West Coast Interviews: Nate Tower

Nathaniel Tower taught high school English in Missouri for nine yearsnagging wives by Nathaniel Tower before moving to the Twin Cities with his wife and daughter. He currently works as an internet marketer and is the founding and managing editor of Bartleby Snopes Literary Magazine and Press. His short fiction has appeared in over 200 publications. Nagging Wives, Foolish Husbandsis his first short story collection.

Bonnie ZoBell: Hey, Nate. Glad you have some time to talk about your book, Nagging Wives, Foolish Husbands: The Surreal Experiences of the Married Life. In many ways, it’s a pretty funny book, what with women giving birth to brown leather size 6 boots. Was it a fun collection to write?

Nate Tower: It was mostly fun, but there were certainly a fair share of tears as well. Well, maybe not real tears, but definitely the metaphorical ones. My wife was pregnant when I wrote “A Happy Family” (which features a woman giving birth to a boot). I had a blast writing it, and it’s still one of my favorite pieces to read. Ultimately though, I think this was a way of masking my own fears about having a kid. But why sit around waiting in fear? Might as well conjure up crazy stories about birthing boots.

Nate_TowerBZ:  Do you have a favorite story? Could you discuss one or two?

NT:  My favorites are “Pregnancy and the Wildebeest” and “The Abortion Party.” The former is the most fun I’ve ever had writing a story, and the latter is probably my most socially conscious work. Prior to the collection, the wildebeest story was a big challenge to get published; it was rejected around 50 times before finally being accepted. It was the type of piece I never gave up on because it was always my favorite. The wildebeest really came to life and is probably my most infamous character. He does laundry, talks, and steals a bunch of dirty underwear. What could be more fun than that? Of course, he’s really just a metaphor for the real struggles we have, but that doesn’t sound as fun.

“Abortion Party,” on the other hand, was accepted immediately and heralded as “the best thing” I’ve written. I’m not a political writer, but this one toes a certain line I’d never even ventured near before. It isn’t meant to take a stand on abortion, but it does draw attention to some of the hypocrisy involved in the whole debate—and in any debate, really. So many people who are passionate about a cause will only be passionate about it as long as it’s convenient for them. As preachy as it sounds, it really isn’t. Instead, it’s everything you’d expect a story called “The Abortion Party” to be.

BZ:  Even thought the stories are funny, though, there’s a serious edge to them. They really are about marriage and the difficulties that come with it. Besides simply thinking silly things are happening, the odd occurrences in these tales could be seen as metaphors for more dangerous workings in these relationships. Am I reading too much into this? For instance, in the story “Getting the Meat,” that could be read as “Where’s the beef?” in terms of the narrator and his wife’s marriage. Do you see something as lacking?

NT: No matter how absurd my stories are, I always hope that someone will see something serious in them. Truthfully, these tales are no more absurd than everyday life. These are just more colorful versions of the struggles we face on a daily basis. There are certainly stories in this collection where something is missing from the marriages, and there are other stories where everything the couple would ever need is right there.

BZ:  In “A Blade of Love,” in which Allan’s wife falls in love with said blade of grass, after we’re finished laughing, this tale could be nicknamed “The War of the Roses.” Mr. and Mrs. Thermoose have been married for so long and stopped caring so much that there seem to be weeds growing in their love. Mrs. T wears a lacy nightgown the night she sleeps outside on the lawn and tells Mr. T that if he trims even a centimeter of her blade, she’ll ask for a divorce and call the cops. Her husband doesn’t like imperfection, spends more time on the lawn than on Mrs. T, and considers calling in about city codes because of the one long blade of grass. If you were a therapist and had this couple in your office for therapy, what would you say their problem is? How would you help them?

NT:  I think they’ve lost sight of what’s important. They focus obsessively on other things, like lawn maintenance, because it’s so much easier than trying to rekindle the passion of a marriage. Imagine how easy relationships would be if you loved an inanimate object instead of another person. Mrs. Thermoose thinks she has found everything in this blade of grass because it never disappoints her. I would tell Mrs. T and Allan to trade roles. She can cut the grass one day while he does whatever it is that she does.

BZ:  What would you call this kind of humor?The word “surreal” is in your subtitle, but surrealism isn’t necessarily funny. Maybe you’ve invented a new kind?

NT:  Surreal doesn’t have to be funny, but I think it can be. No matter how I try to combine “surreal” and “humor” into one word, it doesn’t sound good. “Surmorreal” anyone? Good!

BZ:  If you had the opportunity to turn into an animal, vegetable, or mineral, what would you choose and why?

NT: A vegetable. I would want to know if it had any feelings. How does the cucumber really feel about being picked and eaten?

BZ: What are you writing these days?

NT: I am in the editing phase of another short story collection (more of that surreal humor). I also have a novel I need to edit. And of course there is always my serial novel, Misty Me and Me.

By | 2016-11-20T17:35:30+00:00 July 14th, 2014|Bonnie ZoBell Blog, West Coast Interviews|0 Comments

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