An interview with Bradley Bazzle
Bradley Bazzle is the talented author of Trash Mountain, as well as our featured short story “Relatable Influence.” You can read the story here. This past week, we were able to talk with Bradley about the composition of his exceptional piece.
Caleb Seymour and Paige Teeman: Do you have experience with photography or blogging that helped in writing the story?
Bradley Bazzle: I don’t, though I’m a parent and do take many poor-quality photos of my three-year-old daughter. This story was inspired by “Instamom,” an article by Bianca Bosker that appeared in the March 2017 issue of the Atlantic. The article is about a popular blogger named Amber Fillerup Clark, a.k.a. Barefoot Blonde. Because I don’t read blogs or spend much time on the Internet, the scope of Clark’s operation really blindsided me. Some of the colorful blogging lingo and other details from the article made their way into the story: relatable influencer, lazy days at home, warm pastel hues.
Paige/Caleb: Specifically, looking at Kaarlo, have you worked or met a photographer who used some of these rather unusual methods? How does his character help to reinforce the theme of the story?
Bradley: Again, I don’t know much about photography, so Kaarlo’s methods are all made up, but I rendered him the way I did in order to make it clear that he’s a person who considers himself an artist. Part of the narrator’s journey, I hope, is toward considering herself to be an artist as well, and not just a person who’s commodifying her family. That would be pretty low-hanging fruit.
Caleb/Paige: Is there a relationship between fiction and Instagram in your mind? If so, what is that relationship?
Bradley: I don’t know anything about Instagram! I hear people talk about it and about these Instagram “stories,” but I have no idea what one looks like. My knowledge of social media began (and ended, recently) with Facebook.
Paige/Caleb: Caleb and Emma seem to understand Kaarlo’s methods better than the parents do. Why do the kids get it and the parents don’t? Does it have to do with their youth and imagination?
Bradley: Yes, I think you’re right. If the husband, Jason, is at one end, then Emma is at the other. Like her mother, she’s naturally artistic, and she’s old enough that her own aesthetic is beginning to emerge. In the furthest reaches of this story world (if not in the story itself!) I imagine that Kaarlo provides, by his own behavior and with examples like Solaris, an artistic lens through which Emma can reconsider things she may have taken for granted, like her life as a blogged child and her parents’ relationship.
Caleb/Paige: The notion of “destroying your material” in order to make it your own seems to be the main idea from which Kaarlo’s genius stems. Do you apply this to your own work in any way?
Bradley: This is a tough question to answer. I use material from my own life, but less than most writers, I think. What I’ll say is that I’m pretty brutal during the revision process, and I don’t hesitate to cut stuff, even stuff I really like, and to move stuff around until the final draft is very different from the first. A little like Kaarlo when he edits the pond photo (minus the stylish clothes).
Paige/Caleb: Seeing as this piece is rather satirical, do you ever make commentary on other contemporary themes in your other work?
Bradley: Yeah, I guess it is kind of satirical, in regards to what’s sometimes called “mommy blogging,” but my inspiration wasn’t that I found mommy bloggers ridiculous and wanted to make fun of them. The story is way too long for that! I was drawn to their language, and to the complicated situation they must find themselves in: commodifying their families while at the same time enriching (in both senses of that word) their family life. Along the same lines, I wrote a story about an actor turned acting coach for which I drew on the language of actors I used to know, as well as from books like Joseph Chiakin’s The Presence of the Actor. And I wrote a story about a business self-help writer that drew on that genre’s lingo. I usually think of myself as someone who “does voices” in his head when he writes, but the result might be something like satire. So I guess the answer is yes!