Home / Interviews / Quantum Physics & the Art of Departure: An Interview with Craig Lancaster

Quantum Physics & the Art of Departure: An Interview with Craig Lancaster

About a month ago, Craig Lancaster asked me if I’d like to be “the voice” for a book trailer he and RJ Keller were putting together for his upcoming collection. I’m not a voice actor, and I’m not a professional reader, but somehow, some way, word got around that I have a good recording voice. Stunned and flattered, I naturally said yes.

I’ve grown acquainted with Craig over the course of this year, but I’d heard of him prior to connecting via the usual social networks. If you keep your ear to the ground of the indie and self-publishing “scene,” you’ve probably heard his name pop up more than a few times. His first novel, 600 HOURS OF EDWARD, was a Montana Honor Book in 2009 and a High Plains Book Award winner in 2010. His second novel, THE SUMMER SON, was published by AmazonEncore earlier this year. I can’t speak for the former, but I read his second novel earlier this year, and it’s fantastic.

But hey, this isn’t about that book. This is about his new book, a short story collection titled QUANTUM PHYSICS AND THE ART OF DEPARTURE. Craig sent an advance copy to me as payment for my humble voice work.

From the book jacket:

A championship basketball coach caught between his team, his family and the rabid partisans in his town. A traveling salesman consigned to a late-night bus ride. A prison inmate stripped of everything but his pride. A teenage runaway. Mismatched lovers. In his debut collection of short fiction, award-winning novelist Craig Lancaster (600 Hours of Edward, The Summer Son) returns to the terrain of his Montana home and takes on the notion of separation in its many forms – from comfort zones, from ideas, from people, from security, from fears. These ten stories delve into small towns and big cities, into love and despair, into what drives us and what scares us, peeling back the layers of our humanity with every page.

I look at short story collections like albums. The good ones have 12 or 13 entries that can stand on their own, because the musicians played from their hearts. And sometimes, well, other collections have one or three good hits, strategically placed to keep you interested enough to deal with the filler in between.

I’m happy to say Craig’s collection is not one of the latter. It’s definitely one of the better collections I’ve read in the last several years. And, really, even saying it’s great as a whole book isn’t doing it justice. There are some real gems in this collection, folks. When I read a collection, I can usually pinpoint a couple of favorites out of the mix. “The Hits,” in other words. With this book, I can’t do that, because they’re all that good.

I can’t choose between stories like “This is Butte. You Have Ten Minutes” and “Alyssa Alights,” or “She’s Gone” and “Comfort and Joy.” They’re all written from the heart, with characters that breathe on the page. They’re filled with people dealing with situations that we’ve all probably dealt with at one point or another. They never get tedious. They’re all evenly paced. Hell, the first story revolves around basketball, and I still enjoyed it. That’s saying something, because I am not a sports fan. At all.

I want to go into detail with you about these stories, but I can’t. The book jacket tells you about as much as it can without telling you too much. And, really, anything I could say here about these stories would not do them justice.

To sum up everything, Craig Lancaster’s put together a collection of stories that will break your heart, make you laugh, and lift you up again. These are the sort of stories I hope to write one day.

The book is QUANTUM PHYSICS AND THE ART OF DEPARTURE. It will be released in print on December 6th, 2011. The Kindle edition is available now.

As an addendum to this little feature, I managed to corner Craig and subject him to a series of questions:

SPR: Who is Craig Lancaster?

CL: Just another overweight, middle-aged American with a dream. Although of this writing (11:45 p.m., Sunday, September 11) I’m mostly a depressed Dallas Cowboys fan.

SPR: How did you get into this business?

CL: I knew when I was sixteen years old, reading Hemingway for the first time, that I wanted to write novels. Then other things got in the way: college, building a career, the futile pursuit of women. I ended up in more or less the publishing ballpark: I became a journalist – mostly an editor at newspapers all over the country.

In 2008, I was in a really bad motorcycle wreck, 65 mph on Interstate 94 after a deer jumped into my path. In the aftermath of that, when I was plenty lucky to be alive, I decided I ought not waste any more time. So I didn’t (as long as you don’t count Facebook wankery).

My timing was pretty good, or pretty awful, if you’re the sort who looks at things pessimistically: About the time I got started, the so-called way it’s done started unraveling. As it turns out, self-publishing my first novel through CreateSpace and then seeing it picked up by a traditional publisher made mine a pretty common story.

SPR: Let’s talk about the origins of this collection. After two successful novels, what made you want to shift gears and work on short stories?

CL: It wasn’t really a deliberate choice. After the second novel, The Summer Son, short-story ideas came at me pretty regularly, and I was happy for the change of pace. In their own way, I find them just as challenging as I do novels, but the payoff comes a bit more quickly. Several of the stories in this collection were written in less than a week, with a bit more time after that spent revising and polishing them.

Now, I’m finding that longer-form ideas are flourishing. It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if I ping-ponged between the two forms henceforth. They’re both really enjoyable.

SPR: Some of the stories in Quantum deal with similar themes. Namely, that of strained (or even failing) marriages. Was this intentional?

CL: I’d call it more coincidental. Last year, when the bulk of these stories were written, was a very difficult one in my marriage, and so I’m sure that difficulty was informing my ideas and inspiration. That said, there’s not a single story in the collection that is a thinly veiled recitation of actual events. My wife is pretty good at finding the real-life elements I borrowed, but that’s because she’s a sharp one.

SPR: The story “Alyssa Alights” put me in mind of a comic book origin story. I know that’s weird given the story’s tone, but seriously, I could see a more in-depth tale between the lines. So, I’m curious: Is there any chance we’ll see a novel emerge from this short?

CL: Actually, “Alyssa Alights” is salvaged from a novel that never found its legs, and its companion story, “Sad Tomato: A Love Story,” actually predates it by a good number of months. “Alyssa” became a bit of a back construction.

Another story in the collection, “The Paper Weight,” also emerged from that sunken novel. And the lead-off story, “Somebody Has To Lose,” is another one that began life with bigger aspirations.

All that said, I hope no one considers them to be stories that didn’t make it. On the contrary, they found their destiny just fine. I was simply wrong in my initial assessment of them.

SPR: Out of all the stories in the collection, “This is Butte. You Have Ten Minutes” stayed with me the longest. You mentioned on your blog that you were on a bus at the time you had the idea for the story. Can you give readers a bit more insight into that initial spark? Did everything click into place?

CL: It really did. Last October, I was due in Missoula for the Montana Festival of the Book on the same weekend that my wife was moving out of our house, so I left our SUV with her and booked a ticket on Greyhound. I was in a bad, bad place emotionally. I figured, at the least, it would give my synapses some stimulation. And I was right. The forgotten people, the dictatorial driver, the hazy-dreamy feeling of nighttime travel (my bus left Billings at around 1:30 a.m.) – it all stayed with me. And I was lonely as all hell. That was probably the biggest piece of inspiration right there. It led me to imagine this guy who spends his life surrounded by people and yet has no intimacy at all.

I started writing it almost immediately after I got back from Missoula, in a house that was empty save for my writing table, a couch and my TV.

SPR: Leading off from the last question, I’d like to shift focus to your process. As a writer, I know how difficult short stories can be, especially when they all yearn to be novels in their own right. What can you tell us about your process?

CL: Most of the time, I know when something will be a short story, and I have a pretty good idea of where it’s going. Now, that said, there certainly are surprises. For instance, in the story “She’s Gone,” I had no idea that the violent father from “The Summer Son” would show up until he did. Turns out, he was a perfect fit for that story – and he was the same charismatic son of a bitch he was in the novel. As with the novels, I draft first – and generally pretty quickly. Luckily for me, I really love revisions. Which is good, because my first drafts certainly need them.

SPR: Let’s talk publishing. You’re an Amazon Encore author, with roots in self-publishing. What can you tell us about your journey from there to here?

CL: Oh, boy. Long story that’s getting longer all the time. Threw up a horrible first version of my first book, “600 Hours of Edward,” on CreateSpace, because I was impatient and didn’t know any better. It caught the attention of a publisher here in Montana, Riverbend, which re-released it in October 2009. All of that good stuff followed from that: Montana Honor Book, High Plains Book Award winner.

I hooked up with AmazonEncore because they had been sniffing around “600 Hours.” When I told Riverbend that I wanted to look for a more fiction-oriented publisher for “The Summer Son,” they were kind enough to give me the number of an editor at Encore who had been in touch with them. I cold-called him that day, and a couple of weeks later, we had a deal.

Because I came up on the newspaper side of things, as an editor, I’ve always had a fondness for and an interest in the physical product. I’ve spent most of my working life as a copy editor and a graphic designer, so between my first and second novels, I started a publishing company here in Montana, Missouri Breaks Press. I figured it would be a good way to publish overlooked work that I have an interest in, as well as a hedge for my own work as publishing goes through this massive wave of change it’s in. The first book I did was Carol Buchanan’s historical novel “Gold Under Ice,” which was just a Spur Award finalist. My second one, a collection of Montana yarns called “The Big Sky, By and By,” written by my newspaper colleague Ed Kemmick, was released in July and has been a big hit here. Those two books have given me the confidence to release my own stuff, which is what I’m doing with “Quantum Physics and the Art of Departure.”

SPR: What’s your experience been like working with Amazon Encore?

CL: Really, really good. I have no complaints. They put out a beautiful book, and did so quickly and with the utmost professionalism. I hope we get to work together again.

SPR: It’s no secret that most publishers don’t want collections because they don’t sell, and I know you published Quantum through your own imprint. This leads me to wonder, did you pitch the collection to Amazon?

CL: I did, but to be honest, I didn’t expect them to bite. The numbers are pretty sobering: short-story collections sell about as half as well as novels, and I certainly haven’t sold enough novels to expect anyone to bend the rules for me just because I’m a swell guy. While Encore was considering the collection, I was prepping it for print and e-book release on my own – I engaged the services of the best editor I know, Jim Thomsen – so I was ready to go on a moment’s notice.

In a way, it’s an odd little collection, with a variety of styles and points of view. Some of the characters overlap, but it’s not the novel-in-short-stories that seems to be so popular today. I wanted to write a diverse collection, the kind that I love to read. In the past few years, I’ve read more than my fill of dreary, Cormac McCarthy-wannabe short-story collections. It’s funny: I joked on Facebook a while back that I ought to title the collection “Fuck You” because it defies the current conventions. I’m totally cool with that. I prefer it.

Beyond all that, the simple fact is that I was looking for a good project of my own to release through my press, and this certainly fits the bill. In the past few years, I’ve built some really good relationships with booksellers and reading groups and libraries around my home region, and I have every expectation that this book will do well here where my first two have been so well-received. I’m content to let word of mouth do the rest, as it has with my first two books.

SPR: So what’s next?

CL: I’m juggling two novel projects, something I said I’d never do, so once again, I’m a liar. I’m not really ready to talk about them in any substantive way, but I will say this: One of them is rooted in the Texas of my childhood, and I’m digging the chance to revisit that era. It’s going to be a big, loud, fun story, and I have to tell you, I think we need more of those. I told Thomsen a few days ago that I want to write a novel as loud and fun and colorful as a Freddie Mercury song, and I hope this story can be that. This anecdote also feeds nicely into the next question …

SPR: Bonus: You can pick only one of the following: “Fat Bottomed Girls” or “One Vision.” Choose wisely. You are being judged.

CL: “Fat-Bottomed Girls,” every day and twice on Sunday.

Craig Lancaster’s short story collection, QUANTUM PHYSICS AND THE ART OF DEPARTURE, is available now for pre-order.

If you’d like to read more, visit his website. You can also follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

how to buy minocycline buy desyrel with e check what is metoprolol tartrate 25 mg cialis sublingual without a prescription order flonase online no presctiption generic avapro in brand name prevacid from canada canada lipitor no prescription needed american pyridium metformin african american buy propecia generic in canada phenergan tablet sale is generic desyrel effective wellbutrin price buy canadian metformin cheap levaquin usa accutane buy online india reglan prescription medication cialis generyczny 20 mg tadalafil tadacip cipla paroxetine spain over counter where to buy actoplus met generic psoriatic arthritis treatment ou acheter mobicarte orange buying chloroquine using paypal generico do nexium is hyaluronic acid available over the counter buy styplon bulk what does singulair look like toradol online no rx seroquel discount coupon best place to buy zestoretic in canada innopran xl from usa pharmacy amlodipine besylate 5 mg tamyl buy emsam uk claritin dosage for hives mircette 100 deltasone medication order acquisto fucidin sicuro online can i buy valtrex over the counter neurontin visas zales brand singulair buy pharmacy mexico colospa cheapest price on clomid what is the dose of valtrex for genital herpes claritin rx-to-otc switch most reliable place to buy depakote online ordering discount buy phenergan online stopping blood pressure medication suddenly himplasia shop net online doctor prescription phentermine reviews on allied health schools cipro in india finax free shipping how to order kamagra gold pyridium tablets 150 mg tenormin 50 mg price buy plavix without prescription micronase for men in usa levitra over counter viagra mexico price keppra xr cause weight gain proscar online australia best over the counter male erection buy orlistat tablets pariet no prescription needed walmart employee discount prescriptions where to buy cheap prescription medicine order periactin from mexico without prescription where can i buy bupron sr chloramphenicol wanted online review buy levitra super active 100mg online what is cordarone made of interview one man one jar guy doxycycline pill canadian peut on acheter du baclofene sans ordonnance diltiazem er generic equivalent buy diovan generic how to get aleve drug does doxycycl hyc treat acne diclofenac misoprostol canadian online pharmacy rx best drugstore powder foundation 2013 amaryl prescription assistance program generic minocycline extended release danazol from canada cheap actos mexico pharmacy washington low income housing alliance state budget advocacy max olanzapine dose buy erexor greece discount coupons for benicar buy prandin paypal accepted suprax 400mg and alcohol cost comparison buy plendil online 5mg indian version of cialis buy gasex capsules meclizine hydrochloride uk lithium shortage myth where i can buy cytotec online cardura next day delivery where to buy indocin drugs online normal dose of prednisone for poison ivy brand advair diskus uk online generic name for voltaren-xr dosage for jr strength acetaminophen rapid tabs metoclopramide overseas buy pilex patch lanoxin dosering ouderen caverta no prescription canada buy epivir-hbv mg generic relafen uk paypal coreg side effects reviews order doxycycline 120 mg mail order generic septilin lasix no script indocin dose buy medrol 80 mg online where doo you inject toradol mircette reviews drugs.com fosamax generic drug diovan now co uk generic saw palmetto buy canada buy ginseng mg metoclopramide 10mg clomid 100 generic for viagra or cialis how much is xenical in the philippines abilify dosages child what is the generic brand of plavix cephalexin dosage for kids buy isoptin mg online arimidex medication used etodolac uk brand name number of independent pharmacies in canada ciprofloxacin dosage uk pulmicort turbuhaler side effects cymbalta tablets us online cheap keppra 40 mg dulcolax tablets mg generic levaquin levofloxacin can you drink alcohol with doxycycline hyclate 100mg cicloferon aciclovir solucion spray brand levitra 100mg tablet viagra 10 mg fiyat differin prescription canada where can i buy levitra professional mg generic bystolic for sale on line viagra sold online how to use ciprofloxacin hydrochloride ophthalmic solution aceon precio mexico amantadina clorfenamina y paracetamol para que es flagyl online without prescription www.vgr-test.com masters degree in clinical pharmacy in canada antivert canada head office med cab lasuna sony xperia s tablet how can i get a free sample of cialis can you order serophene premarin generic release date genuine cialis australia is flagyl er legal in uk buy alli online canada orlistat buy metformin pills in the india colchicine gout flare cheap genuine methotrexate online order topamax 15 mg viagra professional discounted buy levitra super active with paypal avapro medicine side effects used accutane the acne came back viagra office toronto canada viagra usa lincocin india omnicef medication used what is the max dose for lexapro what are the side effects of taking valtrex side effects too much synthroid medicine no prescription unisom z pack antibiotics and pregnancy cheap aciphex rabeprazole online can we trust toprol xl online sildenafil citrate side effects liver acheter du clomide tadalis sx shortage buy genuine eldepryl uk buy duetact online amazon does doxycycline clear acne scars gin and tonic quinine malaria viagra and pregnancy phexin doctors online cvs pharmacy $4 rx emsam ships from india get doxycycline las vegas rhinocort roche precio argentina what does phenergan tablets look like list of reputable online pharmacies in canada 2 unisom pills buy proscar without rx is there a generic drug for avapro what is the medication risperdal used for antibiotics without prescriptions clomiphene pills clomid men success order cipro online with visa order famvir canada buy l-tryptophan mexican pharmacies symptoms of too much thyroxine cabgolin .5 side effects where to buy viagra from canada with a persription truvada sustiva side effects mexican pharmacies that battleship to us metformin generic glucophage antibiotics for ear infection in kids we buy alligators pharmacy canadian pharmacy actonel western drug singulair women viagra pills generic flomax drug aristocort online in usa what is the correct dosage of erythromycin cialis prices uk how to take zebeta indian generics online anafranil olanzapine usa will you buy viagra over the counter in canada legal buy mentat ds syrup online canada generic for depakote er 500mg cheap valtrex australia phenergan pharmacy online where to buy accutane in singapore triamterene hctz 37.5 25 mg tab used ceftin prescription coupon elimite drug oversea can i buy clomid in mexico indian generics online trimox online sinequan purchase where can i get emsam pills half price chloramphenicol zofran generic during pregnancy kamagra oral jelly next day trazodone price street what is toprol xl 25 mg order cafergot online no presctiption buy zovirax online us no prescription generic pilex for sale on line buy shuddha guggulu inhaler canada is abilify the brand name or generic name order atarax online no prescription with a echeck best pharmacy cozumel mexico risperdal and sleeping pills overnight erection packs 1 cialis methotrexate 2.5 mg tablet shortage buy genuine caverta uk prescription glucophage alesse 40mg abana drugs pharmacy fast shipping cost of lexapro at cvs without insurance acheter silagra 100 buy cheap abilify pills skelaxin drug interactions side effects kamagra without prescription canada kamagra oral jelly refill pack lopid cheap price is 500mg of metformin enough for pcos coumadin toxicity symptoms buy lexapro online forum amoxicillin powder reconstitution canada order skelaxin estrogen blockers for men for sale atorlip-10 online bestellen iv voltaren dose propecia proscar finasteride methotrexate pregnancy of unknown location where to get advair diskus drugstore coupon code 5 off 30 xanax dosage non prescription drugs for the breastfeeding mother pfizer zyvox coupon medicine arythromiacin without perscription dapoxetine canadian pharmacy best price confido moduretic dosage administration abilify order by phone where to buy keppra pfizer viagra discount prescription inderal for sale usa bactrim compuesto jarabe canada no prescrion lasix low dose propecia side effects canadian pharmacy hoodia best place to buy ephedraxin in canada online xalatan india moduretic generic cheap costs oregon state university how to get off seroquel xr where to buy cheap generic cialis sublingual topamax tabletas de 25 mg brand viagra discounted acivir pills cheap price cost of rogaine 5 without insurance canadian aciphex antiulcer rabeprazole can you order beconase aq drugs cheap comprar hydrochlorothiazide en argentina acyclovir 800 mg for purchase cheap viagra uk com beconase aq prices cvs kariva mircette reviews what is the difference between clomid and nolvadex can you get atacand healthy range for bmi male and female seroquel reviews ratings yasmin buy without prescription celebrex online buy maxaman legal in england viagra for men under 30 cardura side effects children bupropion xl side effects weight loss what does the acai berry do for your body steroids prednisone effects no prescription online pharmacy order accutane valtrex canada cost desyrel side effects forum current price atarax triamterene drug class buying duetact in manchester zithromax shipping overseas is generic mestinon effective can you buy propecia over the counter in germany serophene generic for buy genuine alesse uk lipitor for men in usa buy pravachol in uk methotrexate monitoring uk xenical 120mg forum atacand discounts codes permethrin insecticide trade names best site get calan cipla ltd bommasandra bangalore buy lipitor online with out prescription elocon generic brands vpxl direct pharmacy to buy glyset in uk purchase lasix on line in usa kamagra recommended dosage plavix 75mg cost alesse brand order could you buy lisinopril canadian pharmacy cheap gyne-lotrimin shingles acyclovir treatment dose what is differin gel myambutol shopping lipitor order how much will sumycin cost post cycle therapy ditropan generic pilex safe what is the generic drug for diovan hct viagra no prescriptions online canadian side effects of claritin non drowsy levitra tablets dosage fertility drugs uk online zerit not generic lowest price micardis keppra split pills mexico actos de dominio what is acai berry diet plan cheap genuine tamoxifen online recommended doxycycline dosage for lyme disease lexapro brands india use of propranolol tablets ip finasteride propecia proscar side effects proventil online in uk discount card for cymbalta aldactone patient reviews cost of zetia discount canadian pharmacy etodolac buy brand prandin what are the side effects of baby zantac naproxen 500mg and ibuprofen licensed pharmacy levothroid does viagra work on men without ed buyers of diabecon canada celebrex commercial prednisone 5mg pack directions tretinoin 0,05 order online actonel online uk voltaren online gel best viagra professional prices drug zanaflex in the uk biomedical research alliance of new york institutional review board telmisartan hydrochlorothiazide wikipedia costo del cialis en mexico buy levitra professional paypal how to make pomegranate juice from seeds ashwagandha buy online how to buy tetracycline in london nizagara prices at costco over the counter zyloprim hoodia doctors online purchase methotrexate buy kamagra 40 unisom sleep tabs tablets 48-count filmes online a cabana na floresta worldwide pharmacy cephalexin buy levothyroxine online uk pharmacy order zithromax on line india depo provera weight gain venta de viagra en chile sin receta over the counter avapro without fedex buy luvox tablets online asacol discontinued cheap generic azulfidine can order floxin canada premarin discount coupons strattera atomoxetine hci reviews levitra plus drug class metoclopramide without script cordarone medicine albendazole online ordering viagra jelly reviews for men cardizem canadian online can you buy viagra thailand lariam limited india vente de nizagara au quebec cheap plendil no prescription atorlip-10 no prescription needed order precose cheap sinequan in the uk now arimidex without a prescription from mexico donde comprar bupron sr does male viagra work on women Purchase diclofenac 50mg online liquid clomid dosage for men yasmin tablets weight gain surinder singh drugs controller general of india keep clear skin after accutane tetracycline mechanism of action why is alli not available? augmentin 250 mg tablets levitra coupons discounts viagra cialis levitra prices what is seroquel used for in the elderly lipitor prices canada does generic valacyclovir work as well as valtrex antabuse medication instructions what does it mean if cialis doesn work spironolactone heart failure evidence quinine sulphate tablets generic promethazine hcl ventolin on line for sale no script best site to buy menosan sale philippines buy levitra is lisinopril generic himalaya ashwagandha capsules reviews is effexor xr generic available 150mg generic female viagra india buy artane boots pharmacy order alli online no prescription with a amex cozaar uk online comprar viagra soft original en madrid red pill blue pill matrix speech buy presidone in mexico compazine delivery london buy furosemide online in usa healthy waist size for 6;2 male generic advair in us buy prandin patch lamisil discount medications is there a natural substitute for viagra how often to take baclofen pharmacy has best price cytotec best place buy cytotec pct do you need a prescription for viagra in the usa buy nizagara online reviews phenofibrate efectos mirtazapine sleep architecture buy diabecon no prescription metformin complications side effects canadian meds world complaints prinivil for sale australia cialis side effects weight gain low cost overnight levlen zestoretic comprare lexapro for dogs buy pharmacy technician salary in canada 2012 baclofen shelf life buy cheap nitrofurantoin pills bupropion comments is it legal to buy viagra from canada online buy mambo 36 buy strattera online in usa generic advair diskus switzerland tamoxifen 100 review hydrochlorothiazide medicine high blood pressure can you buy carafate over the counter vantin antibiotic side effects lasix 20 mg tablette plavix canadian source generic clomid 50mg australia effexor price walmart how to get a prescription for antibiotics?