Happy Tuesday, dear readers! Today Issue 048 author Meghan Louise Wagner is treating us to a blast from the past as we discuss her story “The Groupies (1974).”
LSQ: This story is set in the 70’s, a time so different from our own what with the advent of all our new technology it can almost be hard to imagine, at least for people like me who didn’t live during those times. Yet I found this story to be very grounded in its setting. What is the key to nailing the vibes of a story set in the past?
Meghan: I was a teenager in the 1990’s, so I wasn’t technically around in the 70’s either. However, as far as technology goes, I didn’t have to think back too far. After all, I mostly grew up during a time without smartphones or wi-fi, so it wasn’t too difficult for me to imagine what it might have been like to be young in the 70’s. Also, when I was Diana’s age, I hung around a lot of spots like Holiday Hall, and so I just drew on memories of those places. Yet, when it comes to nailing the vibes of a time you didn’t live in, I think reading autobiographies can be really helpful. For instance, I was reading Cheetah Chrome’s memoir (A Dead Boy’s Tale: From the Front Lines of Punk Rock) while writing the first draft of the story, and that was what helped me try to capture the atmosphere of the Cleveland music scene of the mid 70’s.
LSQ: Getting to see some of Diana’s history through little snippets of flashback added a rich depth to her character. What are the benefits of using flashback in small bits?
Meghan: Flashbacks are tricky! As a writer, I feel like I’ve heard various advice about avoiding or limiting flashbacks in short stories, since they can slow down the plot or come across as too “info-dumpy.” Yet, I think the benefit of using them in small snippets is that they can provide insight into a character’s motivations in ways that present action scenes and dialogue can’t always accomplish as effectively.
LSQ: The relationship between Diana and Bella intrigued me, going from slashing someone’s tires to being rivals for the same guy. How did they come to drift apart that way? How do you think their relationship would’ve turned out if they hadn’t met the Die Obscure?
Meghan: I love this question! While I think there is genuine affection between Diana and Bella, I also think it’s complicated by the dynamics of their relationship. For example, the slashing of the tires was Bella’s idea, not Diana’s. (Diana never would have done anything like that on her own.) Bella’s the one who’s brash and bold and traipses around in sexy red pumps, while Diana is more awkward and reserved, and tends to follow Bella’s lead. There’s an invented hierarchy at work, and as long as Diana stays in her place, there’s peace between them. So what really motivates Diana is getting to be the dominant one for once. She doesn’t want Paul Koz because she likes him as a person, she wants him because he’s the front-man and his attention will boost her to the top of their hierarchy. Even if Diana and Bella never met The Die Obscure, I think they would still act this way. They would have just found different men and/or status symbols to obsess and compete over. That was sort of why I wanted it to end with Diana removing herself from the situation. To show that what she really wanted all along was to be her own person, outside Bella’s shadow.
LSQ: Who and what inspires your writing?
Meghan: As a kid, I read a lot of comic books, fairy-tales, and serialized young adult novels, especially historical romance ones. Even though I’ve expanded my reading tastes quite a bit as an adult (lol), my favorite stories to tell are still ones that have a mix of supernatural and romantic elements in them. I was a history major in college and so I still read a lot of history for fun. All that stuff tends to find its way into my fiction in some form or another. I think my love of serialized forms also influences how I write. For instance, most of my short stories tend to either take place in a “shared universe” or feature alternate versions of the same characters.