While some writers are famous for creating tragic pieces and others are known for creating comical work, Professor of English Rob Smith fuses the two opposites together in his most recent assemblage of stories, “The Violence.”
According to Smith, he would describe his latest publication to a total stranger as, “A collection of short fiction that deals with issues relating to acts of violence, and hopefully it’s also, in places, amusing to get you through those moments.”
Smith’s writing is primarily inspired by his working-class upbringing in Scotland. “I’ve always been interested in working-class communities and a ‘real’ job as opposed to a college professor,” he said.
Smith explained that he likes to mix his working class idealism with “hardcore realism.” “I enjoy experimenting,” he said.
Smith always has a personal collection of stories on file waiting to be used for a larger assemblage like “The Violence.” Some of the stories originate from as early as 2000, others from just last year.
“I guess it’s been in process for technically 14 years, but I was not thinking about the end product when I wrote the stories,” he said. In fact, Smith is hesitant to call “The Violence” an end product. “I want it to be raw and unformed, have ragged edges and bulletholes to be representative of violence.”
In regard to the rest of his work, he would rather not call those finished either. Smith still cringes at the thought of the pieces he wrote as a young man.
Inside the collection, readers will find a story focusing on a rat exterminator and another on meth-addicted teenagers. Though two totally different subjects, he maintained that they do ultimately fit together. “All of the stories culminate in some act of physical or emotional terror and violence,” Smith said.
However, not all of his intended pieces ended up in the publication. Sometimes, the writing he wanted to use couldn’t fit the theme of violence. Other times they were either too humorous or too violent and not a perfect balance.
“I want it all to have a common, coherent element,” he said.
Reluctant to be named a serious writer, Smith said, “I can go periods without writing. But when I do serious writing, I work in the summer from six in the morning to noon, five days a week. I find it difficult to write during the 10-week term. I can take notes or conduct research, but I can’t write.”
Next up in Smith’s writing is a novel to separate himself from short stories. The potential detective novel focuses on a Glasgow policeman who investigates his daughter’s D.C. murder. He traveled to D.C for research and in retrospect, he said, “I thought of D.C as the center of the universe, but then you go in a senator’s office and it’s all, like, 21-year-olds running around with cell phones and totally chaotic.”