Our final selection for your summer reading is a collection of intertwining short stories, a delightful mix of fantasy and macabre comedy. In the anthology Wayward Lives, author Tabatha Vincent crafts hilarious and disturbing tales with twisted characters.
Her book not only is a social commentary on the impact our choices have in our lives, but it’s also just damn fun. There’s something devilishly appealing about the book, besides the devilish lady on the cover. With a variety of stories, some as short as half a page, it’s the saltwater taffy of your reading list – sweet and salty with a little something that sticks with you. It’s a perfect beach read for your vacation and slender enough to toss in your carry on.
Novel2Screen got the chance to pry into the wicked mind of Tabatha Vincent and ask her about her debut collection.
Chris: Wayward Lives is a collection of short stories that intertwine. Why did you choose this format for these characters and this story?
Tabatha: Honestly, the format chose me. ‘Mr. LaPook’ started with a story prompt that my writers group urged me to explore. Once Mr. LaPook introduced himself, the other characters started speaking to me. Each character’s story evolved from their introduction in another story. For example, Mr. LaPook has two bodies in his morgue. I wanted to know Scott’s story, and then Mortimer just wouldn’t lie still so I had to explore his.
Chris: The world and characters you create are unique and tragically flawed and constantly surprised me as I read. How do you come up with such macabre yet comedic tales?
Tabatha: I have a seriously sick sense of humor and just started typing. I believe there are things we all want to do but don’t because it’s morally wrong. The situations in Wayward Lives made me laugh and the weirder it got, the more gleeful I became in torturing the characters. They did not disappoint me.
Chris: You have a few non-human characters who’ve been given a voice: a tree, a bush, and Molasses Speedwagon – the guardian angel turtle. Molasses is a memorable character. Was he based on anyone?
Tabatha: Not really. Growing up in South Louisiana box turtles were a common pet because they’re easy to care for. We’d find them in a ditch, take them home, give them some lettuce. That was the genesis of Molasses. What rounded his character is an acquaintance of mine has a massive pet tortoise named Big Boy. The beast hibernates in the winter stashed in a cardboard box in their closet. In the summer, Big Boy wanders the yard, following whoever happens to be there. I thought it was funny that this enormous tortoise was a cherished pet with a big personality.
Chris: Who was the hardest character to write and why?
Tabatha: Savannah was tough. She’s slippery and her voice gave me trouble. At first, I imagined she spoke in complete sentences with no contractions, no can’t, don’t, I’m, etc. But it was too formal. She’s sassy, with no concern for anyone but herself. When I found her secret sauce she blossomed.
Chris: Both marriages depicted in Wayward Lives begin with infatuation/love but deteriorate into abuse and death. One is destroyed while the other continues to thrive and rediscover love (readers, if you’re wondering how a marriage can survive after death, you’ll have to read Wayward Lives). Did you intend for the book to be a deeper commentary on marriage?
Tabatha: Not at all. Relationships are as varied as fingerprints. What works for one doesn’t work for another. If pushed, the commentary is more personal. Scott and Savannah’s relationship has elements gleaned from my past relationships. That could be why I took devilish delight in tormenting Savannah. Beaudette and Zahagan’s relationship is more about wishful thinking. Fiction is a way to experience intense passion that compels action; to taste an animalistic chemistry that binds and to satisfy overwhelming emotions with complete surety of knowing the relationship will survive.
Chris: What are you hoping your readers take away from Wayward Lives?
Tabatha: My only hope is that everyone who reads Wayward Lives is entertained. And if they get a giggle or two out of the stories, that’s gravy.
Chris: Which authors have influenced you as a writer?
Tabatha: The authors that influence me changes with each book I pick up. However, Christopher Moore, Jim Butcher, Terry Pratchett, Carl Hiaasen, Douglas Adams and most recently, Dean Koontz, have given my imagination much to chew on.
Chris: As we’re Novel2Screen, I have to ask – what is your favorite adaptation?
Tabatha: I’ve got two. I found reading The Lord of the Rings trilogy and Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – A Trilogy in Four Parts a grind. The movies made the material accessible and entertaining.
Chris: What are you working on now?
Tabatha: I’ve been noodling with a fairy tale titled The Legend of Trolls Fen. Stubborn by nature, I’m not letting this one go until I get it right!
Pick up a copy of Wayward Lives now and enjoy this fascinating descent into hell, heaven, and beyond.
For more of my interviews with authors, click here. Follow Chris on Twitter @ACCooksonWriter and on Novel2Screen.