Sometimes I want my fiction short and … not so sweet. That’s when I turn to Barb Goffman, whose prize-winning short stories pack a punch in a neat little package. There’s plenty of atmosphere. Tension, too, but nary a wasted word. You can find her stories in Ellery Queen in the Alfred Hitchcock mystery magazines, or in anthologies like Deadly Southern Charm. She’s just edited an anthology, Crime Travel, which comes out this December, too! I’m thrilled to host her here, too!
How does a story start for you?
My stories start with the main character’s voice. I have lots of plot ideas, interesting set-ups that I think might be able to become the guts of a story, but until I hear that voice, all my ideas are mere notes. Then, miraculously it sometimes seems, I’ll hear the first few sentences of a story in my head, and I’m off and running.
Who in your latest story has surprised you most – and why?
My latest story, “The Power Behind the Throne,” (published in the anthology Deadly Southern Charm, which came out in the spring from Wildside Press), is about a woman who’s on trial for murdering her husband. She surprised me the most because she does something toward the end of the story that I didn’t plan. I was typing and then there it was on the page, and it changed everything I thought I knew about her, everything the reader knows about her. I provided the set up and the character ran with it. Sorry to be so vague, but to tell what “it” is would give too much away.
When and/or where is your latest book set and is there a story behind that setting?
All the stories in Deadly Southern Charmare set in the South. My story is a contemporary one, set in a North Carolina beach town. I lived in North Carolina for three years in the ‘90s (law school at Duke), and I was delighted to return to the state, even if only on paper, through this story. I chose to set it in a beach town because an important aspect of the story is that the main character is financially well off, so having the death that’s the heart of the story happen at her second house, her beach house, was telling. Also, this house is a bit isolated, and that helped with the plot too.
What are you working on now?
I just finished writing a short story with four points of view. It’s my most ambitious project yet, starting with one small incident and showing its effect decades later. I think the story came out well. (Really well, she says modestly.) I’m waiting for feedback from an author friend before submitting it. Fingers crossed.
Which question didn’t I ask you that I should have?
What’s your next story coming out that readers can look forward to?
In December my story “Alex’s Choice” will be published in the anthology Crime Travel. I’m so excited about this anthology because it’s been my baby from start to finish. I chose and edited the fifteen stories, all involving crime and time travel, and they all are so good. Wildside Press is publishing the book. It’s going to be coming out on Sunday, December 8th, which is Pretend to be a Time Traveler Day. (It’s a real holiday!) In my story “Alex’s Choice,” a twelve-year-old goes back in time to stop a terrible accident, and the child unexpectedly faces a heart-wrenching choice. Some readers might become upset at that point and want to stop reading. To them I say, please keep going. You won’t be disappointed.
Thanks so much!
Barb Goffman loves writing, reading, air conditioning, and her dog—not necessarily in that order. She’s won the Agatha, Macavity, and Silver Falchion awards for her short stories, and she’s been a finalist for national crime-writing awards twenty-six times, including a dozen Agatha Award nominations (a category record), five Macavity nominations, five Anthony nominations, and three nominations for the Derringer Award. Her work has appeared inEllery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, andBlack Cat Mystery Magazine,among others. Her book, Don’t Get Mad, Get Even,won the Silver Falchion for the best short-story collection of 2013. Barb runs a freelance editing service, focusing on crime fiction. She lives with her dog in Winchester, Virginia. Learn more at www.barbgoffman.com. *** Barb is also a current Anthony Award finalist for her short story “Bug Appétit.” Read it here: https://www.elleryqueenmysterymagazine.com/assets/3/6/Goffman_Bug.pdf