With the Folk Songs for Trauma Surgeons, award-winning author Keith Rosson delves into notions of family, grief, identity, indebtedness, loss, and hope, with the surefooted merging of literary fiction and magical realism he’s explored in previous novels. In “Dunsmuir,” a newly sober husband buys a hearse to help his wife spread her sister’s ashes, while “The Lesser Horsemen” illustrates what happens when God instructs the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse to go on a team-building cruise as a way of boosting their frayed morale. In “Brad Benske and the Hand of Light,” an estranged husband seeks his wife’s whereabouts through a fortuneteller after she absconds with a cult, and in “High Tide,” a grieving man ruminates on his brother’s life as a monster terrorizes their coastal town. With grace, imagination, and a brazen gallows humor, Folk Songs for Trauma Surgeons merges the fantastic and the everyday, and includes a number of Rosson’s unpublished stories, as well as award-winning favorites.
1. When and where do you prefer to write?
My wife and I have kids now, and with safety measures with COVID and all of that, time alone is a treasure these days. I usually manage maybe two hours before the kids wake up; it’s become harder to keep the thread and momentum going, writing-wise, but hopefully that’ll change once we have a more reliable schedule and I’m able to focus on writing for more extended amounts of time.
2. Do you have a certain ritual?
I mean, a cup of coffee and some kind of music and I’m good to go. I’ve been listening to Randy Weston’s African Cookbook, Dave Hause’s Bury Me In Philly, and The Ghosts of Highway 20 by Lucinda Williams. If a story isn’t working, I’ll sit down with a notebook and try it that way for a morning; a lot of times it kickstarts something that was otherwise stuck.
3. Is there a drink of something to nibble on while you write?
Yep, as I mentioned, if I don’t have a cup of coffee nearby, it feels like something’s missing.
4. What is/are your favourite book(s)?
That’s a tough one. The last few books that really resonated with me were Margaret Wappler’s Neon Green and John Jacob Horner’s A Lush and Seething Hell. Right now I’m reading And I Do Not Forgive You by Amber Sparks and Laird Hunt’s In the House in the Dark of the Woods, and they’re both fantastic for very different reasons. There is no shortage of flat-out incredible books being written today.
5. Do you consider writing a different genre or do you already do that?
I seem constitutionally incapable of writing in a single genre. All of my work is a mashup of some sort – literary fiction and… something else. Cosmic horror, body horror, crime, whatever. If I could write in a single genre, it’d be such a relief, but I just can’t seem to do it. I need both intricate backstories and emotional upheaval and ghosts or werewolves or robots or whatever.
6. Do you sometimes base your characters on people you know?
I think little blips and bleeps of people creep in here and there. But I feel a lot more comfortable mining my own personal shortcomings or strengths for fiction than I do other folks, you know?
7. Do you take a (digital) notebook everywhere in order to write down ideas that pop up?
Me too tired for such tomfoolery. Me primary parent for two toddlers. Me lucky to be able to hold spit in my mouth most days. Me admit to have probably lost out on a lot of cool ideas due to this.
8. Which genre(s) do you not like at all?
I don’t want to dogpile on any genre, honestly. There’s stuff that I don’t like to read, personally, but other folks love it, so it’s all great. This is a big tent we have. I will say that there are tropes that I am exhausted by – the whole “assaulted or murdered woman existing solely as revenge catalyst for male main character” in crime (and other fiction) can take a leap into the sun as far as I’m concerned.
9. If you had the chance to co-write a book. Whom would it be with?
Mmmm, probably Ron Austin, who wrote the wonderful collection Avery Colt is a Snake, a Thief, a Liar, which won the Nilsen Prize. Dude is such a great writer, and he and I have a lot of the same sensibilities and influences. Working on something with him would be cool.
10. If you should travel to a foreign country to do research, which one would you chose and why?
That’s a solid question. My previous novel Road Seven takes place in a small, fictionalized country off the coast of Iceland. I had to do a lot of research regarding the area, and it’s obvious that actually being able to go there would have helped that aspect tremendously. Right now, though, I have no plans to do any writing that’s set outside of the country. Though I certainly wouldn’t mind being to travel back in time to, say, the Stanford Research Institute in the 1970s, when military-backed remote viewing programs were being run by the CIA. Stuff like that – again, such a niche thing, a particular and genre-focused thing – is endlessly fascinating to me.
Thank you, Keith Rosson and Meerkat Press
About the author
Keith Rosson is the author of the novels The Mercy of the Tide (2017, Meerkat Press) and Smoke City (2018, Meerkat Press). His short fiction has appeared in Cream City Review, PANK, Redivider, December, and more. He is an advocate of both public libraries and non-ironic adulation of the cassette tape.
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