What a Country! Ridge & Bosworth Talk Camouflage
Oh hi! I didn’t see you there. Mel Bosworth here, co-author of the short story collection Camouflage Country. I live in Massachusetts. My co-author is Ryan Ridge, and he lives in Kentucky. We wrote this collection together over the course of about two years, I think. Maybe three. I have no concept of time anymore! In any case, Ryan was recently kind enough to answer some questions I asked him about the book, the book’s illustrator (it has pictures!), and what’s for dinner tonight. It sounds delicious!
Mel Bosworth: What does “Camouflage Country” mean?
Ryan Ridge: If camouflage does its job it conceals itself, but you usually have to be hiding for it to work. Here we have the idea of an entire nation concealing itself from itself. Why? Maybe the truth is too ugly, but perhaps it could be too beautiful? I don’t know. In the end, the meaning is intentionally elusive, I think, but I like the idea of an entire country trying to hide from the world and I also just like the way those two words look in proximity to one another: camouflage country.
MB: What was your favorite part about working with someone else?
RR: Collaborating cuts through some of the solitude of the creative process and allows you to come up with things you’d never come up with solo. It’s what William S. Burroughs calls “The Third Mind.” When two artists work together, according to Burroughs, it creates a third mind, which informs the work on a sort of metaphysical level.
MB: What do your parents think about Camouflage Country?
RR: My mom wants me to write a novel, something with a coherent narrative arc. She read Camouflage and said it was too “creative” for her tastes, that she didn’t get it. My dad hasn’t read it. The only book he’s read of mine is my first collection, Hunters & Gamblers. He read that one and told me that I needed to stop writing about him, which was funny because there isn’t a word about him in the entire book, but I guess he saw aspects of himself in some of the characters. Regardless, I go back to Bukowski on this subject. Buk said that if your parents like your work you’re doing it wrong. So by that logic I must be doing something right?
MB: What’s up with Jacob Heustis, the dude who illustrated this thing?
RR: Jake is a local raconteur: artist, musician, and troublemaker. He’s the kind of guy you’d like to have a beer with, which is what I did last night. We’ve been collaborating on various projects since high school and he’s illustrated my last two books (American Homes and Camouflage Country) and he’s going to illustrate my next book, too. You can find more of his work here.
MB: What’s your favorite story from the collection? What’s your favorite illustration?
RR: It’s hard to pick a favorite because there are so many great ones, but the one I always read at readings is “Sanctuary.” That’s a real crowd pleaser. As far as favorite illustration (again: tough to pick just one) but I’ll go with “A Percentage of Those Who Wander Are Lost.”
Jake’s favorites are “Donner Party Time” and “Everything That Was Ever Wrong.”
MB: Why should people give a damn about short fiction? Would you consider this short fiction? Or maybe even poetry?
RR: The beauty of short fiction is that it doesn’t require much of a time investment on the reader’s part, but if it’s done well you get the same charge or insight as you get from a novel. The short form is the perfect anecdote to our media-saturated, 24-hr./365 world. Well-wrought short fiction cuts straight through the noise and I think that recent anthologies like The Best Small Fictions and Flash Fiction International prove both the legitimacy and artistry of the form. Also: Wigleaf. In my humble opinion, they’re the best place in the world to read short fiction. Absolute best. Love.
As far as classifying Camouflage Country, I don’t know. It’s its own thing altogether, I think. Nothing else like it. I’d hate to put a label on it.
MB: Do you have trouble living in the moment?
RR: Yes! I try. I fail. I try again. Most days are a cosmic mash-up of the past, present, and future: I’m always thinking, but I’m trying to think less, do more. Breathe. Ah, that’s nice!
MB: Are writers full of crap?
RR: Absolutely, but positively less full of shit than most folks. Writers with any talent have a capacity for empathy and a curiosity for truth. Those are attractive traits, I think. I’ve never met a writer I didn’t like. They’re my people.
MB: If this book were a drink, what drink would it be?
RR: Tequila Sunrise
MB: What’s for dinner?
RR: Lobster ravioli.
Camouflage Country was released today from Queen’s Ferry Press.
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