We recently published Lori Sambol Brody’s searing “All the Stars.”
Here, we ask her two questions about her story:
1) That first line is such a killer: ” The mountains were burning in Southern California, as they do….” It gives the reader such an immediate feeling for the narrator, those three little words, “as they do.” She seems so accepting of every circumstance she comes across in this story — is this a narrator you think would ever be really surprised?
I agree with you — I don’t think anything could ever surprise this narrator. She takes the circumstances all in stride – up to narrowly escaping a fire. I think something horrible has happened to her – something that has made her empty – and she’s seeking to fill that emptiness by drifting into experiences. I do hope, however, that at the end, having seen all the elements of the universe, that her emptiness has been filled.
2) I love how much is in this story: Fires, elements, celebrity sightings, desire… And yet it doesn’t seem overfull, like some stories with so many pieces might do. Was it hard for you to find that balance of just enough for this story
I had a really hard time answering this question. I don’t feel very purposeful in how I write a story — or even, most of the time, when I edit a story. I don’t have any degrees in writing, so I feel like I mostly flail around in how I approach a story, or maybe it’s just flailing in how I talk about a story.
“All the Stars” started out in a workshop as a word prompt story, one of those prompts where you need to use all of words given. Those stories do tend to be overstuffed, as the writer tries to put every word in that she was given. I recall that one of the words in the prompt was “peaches,” and that made it to the final edit.
I wrote this soon after the Woolsey Fire, when my family was displaced for a week. Right before that fire, the house of my husband’s friend burned down in a wildfire. He had actually had a Periodic Table of Elements like the one in the story and the fire turned weird colors! My aim here was to show the dreamlike liminal space that someone lives in when they are under evacuation during a fire, but perhaps instead evoked that horrible X-Files episode, season 2 episode 1, where Mulder tracks down vampires in a burning LA?
All I know is that even after a fire, there’s always life bursting out. Last spring, we hiked through one of the burn areas in Malibu Creek State Park. Although the oak trees were blackened, the hillsides were purple with lupine. It was an excellent year for wildflowers.