“There are many surprises here and like other writers, I found myself thinking time and again, ‘I wish I’d written this.” — Niles Reddick, MBR: Reviewer’s Bookwatch
“…irreverent and sometimes heartbreaking, Kiss Kiss is an enthralling and entertaining read from start to finish.” — Alison McBain, Bewildering Stories
78 flash fictions from a master of the form
In Kiss Kiss, we’re introduced to a variety of stories, all told through a masterful blend of calamity and empathy.
Whether an aging man going through a mid-life crisis, or a grandmother getting fleeced by her own family, Beckman’s characters are written with a lively voice that is deft and saturated with heart.
Flash fiction, at its core, is a voyeuristic glimpse into a character’s internal struggle as the world around either helps or hinders the outcome. Hemmingway, Dybek, Ehrhardt, a few authors do it well. Paul Beckman is one of them.
Truth Serum Press
Paperback: $15.00, Kindle $4.99
Paul Beckman’s published books are: Kiss Kiss (Truth Serum Press), Peek (Big Table Publishing), Come! Meet My Family and Other Stories (Weighted Anchor Press) Chapbooks: Maybe I Ought to Sit in a Dark Room for a While (Ink, Sweat, and Tears) 21 Stories (Web Del Sol), and a novella, Lovers and Other Mean People (Sugar Mule Press).
Paul has over 400 stories published in print, online, and via audio in the following magazines among others: Pank, Necessary Fiction, Playboy, New Flash Fiction Review, Pure Slush, Brilliant Flash Fiction, Thrice Fiction, Fictive Dream, Connecticut Review. Literary Orphans, 100 Word Story, Spelk Fiction, Molotov Cocktail, Jellyfish Review, Digging Through the Fat, Litro, and Red Fez.
He earned his MFA in creative writing from Bennington College in 1999 and was invited back three years later to be their alumni speaker.
Beckman has judged flash fiction contest for Brilliant Flash Fiction, and Cahoodaloodaling and short story financial award grants for the state of New Jersey.
He has had his stories short-listed two times for LISP London Independent Story Prize, Was one of the winners of the Best Small Fictions 2016, Nominated BSF 2019, Won the 2016 Editor’s Prize for fiction for the Southeast Review, and had a story selected for the Norton Anthology of Micro-fiction 2019.
Paul lives in CT. with his wife, Sandra and he curates the FBomb NY flash fiction reading series monthly at KGB’s Red Room in New York’s lower east side.
Additionally, Paul reads at many venues throughout the country and his stories have been published in many European cities.
“Reading Kiss Kiss is like delving a box of chocolates without a cover as your guide. You’ll discover stories with soft, sweet centers. But some are just as jagged as biting into an almond—hidden inside white nougat—drizzled with red icing.” — Story and Grit
Where are you from? Tell us a little about yourself!
I’m from Bridgeport CT. I grew up in the north end in a good neighborhood and moved to the projects in the south end in sixth grade. It was at that point I changed from an honor student to a young man with a chip on his shoulder who barely got out of high school but I did read every day and found that more rewarding than doing homework. I worked in a factory and was a numbers runner until I joined the Air Force where they tried to teach me discipline and succeeded in teaching me to be an air traffic controller which I did in Newfoundland, Bermuda, California and Oregon. Upon discharge, while waiting to get on with the FAA as controller I became a teamster and drove a truck in San Francisco. I ended up moving east and after a while I retired from Air Traffic and devoted my time to real estate development and building.
Tell us about your book? How did it get started?
I write every day and veered towards flash fiction a few years earlier. I had a collection of flash and micro-fiction published by Big Table Publishing (Robin Stratton) who’d been publishing my stories in her magazine, The Boston Literary Review, frequently. She was all in for publishing a collection. Two years later I had a generous pile of stories and talked to my editor, (Nancy Stohlman) about her thoughts on a collection. She was positive and I emailed a publisher, Matt Potter (Truth Serum Press), who had published a lot of my pieces and he was all for publishing a collection. So with my editor we selected the stories that were simpatico with other stories. We picked the opening 10 and the closing 10 and filled in the remaining 58 to give some continuity to the collection.
How do you create your characters?
First of all, no one gets a pass. What I see and extrapolate into a story may or may not be what is happening. I write a lot from body language—especially of couples. If I see a couple in a fine restaurant having dinner or even looking at the menu and each of them has their cell phone on the table at the ready there’s a world of stories. If a couple is sitting together on a banquette nuzzling, talking, and laughing I watch their facial expressions for an eye roll, a scrunched look, or a loving look, and in these other situations I have characters and setting and once I get that down my story will lead me to places or conversations that at first would not appear likely. It’s rare that I know where I’m going once I begin a story. The story itself usually dictates the character’s names and often times the character’s names will dictate their behavior.
I have a pair of recurring characters. Mirsky and Elaine. Mirsky was in my first collection, Come! Meet My Family and other stories. (Weighted Anchor Press). That’s the only story that uses his first name also. I love it at readings now that people ask for a Mirsky story. He may be my doppelganger and Elaine has taken on many aspects of my wife, Sandra’s behavior and quirks. One other character that shows up is Strickland. He’s trouble and the kind of guy I’d hang with in the projects.
The other characters for the most part come out to me when I begin to write. Some of my favorite targets are shrinks, Rabbis, and basically anyone in authority.
What inspires you and what got you started in writing?
I am inspired by my childhood, family, friends, and as I said last paragraph, basically anyone in authority. I believe there is no such thing as a functional family—no matter how nice they all are to each other in public—once that door is closed is when they get interesting. I feel the same way about clergy, shrinks, do-gooders, teachers, and physicians. In my world there are no truly nice people, only people who have not yet been caught.
I got started in writing by having ideas for stories and putting the scrap of paper, napkin, restaurant check in a cigar box. I decided that when I filled it I would pick one and write a story or toss the lot. I borrowed a friend’s beach house, took my cigar box along with a bottle of wine and a glass, a pad and pen and within the hour I had my first story. I sent the story out and the editor said he’d take it if I dropped the first paragraph. I rejected his suggestion and about six years lter I had it accepted without the first paragraph.
I heard about a workshop in New Haven—The Anderson Street Writing Workshop run by the wonderful Alice Mattison. I had to wait for an opening and spent many years there and I have to credit her with being in the position of calling myself a writer. She’s a great teacher and friend. Alice ended her workshop after many years and taught at the new Low-Res MFA program at Bennington College. She convinced me to apply and despite my lack of a BA I was accepted and spent two of the best years of my life there and got my MFA in the process.
Where do you write? Is there something you need in order to write? (music, drinks?)
I need silence and being alone to write. I turned one of the bedrooms in the house into my office. I could never write in a coffee shop as so many other writers do. All I need is bottles of water and the only time I put on any music is if I’m writing, say a gangster story, and then I’ll do it for
atmosphere. If I do listen to music it’s only music and no lyrics. I don’t need my mind wandering anymore than it naturally does.
How Do you get your ideas for writing?
The ideas are all around me, Take some of the stories from Kiss Kiss: “I Had to Let My Cleaning Lady Go”. From a discussion I overheard about cleaning ladies. “Wallflower Solution” From a discussion with my wife about going to a cocktail party.”I’ve Had My Fill” From a discussion with the exterminator about mice and squirrels eating my bird seed. “Changing of the Guard” from an obit I read and cut out about ten years before I wrote the story. And then there’s a visit to my dentist, meeting a shrink at the synagogue and listening to him talk. The supermarket’s a great place for me. If the writing gods are out than everywhere is good. If their taking a sabbatical than no place is worthwhile.
And then there are prompts. I belong to a writing group and we rotate weekly giving out prompts. Additionally I take different kinds of flash writing classes and the juice flows. Courses with Nancy Stohlman, Kathy Fish, Robert Vaughan, Meg Tuite. And Meg Pokrass. Sometimes these are online courses and other times I’ve traveled to Breckenridge Co. and New Mexico. These courses allow us to meet writers in person whom we’ve only known from online. There’s a wonderful energy in these classes and a great deal of respect for each other’s time and habits.
What do you like to read?
I like to read thrillers from all over the world. I read a lot of flash fiction from newly released writers who I’m familiar with or writers recommended to me by good writers. I occasionally read craft books on writing flash. The writers on the forefront today who are getting published with great stories will have me buying their craft books.
Often I go to my full wall bookcase filled with short stories and grab a Roth, Babel, Leonard Michaels, Barthelme, Hempel, Weidman, Kathy Fish, Len Kuntz, Carver, Malamud, Lydia Davis, Raymond Chandler, Dubus, Paley, Singer, or Jim Thompson plus, plus, plus.
What would your advice be for authors or aspiring authors in regards to writing?
Read. Read. Read. Then write and keep rewriting until when you read the story aloud to yourself or someone else, you don’t trip up on words or word combinations. When you get to that point then submit, submit, submit.
If we’re talking flash and you write an 800 word story try through multiple edits to cut it down to 400 words. You won’t always get it that low but the story will be tighter and the editors will be able to tell it’s a polished story.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Go to readings. As many as you can, and if you’re writing fiction go to memoir and poetry also. Carry your best story to every fiction reading and if there’s an open mic section—sign up and read.