I admit I like their “green” logo and name. As someone who’s concerned about the environment, cutting down fewer trees to suit my personal needs does appeal to me!

How involved are you during the creative process for your book’s cover?
There are artists and photographers on both sides of my family, so it’s important for me to love my covers. That’s an advantage of small presses—they allow you some input and final approval. Where the Dog Star Never Glows was a tough collection to cover, as the stories are set all over the country and all over the world. But I was impressed with the image Untreed Reads came up with, the silhouette of a tree, the branches reflected in water, and the subtle glow on the horizon. This is one image that does recur in the book, so I’m happy with it.

The print version of Where the Dog Star Never Glows has received great reviews, and it placed as a finalist in a national competition. What do you hear most from readers? What do they like about the book?
I think the stories are somewhat different from what they are used to reading, and each story has a different voice. The reviewers seem to like that they are reading something unique, and that even if a story plot seems to be familiar, I twist it in some way (I think this comes from my devouring mysteries when I was a kid). “Surprising” and “resonant” are the words I hear most. I experiment a bit, and have everything from a gritty reality story like “Asylum,” to a surreal story like “Ghost Dance.” Plus, readers are enjoying the mix of standard-length stories and flash. They also like the emphasis on place, and reading about different cultures and locations.

What kinds of social media [twitter, facebook, webpage, blog, writing forums] are you involved with trying to garner attention for your book(s)?
I’m on Facebook, LinkedIn, Copia, and Goodreads. Of the four, I’m most active on Goodreads, as it’s targeted specifically to book folks. It has forced me to read more (something I need to do because I edit all day and tend not to read at night), and I’ve made some great cyber friends through there. I’m avoiding other social sites because these sites take up so much time, and there is the danger that they keep you from writing.

How do you feel about the world of digital publishing?  Do you think it will replace traditional publishing one day?
I have worked in publishing for three decades, and have seen major changes. My own job is affected by this revolution, and not in a good way. So I resisted the ebook world for a long time. But, life is about change, and this is the direction publishing’s going in. So, I’ve jumped on board, and I’m excited to see how this world differs from the print world. I hear that more young people are reading, and more men. In the end, I’m all for anything that helps to bring books into more hands. I do hope something can be worked out with the print world and the independent bookstores, however, so that they don’t have to just survive, but thrive. I can’t imagine a world without a small bookstore to get lost in or a print book to thumb through and put on a coffee table or shelf.

What’s next for you?
I’m still promoting the print and ebook version of Dog Star. I’m basically an unknown, so it’s a part-time job to get my name out there without a publicist (thanks for this interview). Next, I hope to finish the novel I started several years ago. I’ve accomplished some wonderful things, all in the name of procrastination!

Brief Biography

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. 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.