COPING WITH ASH by Michael Scott Curnes
Inkwater Press, January 26, 2017
(Reviewed and given 5 stars by Danielle Urban)
ULM: What would you like readers to take from reading your book, Coping with Ash?
MSC: Loss and grief are universal human elements but how we cope with these is uniquely individualized. There isn’t a handbook for this. This story is meant to be a gift from the narrator (the deceased) to the survivors he leaves behind and a guide to helping them cope with the loss of their lover, brother, son and friend, who was a gay man they loved, named Ashton Taylor. This story is a reminder to not take a day, a person, or moment for granted. Our breathing days are finite and our chances to love and be loved are brief.
ULM: The emotional journey of your book was powerful. What did it feel like as your wrote it?
MSC: This story is personal for me and so I wrote it to be personal for the reader. There were many moments when I would write a passage through tears as I put myself in that vulnerable place of someone suffering from loss and abandonment and unspeakable loneliness. Every other page asks the question: how would I cope with this if I were the one left behind?
ULM: Coping with Ash is written through the dead character’s point of view. Why did you choose Ashton’s point of view versus his lover’s?
MSC: The overly detailed plan to distribute the cremated remains (cremains) of the deceased is a plot the deceased put into motion. In other words, he started it. It just made sense to me that he should be the one to tell the story he started, posthumously. The deceased was a novelist—a storyteller, in fact had his third novel set to be published and then he died in the middle of his morning shave, unexpectedly. He believed he understood how the news of his death would be received and his cremains managed by those around him so I made him the narrator so that he could witness the execution of his instructions.
ULM: I noticed your book held a racial and LGBT theme. What was your purpose for inserting these into your novel?
MSC: For me, the novel’s main characters just happen to be Native American and gay. I didn’t construct this to be thematic or to make any particular statement. I suppose I could say I made a point of using these characteristics as a reminder that Native Americans and gay men have life experiences and stories to tell and that they love, they mourn and they figure out how to overcome unfathomable loss—just like everyone else. My previous novels, Val and For the Love of Mother also both featured central characters that were gay. Is this because I am a gay writer or that I have a duty to increase the number of gay characters in modern, published literature? Sure.
ULM: How would you describe your writing using only three words?
MSC: Intentional. Personal. Exploratory.
ULM: What other books have you written besides Coping with Ash?
MSC: Val, 1996 Brownell and Carroll Publishers
For the Love of Mother, 2011 Inkwater Press
My writing also appears in two published anthologies:
Writing the West Coast: In Love with Place, 2008
Living Artfully: Reflections from the Far West Coast, 2011
ULM: Any future works that you can share with us, readers?
MSC: I always have a novel or two percolating. Stay tuned.
ULM: Where can readers find You and your work online?