In our new author series, we’ll be offering a clairvoyant peek behind the veil of who and what makes up TRANSCENDENT. Here’s a glimpse at Mattea Orr and her story “Almost Above the Tannery.”
ABOUT THE STORY
Did you have to do any research? If so, what kind? What did you learn?
I guess the question is, if you ask your dad for certain details regarding his family history and he knows next to nothing, so you call your grandmother and pretend you have a class project on family trees in order to get her to recount the details of something upsetting that happened at least sixty years before you were born, does that count as research?
Can you tell me a little bit about your protagonist?
My story is told from the perspective of three different characters. Each of them gives us their view of the events and takes us, perhaps, closer to the truth. The characters are close family, a teenager, his father, and then a young man, the cousin/nephew of the first set. Their stories tell how they relate to the dead man, their uncle, brother, father.
Tell me about the setting you chose and how it influences your work.
There’s a desperation to a particular kind of rural poverty that comes from the sense of isolation. A distance between the people, a feeling of impenetrability, as though the family unit exists outside constraints of the larger culture. I’ve always been fascinated by this idea, and, don’t get it twisted, more than a little scared. In this case, these circumstances are compounded by the family business, a tannery, located right there on the property. On the surface, tanneries were a place where raw materials were altered and refined, turned into something that would last much longer than the original. And who knows where the final product would end up? But they accomplished this transformation through the use of caustic materials that stank, could be harmful if handled incorrectly, and often polluted the area—sometimes for generations.
What would you like readers to take away from your story?
Everyone has their own perspective on the truth, but nobody has a monopoly.
Which phrase are you most proud of in this story?
“Broken, functioning, but never fixed.”
If your story was front-page news, what would the headline be?
Local Father of Five Is Found Dead. Sheriff Says No Foul Play Suspected.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
An updated laptop that boots up so fast I almost never forget what I wanted to write about. And a treadmill that slays writer’s block.
If you had to put your name on someone else’s book/story, which would it be and why?
The Golden Tresses of the Dead: A Flavia de Luce Novel, by Alan Bradley, because it doesn’t come out until next year, and I don’t want to wait that long to read it.
When did you decide to take writing seriously?
It wasn’t a choice I made all at once, but when I finally finished my first novel and joined a local writer’s group for critique and support—those drove me to take myself seriously as a writer.
If you could choose a single superpower, what would it be and why?
I wish I could have the power to change anybody’s mind with my words, not just as a writer, but as a literal superpower, oh who am I kidding? It’s to be able to fly. It’s always to be able to fly and if anybody tells you otherwise they’re lying.
Have a question you’d love to be asked as a writer?
Nobody ever asks you about the worst thing you’ve ever written. Maybe it’s because the answer is too obvious? It’s whatever you’re currently working on.
Mattea has a Master’s in English Literature from SUNY Binghamton and lives in upstate New York with her husband and three children. They’re all wonderful, nothing said subsequently implies otherwise. If she doesn’t write–she dreams. A lot. Usually about ninjas with sharp knives. To cut down on the blood and the body count, she writes–a lot.
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Featured Photo Credit: “Abandoned Chamber in Chukhloma” by Andrew Qzmn