Monday, October 3, 2022

TBR: How We Disappear: Novella & Stories by Tara Lynn Masih

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?


I had to give a one-line pitch recently, and here it is: From the award-winning author of MY REAL NAME IS HANNA, this is a transporting and compelling story collection of those taken, those missing, and those neither here nor gone--runaways, exiles, wanderers, ghosts, even the elusive Dame Agatha Christie.


Which character did you most enjoy creating? Why?


I have an unnamed female character in “What You Can’t See in the Picture.” She is a super recognizer. When people read this story, they wonder if this is a real thing or if I’m making up a new super heroine. But it’s real. There are people who have an ability to recognize faces at a level that’s even more accurate than computer recognition software. I read about this and just had to create a story around one such person. I enjoyed the research, the development of the character, and the detective story that evolved.


Which story did you most enjoy writing?


Even more enjoyable was writing the fragmented biography of Agatha Christie. I just loved getting into her head. She was such a complex personality with a complicated life. It was a delight to pretend to walk in her shoes. It for sure stretched my imagination.


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


No lows on this one. I went straight back to Press 53 who had done my first story collection, Where the Dog Star Never Glows. I knew I’d have a good experience again, and am grateful they accepted it.


What’s your favorite piece of writing advice?


Develop the skin of an armadillo. You want to have tough skin to keep out harsh criticism, but it should also be soft enough to let in the constructive criticism.


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


I suppose it was the ending for “In a Sulfate Mist.” I had read about “the hatch” and wanted to build a story around the event (I won’t explain what it is for fear of spoiling). I generally know where a story is going when I start it, but in this case, I let the characters take themselves where they wanted to go. So I was just as surprised as anyone would be reading it for the first time to see how it ended.


How did you find the title of your book?


Good question. My original, working title was Notes to THE WORLD. It’s one of the story titles in the book, and in the same way one of the characters in that story writes little notes to the world, little messages metaphorically being put out to sea in a bottle, a collection does the same thing. It’s a series of notes from the author. However, as I gathered the stories and read them together, I noted the theme of disappearance connected them, and that I had other stories that did the same, so I pulled those into the mix as well. The title just came to me, how we disappear in so many different ways. All of us have to deal with either loved ones disappearing, deserting, or being taken, or with a way of life disappearing. Or sometimes the act of disappearing is a survival tactic. Or one can feel like one is invisible, disappearing into the backdrop. The title How We Disappear eventually overrode the other title in my mind, and the publisher agreed. We felt it opened up a question rather than just being a statement.


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


These are associated with the short story “Delight”:


Delight’s Coconut Kisses (Besitos de Coco) from Puerto Rico:



2 cups grated fresh coconut

1 cup water

1-1 ½ cups turbinado (raw) sugar


Combine the coconut and water in a saucepan with a heavy bottom. Bring to a boil. Add the sugar. Reduce heat to low and cook for 30 mins. Stir occasionally or until mixture becomes thick and sticky. Drop by tablespoons onto a greased cookie sheet. Let cool completely. Optional: can drizzle with chocolate or dip in melted chocolate.











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