On the verge of a new anthology, we are celebrating IN THE AIR with a behind the scenes view of authors and their stories. Here’s a look at Victor Hawk and his story “Burke’s Mission.”
ABOUT THE STORY
Tell me a little about your story and the world you’ve created.
“Burke’s Mission” is set in Valentine, Texas. It’s a real place between El Paso and Marfa, but in my stories it’s fubar’d – fictionalized up beyond all recognition. Valentine coalesced from the cloudy nebulae of my first short story workshops. It was a place to see my characters do what they do in the big desert quietude of open sky and dark night.
What came first, the plot or the characters?
Characters come first. This story started as a character sketch. Burke and Hickey arose together in a previous short story called “Hickey Urquhart’s Trajectory.” One day, the question came to me, “What next for Hickey?” So I went to Burke for answers.
If you had to describe your protagonist in three words, what would they be?
Working through pain.
What is something about your protagonist that only you know?
He loves stumbling into new music genres. He just discovered EDM and raves.
Which scene was the most difficult to write and why?
The confrontations. Confrontations hurt, man.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I play Minecraft. I teach English Composition to first year college students. I try to figure out how to move on from things of the past.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your stories?
The most surprising thing in this story is how Burke and Hickey became me and my son. I didn’t expect to be crying so much when I wrote this.
Do you have any suggestions to help others become better writers? If so, what are they?
Search for the heart in every story you write, every character you sketch. When they have your heart in them, the reader knows shit has gotten real here.
What do you think makes a good story?
A strongly developed character in a tough spot. I have lately fallen in love with the ‘slice of life’ trope from Japanese anime. Not much drama, maybe not much story, just slow and patient character development.
As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
Work for NASA. In my fantasies, I travel a spaceship through the cosmos, charting systems, discovering and exploring planets, leaving records for others to build from. I do that alone because no one can put up with me for long. It’s okay. I’ve always been a stranger in a strange land.
What is your favorite writing tool or technique?
Cup of coffee, a doughnut, a keyboard, and a few uncharted hours ahead of me.
How would you describe your general writing voice and tone?
As straightforward as can be for each character’s story. I don’t have a good sense for how I sound to others.
Share something fun or interesting:
A musical ensemble called Heilung (Healing), a work called Krigsgaldr.
Never knew I had a thing for women with horns until I watched this.
Appreciation and thanks
This story was workshopped in an early stage by Jen Jenson and Quinn Irwin. Jen told me what to keep. Quinn told me what to change. You were right. My love to you both.
Hawk left engineering in 2005 to pursue his teaching and creative writing interests. His poems have appeared in small literary presses over the years, including The Davidson Miscellany, Wind: A Literary Magazine, Cold Mountain Review, Word River, and New Plains Review.
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