Campus / News / Student Research / January 12, 2011

Martone mythologizes hometown

The Knox Student: What is your project about?

Sam Martone: It’s a collection of short stories all set in the same town in Alabama, which is loosely based on my hometown of Tuscaloosa. There are five different districts in the town all with different people living in them so I’m trying to draw a little bit from all of them.

TKS: What are your characters like?

SM: There’s a girl who starts hearing something in her attic, and she meets these three cyclists at a bar who all have different ideas of what’s in her attic, and exterminators can’t figure out what it is. There’s [another] guy who used to be the town’s historian, but now he is obsessed with his future as opposed to his past and the past of the town, so he goes out and starts seeing all these fortune tellers, trying to assemble his own future. Then there’s a wealthy college dropout who still lives with his parents on the north, wealthy side of town and takes his father’s boat out into the lake where they live and visits all these islands searching for the nanny that he was in love with as a child.

TKS: What type of research did you do to prepare for writing this?

SM: I got a Richter grant to travel around Alabama this summer, and it got extended for winter break as well. I visited a lot of weird attractions and historical sites. I went to the Cross Garden, where a man who died in 2004 put up all these crosses and various signs that all say apocalyptic stuff like, “God is coming,” “Hell is hot” and cryptic stuff like, “Sex fire in hell.” My favorite is, “God said the world coming to an end.” I also went to this park with 60 acres of this huge bamboo forest in Prattville, Ala. I went to the lost luggage center in Scottsboro, Ala., which is, like, this huge shopping center, and it looks like any other thrift store with clothes and electronics, but really it’s all stuff from lost luggage that the store has purchased from luggage that the airline has not been able to return to their rightful owners for whatever reason.

TKS: What are your plans for your project after it’s completed?

SM: The best-case scenario would be I get my stories to the point where they would be ready for publication and magazines…but I would have to be very lucky for them to actually get published as a full short story collection because it’s a rough market right now for short stories.

TKS: Who was the greatest influence on your work?

SM: Karen Russell for sure, and Jonathon Safran Foer as well. Gabriel García Márquez more than anybody; many of his stories take place in the village of Macondo, so that spawned the idea for it. William Faulkner has also done stories like this based on his hometown of Oxford, so there’s already precedent for [this type of story] in the South and elsewhere, so that’s where I’m drawing from.

Allison Bader

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