Behind the Book: Patti Abbott
“Why Do You Write Such Dark Stories”
by Patti Abbott
Whenever I spend an evening with friends familiar with my stories, this question often arises. “You seem like a happy person,” and they usually go on to say. “Was your childhood difficult?”
Um, no. And I can’t really give a definitive answer to the question. Is it true even? Are my stories all dark? I paged through a list of stories I’ve published over 15 years and I find I have finished people off in many odd ways: a woman pushed off a boat into a melting ice floe in Alaska; death due to a collapsed ceiling; becoming part of a cello; hunted, smoked and eaten on a boat in Florida; killed by a bus dropped from a garage lift; buried alive in the back 40; hi-jacked by boys on drugs; a victim of West Nile; killed by the drug used to put animals down; overdosed; thrown down a cistern in Spain; smothered in an assisted living facility by a jealous roommate; smothered by the irate father of your girlfriend; pushed down the stairs by an angry nine-year old; set on fire, set on fire, set on fire (two of these were self-inflicted); enveloped by a giant moth in Paris (she sought this out too); shot, shot, shot, shot; bled to death after being forced into a commercial food processor; slathered with honey and Indian corn and nailed to a field; torn apart by a pit bull; kidnapped by a older couple on the way to work at a rescue farm for teacup pigs in Tuscon: stabbed, stabbed. Stabbed.
One grows tired of people expiring in normal ways and even the usual ways in writing crime stories. Start a new story every six weeks and you run out of a simple road to death. But am I dark? Can’t you see the humor in some of these means of death? Few of these stories are meant to be taken too seriously. In the more serious stories I’ve written, the plot centers on misdeeds other than death–and these are the ones I consider the darkest: children abandoned by their parents, illness, parents trying to save their children and failing, abandonment in old age spending a life believing something incorrect about a sibling, being lonely. Alone.
CONCRETE ANGEL is perhaps the darkest story of all. In it, a mother misuses her daughter over the entire 18 years they share. She never physically abuses her, but her actions always carry the threat of abandonment. “You will be all alone if you don’t go along with me,” her mother repeatedly suggests. “Don’t trust anyone but me.” And the daughter, Christine, does just that, forgoing other relationships, even familial ones.
I am dark because these are the stories that interest me. The tales where people are pushed to their limits. How “messed-up” people react in a bad situation. How seemingly nice people do. How far we will go to exact revenge. Growing up in a row house in Philadelphia, not much remained hidden. It is those stories that fascinate me still.
In addition to being the Crimespree Senior Film Critic, Patti has penned numerous short stories and her debut novel, CONCRETE ANGEL, is in stores now. She hosts a look at Forgotten Books every Friday with readers, writers and reviewers at pattinase.blogspot.com. She hopes you’ll join in