Monday, September 26, 2022

TBR: The Witch Bottle and Other Stories by Suzanne Feldman

TBR [to be read] is a semi-regular, invitation-only interview series with authors of newly released/forthcoming, interesting books who will tell us about their new work as well as offer tips on writing, stories about the publishing biz, and from time to time, a recipe.


Give us your elevator pitch: what’s your book about in 2-3 sentences?


From Depression era Mississippi to the suburbs of modern America, to the trials and tribulations of smart young women struggling to make a name for themselves in the arts, Feldman delves deep into the dreams and emotions of regular people and makes them beautiful and accessible. This prize-winning collection of short stories and two novellas, offers entrancing tales of redemption, betrayal, tradition, and rebellion. These narratives range in mood from "The Lapedo Child," a tale of discovery and liberation, to "The Witch Bottle,” a comic examination of a pair of obsessed next-door neighbors. “Untitled Number 20” explores life among women artists at the end of the Flower Power era and the beginning of the Seventies. “The Stages” is a meditation on one woman’s struggle for dignity in the face of divorce and untreatable cancer.


Whether it’s the end of a marriage, or a struggle for fame, the works probe issues that give us that “shock of recognition” that is the hallmark of great art—wonderful, absorbing fiction that will be read and reread for decades to come. 


Which story did you most enjoy writing? Why? And, which story gave you the most trouble, and why?


The most fun story, I think, is the title story, "The Witch Bottle." I think I wrote it in three drafts, which is unusually fast for me, but it hit all the spots. It’s funny, short, and has a Twist at the end.


The story that went through the most revisions, and took literally years to write was "Goat Island," the final piece. It was about so much—family, art, and the struggle to deal with your family while you TRY to make art. It’s a very personal story, and it took a long time to make it right.


Tell us a bit about the highs and lows of your book’s road to publication.


Well! The stories in this collection span approximately 15 years of me writing stories and sending them out to contests and publications. Some were published in amazing places, like Narrative Magazine. Some remained…unnoticed? But like they say, “You gotta play to win!” So I kept sending them out, one by one until I had enough for a collection. Then I sent out the collection until at last, the wonderful Washington Writers’ Publishing House chose me as the winner of their annual fiction competition, and here we are! One of the absolute highs of this book was getting to work with the artists, both friends of mine, on the cover, which we are all very proud of!


What’s your favorite piece of writing advice?


Alice McDermott once said to me, “You don’t have to write that novel in order.”


My favorite writing advice is “write until something surprises you.” What surprised you in the writing of this book?


Without a doubt, after spending two years in pandemic circumstances—lockdown, isolation and so on—winning the WWPH competition and seeing this collection out in the light of day was incredibly affirming. I don’t know if that qualifies as a surprise, but it’s a fantastic feeling.


How did you find the title of your book?


The title of the book is the title of the funniest story, which I thought would be appropriate. My ideal reader likes to laugh, likes to cry, and likes a good profound story to think about for years to come.


Inquiring foodies and hungry book clubs want to know: Any food/s associated with your book? (Any recipes I might share?)


Sorry! The only food group in this book is Cheetos.











DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.