BJI: What was the inspiration for The Expansiveness of My Sound?
AF: At the time I wrote the story I was listening to a lot of Ethiopian jazz, specifically the Ethiopiques series of CDs, both as research for a radio show, and for sheer pleasure. At the same time I had this opening line (which I’d stolen from a Bloc Party song) that I was eager to use. It seemed to contain the voice I needed to create a fictional account of that very specific time and place, so I was off to the races.
BJI: Your story captures a very specific place and time. Could you tell us about the research that went into it?
AF: When I wrote the story I was still doing a jazz/improvised music radio show with some friends on CKCU in Ottawa, and I immersed myself in that music in order to come up with a 90-minute program that did some justice to this amazing, exotic mix of jazz, R&B, Arabic and East African music. I found a few sources online, dug up a textbook from an African history course I’d done in university, and downloaded a ton of music.
BJI: What’s on your playlist when you write?
AF: Oh, man, I’m a music fiend, so the playlist is ever-changing. But this winter I was dedicated to an album called Jazz pa svenska (“Jazz in Swedish”) by the late Swedish pianist Jan Johansson. A friend mentioned it to me, and it proved to be the perfect early-morning-in-winter soundtrack. At the moment I seem to be in a Sun Ra state of mind, for whatever reason, specifically stuff from the late 1950s, like “Jazz in Silhouette.” Not sure if any stories will come of that.
BJI: What are the advantages of working with short stories? What are the challenges?
AF: As a writer, short stories are opportunities for me to parachute into a different world, immerse myself in it, and then move onto another world. The challenges are the same as the advantages: condensed, intense, hyper-focused, delicate, difficult. As a reader, I’ve had my heart broken by more stories than I have by novels, and I love having my heart broken by a piece of writing.
BJI: Last question. What excites you most about online/digital storytelling?
AF: Reach. Within a week of my story coming out in FPQ, I had dozens of emails from friends, acquaintances, etc., some from people I hadn’t spoken to in ages, telling me they’d read and liked the story. Would even half of those people have taken it upon themselves to track down a literary magazine in a bookstore to read it? I also like that FPQ treats stories like they’re pop songs: buy the song, or buy the whole album, your choice.
stories by Andrew Forbes