Interview with Mathieu Cailler, author of Loss Angeles
Posted by authorcamilson
Hi folks. Today I get to chat with Mathieu Cailler, author of the new book Loss Angeles. Cailler is a writer of prose and poetry. His work has been widely published in national and international literary journals. Before becoming a full-time writer, Cailler was an elementary school teacher in inner-city Los Angeles. “I came to writing in a rather circuitous way. I always penned jokes for stand-up comedy appearances but later realized it wasn’t just comedy that applealed to me, but all writing.” A graduate of Vermont College of Fine Arts, Cailler was awarded the Short Story America Prize for Short Fiction and a Shakespeare Award for Poetry. His chapbook, Clotheslines, was recently published by Red Bird Press. LOSS ANGELES is Cailler’s first full-length book.
Mathieu, thanks for being here today. What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
I love to tell stories. That’s really as simple as it gets. There’s something very pure and honest about telling someone a story. In this day of multitasking, trying to hold someone’s attention with a single story is a challenge that really motivates me.
If you could hang out with one famous person for one day, who would it be and why?
Kobe Bryant. I’m a big-time Lakers fan. I’ve watched every game this season (which was hard), but I love his work ethic and his acceptance to walk in the shoes of elite company. I also love the way nothing seems to scare him, and he’s up for any challenge. I’ve watched every game of his professional career and have learned a ton about dedication from him. The way to really respect your passion. I’d just like to thank him really.
What’s the story behind your latest book?
LOSS ANGELES is a short-story collection that is loosely bound by the theme of loss and that is set (in some capacity) in L.A. It doesn’t focus on the glitz and glamor of the city, but on the quiet day-to-day pain of its citizens. It’s eclectic, too. Some of the stories are humorous, others painful, but I’ve tried my best to be compassionate to my characters.
Tell us your writing process.
I love getting up and writing. Even after five years of dedicating myself to the craft, I wake up a little nervous to approach the desk. It still scares me. The blank page, the plot, all of it, but I think that’s what I enjoy so much. I was having a conversation with Kali VanBaale, the author of the novel THE SPACE BETWEEN, and she asked me what would happen if I woke up one morning without that fear. I said, “Well, I’d probably stop.” But I don’t see the fear ever going away. It’s a sweet nervousness that I need at this point.
When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?
Now that I look back on it, pretty early. A high-school teacher thought an essay of mine was worthy of being submitted to a local L.A. contest, so she sent it in without me knowing and it won first place (the prize was a Maya Angelou book of poems that still have on my desk). I remember writing in college for the newspaper, and later in a creative writing class, and just telling myself, “Remember, Mat. This doesn’t feel like work. You’re enjoying this. Two hours have passed and you haven’t moved.” Now, every time I get a check from writing, I feel like I’m getting one for breathing.
Tell us about your main character.
Since I’ve written a story collection, I have fifteen (maybe more) main characters. In “Over the Bridge” a teenage girl mourns the loss of her mother; in “One-Night Stand” a Portland native moves to L.A. to pursue his love of stand-up comedy; in “Dark Timber” a boy goes hunting with his father and older brother. Those are just some of the characters that are very dear to me. More dear to me than actual living people.
What are you working on next?
I’m finishing up another short-story collection and a poetry collection (that should be done by summer). I’ve also written a children’s book and will start on a novel this summer.
Do you have any special/extraordinary talents?
I can drink caffeine before bed and still fall asleep pretty quickly.
Who are your favorite authors?
Raymond Carver, Richard Yates, Grace Paley, Patricia Highsmith, Richard Bausch, Naguib Mahfouz.
What do you like to do with your free time?
I like to draw and play basketball. I’d like to get into photography too.
Tell us about your plans for upcoming books.
Same process as always really: sit at the desk and edit and sort through the madness.
Where can people find you on the web?
I’ve a public Facebook profile page (which I use the most), an author FB page (facebook.com/writesfromla), a Twitter account (@writesfromla), and a Goodreads page.
Any final thoughts?
Thank you for taking the time to interview me. Deeply grateful. If you’re interested in LOSS ANGELES, please visit shortstoryamerica.com. There, you will receive free shipping. Also, in the special-instructions box, write that you’d like a signed copy and the publisher and I will make it happen. Thanks again.
Title: Loss Angeles
Author: Mathieu Cailler
Publisher: Short Story America Press
Genre: Short Stories
Set in the glamorous city of Los Angeles, California, LOSS ANGELES skips the shine and celebrity the city is known for and instead dives deeply into the lives of ordinary Angelenos. In each of the fifteen stories in this collection, author Mathieu Cailler examines the private lives of a diverse mix of characters. This collection of stories showcases the rawness of real life, the complexity of navigating personal challenges and internal conflicts, and the ever present possibility of encountering unexpected compassion and empathy.
The stories in LOSS ANGELES uncover the reality that the interiors of people’s lives often have huge holes in them. In the collection, a quiet divorced man, who is still deeply in love with his ex-wife, finally speaks up when his son’s soon-to-be stepfather becomes enraged over a broken birthday gift. A young man visiting his parents for the first time in nine years delays his presence at his family’s Thanksgiving dinner to see an old friend who was influential in his early life. Cailler also goes beyond loss and grief to reveal hidden human kindness in the stories of a widower, who steps out of his melancholy to save the life of a stranger, and an aging bachelor, who becomes a father figure for a wayward young woman.
In “Over the Bridge,” Ella is a teenager learning to manage her grief over the death of her mother and the new life she and her seven-year-old brother have with their father, with whom the children have not lived with since their parents’ divorce. While Ella is receiving weekly counseling at school, she continues to struggle with the changes in her life. When the counselor instructs Ella to write a letter to her father explaining the uncertainty and distance she feels in regard to her relationship with him, Ella complies and writes with the type of honesty that one allows when there is no plan to share what is written. But when Ella finds herself in a frightening situation with a boy at a party after consuming drugs and alcohol, the letter becomes the catalyst for a change in perspective for her father.
“Hit and Stay” is the story of a young married man making the long drive home from an out-of-town business trip. Penn is troubled as he drives his SUV through back roads to avoid the highway traffic. The quiet drive in the warm cocoon of the truck affords Penn the opportunity to reflect on the one-night stand he had with a new employee. As he contemplates how or if he will confess his mistake to his wife, Kimberly, Penn reviews his life with the woman he was once passionately in love with who has grown distant since the death of her mother. During the drive, Penn has an unfortunate accident that breaks the delicate hold he has on his volatile emotional state.
The conflict between familial violence and love is the foundation of “Dark Timber.” Clevie and his older brother, Roy, reluctantly accompany their father on a hunting expedition. Their father, an alcoholic recently released from prison after serving time for beating the boys’ mother, is determined to teach his sons how to hunt for their own food.
The relationship between father and sons is strained. Roy has personal experience with his father’s violent temper, but young Clevie remains hopeful that life with their father will improve. Neither boy is interested in hunting. Clevie is the most reluctant to fire on innocent animals. However, when their father comes face-to-face with a menacing predator, both boys instinctively respond to his pleas for help.
“LOSS ANGELES is a throwback to eclectic short story collections of past years and is only bound by the theme of loss in a very general sense,” Cailler says. “The stories are by turns fragile, tender, and always memorable. The characters in this book are as diverse as the city itself… they all have a story to share, and it was my job to do just that. I don’t believe in being predestined while writing; therefore, some of the stories end with a bit of hope while others reach their coda in a disconcerting fashion.”
Exposing emotions was Cailler’s focus when writing the collection. “I want the reader to relate to the feelings and sentiments expressed in the book. I think loss is the greatest bond we possess as humans, and there isn’t a single person around who hasn’t experienced it. We’ve all lost something dear to us, something profound,” the author says. “I think if a reader comes away from LOSS ANGELES feeling more connected to others and/or him or herself, I’ll have done my job. Whenever I write, I think of Plato’s words: ‘Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.’ That’s something that I hope will resonate with the reader.”
For More Information
- Loss Angeles is available at Amazon.
- Pick up your copy at Barnes & Noble.
- Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.
Penn continued to drive through the night. Snow and gales of wind assailed his SUV as he barreled towards home, his foot steady on the gas, his hands positioned firmly at ten and two. Heat billowed from the vents on the dashboard and moved loose strands of hair on his face. He didn’t want to replay the scenario—the quiet L.A. hotel room, the closed drapes, the underwear on the floor, the moaning, the taste of her lips—but the SUV’s quiet cabin was a hotbed for reflection.
His headlights brushed a green highway sign, indicating that there were eighty-nine miles left on his journey home to Lake Tahoe. With the winter weather, it might take Penn more than two hours, but that was all right. How would he look at Kimberly after what he’d done?
“Don’t marry young,” people had told him a few years ago when he’d passed around the idea of proposing. “You haven’t tested the waters.” Cliché after cliché came at him, and while the marriage advice was stale and up there with “enjoy each day like it’s your last” and “don’t let anyone tell you something’s impossible,” it wasn’t amiss.
Becky had been with the company for a couple months now; there’d been some mild flirting, but Penn just thought that was the way she was, and he flirted back from time to time, knowing that it was just a game. Becky saw the wedding band on his finger; she could put two and two together.
But on this recent trip, Penn and Becky had found themselves at the hotel bar, overlooking the glimmering L.A skyline. There was a meeting early in the morning, and most of the company’s employees had gone to bed. She approached Penn and slid onto the chair next to his. They drank, and their eyes held one another in the empty bar. The piano man played his versions of “So What” and “Stardust,” songs that made people more attractive and made conversations more interesting. The right strap of Becky’s blue dress kept slipping off her freckled shoulder, and she left her smooth skin exposed longer than normal before bringing the strap back up. Her breasts were pressed up and together, and when she crossed her legs, one of her black heels dangled a few inches from her foot, making it seem as though she was already undressing. Penn remembered the way she reached over and touched his right hand.
The worst part was that Penn had only slept with Becky because of the confidence Kimberly had given him. Many times she’d reaffirmed his self-esteem, telling him he was worthy of love, that he was better-looking than he imagined, and that he deserved the best.
Penn believed the burden would be lightened if he told Kimberly, but at the same time, he thought the words might destroy her, and that’s not what he wanted. It’d taken cheating for him to know how much he loved her, but who would believe a line like that?
The tapping of a snare drum leaked out from the speakers, accompanied by the beat of an upright bass and the trill of a clarinet. He lowered the window and let the cold air flow into the sweltering cabin.
Was there a perfect scenario? Penn thought. He let his mind wander. When he got home maybe Kimberly would be crying.
What’s wrong? Penn would say.
I did something terrible, Kimberly would answer.
Kimberly would go on to tell Penn that she’d slept with someone else, that she was sorry, and that it didn’t mean anything. After that, he’d say the same thing. Two wrongs, one right. But even thinking about her sleeping with someone else made him sick. That wasn’t at all what he wanted.
High school sweethearts turned lovers turned husband and wife turned roommates—that’s what they were. Penn found it more and more difficult to make her laugh. Where there’d been kisses, there were now smiles. Where there’d been heat, there was now platitude. Where there’d been love, there was now familiarity.
Posted on May 19, 2015, in Guest Authors and tagged #writesfromla, Book Tour, Clotheslines, Loss Angeles, Mathieu Cailler, PUYB, Red Bird Press, Short Story America Press, short-story collection, shortstoryamerica.com. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.