Posts Tagged "Frank"

Interview with Betsy Phillips, author of “Frank”

by on Sep 6, 2011 in Interviews | 0 comments

Interview by Stephanie Jacob SJ: When we first start reading “Frank” there is a sense of normalcy. But in a few paragraphs we are given our first indication that this story is far from normal. “I could drive on out of here and be so far gone by the time he got back he’d never be able to find me.” I don’t say nothing. If she runs, I’ll have to bring her back. She can’t be hid enough that I can’t find her.” Can you describe how the idea for the story was developed? Do you begin with a basic idea for a plot or begin with a character that begs to be written? BP: “Frank” started simply enough. I wanted to try to write from the perspective of a man, to spend some time imagining what it would be like to have a male body, just to see if I could write about an experience I’ll never have and have it seem plausible. I didn’t expect to write more than the scene of Frank teaching the woman to drive–that was actually the thing that begged to be written, her sitting behind the wheel, the sun catching the fine hairs on her legs, Frank just watching her, not sure what to make of her.–but then I realized, as much as Frank wanted to be okay and normal, there was something not quite right about him. Why, for instance, was he speaking in the present tense? I had to keep writing to see what it was that was so strange about him, and to figure out what Frank was doing on that ranch. I was about halfway through my first draft when I realized he was a zombie, that the doc was like Wade Davis, who wrote The Serpent and the Rainbow, if Wade Davis had gone bad (It’s really a wonder Wade Davis hasn’t gone bad, if you think about it. The line between “How does that guy create a zombie?” and “How do I create a zombie?” has got to be very thin and the temptation to cross it pretty strong once you know how to do it.). So, once I figured out that Frank was a zombie, it seemed obvious that he, even if he didn’t know it, was the one in need of rescuing. That made it clear who was there to do the rescuing. And that’s how the story came to be. “Frank” is a layered and complex story that leaves readers wanting more. Have you ever written short fiction and later decided to bring back the characters for a longer piece. Thanks. I do hope people like the story. I’ve written some about the Devil in short stories and he plays a major role in the manuscript I’m working on, but I’m not sure that counts, since he’s always, in part, just who the other characters need him to be. As for Frank, I do wonder how a person moves on from that. If he became more like his old self again, would he consider himself to be a kidnapper and murderer? Even if, intellectually, he understood that he was under the Doc’s control, how does a person with a conscience live with the terrible things he’s done? Of course, these aren’t questions unique to ex-zombie henchmen, but part of what makes fantasy and horror work is that it lets you shine a light into one part of the truth without getting bogged down by the other parts. We can wonder about how Frank might come out of this because we’re not in fear of him maybe continuing to kill actual women or worried about whether he should be in prison. My favorite line is, “Our memories are like our own private ghosts,” she says. “We’re all haunted by our lives. By the past.”  I think everyone can identify with the idea that our ghosts are ever present.  Do you think Frank will ever be free from his past? I hope not. Part of what makes what the doc has done to Frank so...

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Frank

by on Sep 6, 2011 in Short Fiction | 0 comments

by Betsy Phillips She’s sitting behind the wheel of that old white F-150. She’s got that Mexican blanket thrown over the vinyl seat, so you can bear to sit on it in this heat. She tells me she has never driven stick before. She’s sitting right up on the edge of the seat, one long leg pressing down on the clutch, the other knee high up as if she isn’t sure where to put her foot. She leans into the steering wheel and turns the key. She’s wearing a light green tank top with a dusty white blouse over it and white denim shorts streaked with dirt. She is brown from the summer sun, freckles dotted across her face. Her blonde hair is falling out of a loose braid. Her sunglasses sit perched on the top of her head. There are fine, white hairs on her thighs. You wouldn’t notice them normally, but the sunlight catches them. “You don’t say much, do you, Frank?” She smiles. The truck refuses to turn over. “Brake,” I say. She laughs, puts her other foot down on the brake, and goes to turn the key again. Then she looks over at me, rolls her eyes, and wiggles the stick into neutral. “All right,” she says. “Clutch, brake, stick, key.” I nod. The truck starts up. She puts it in gear, moves her right foot from the brake to the gas pedal and almost immediately pops the clutch again. We both jerk forward. “Wait, wait, wait–” she laughs “–I have this.” And she goes right back, runs through her steps. This time, the truck moves forward. She is so surprised she slams on the brakes, sending us both into the dash. “What the fuck!” she cries. “Shoulda kept going,” I say. But I can see she’s not going to. I reach over and drop the truck back into neutral. She stares out the windshield for a long time, with this look on her face like she’s just won at Bristol or something. We’ve gone all of five feet after working on it for an hour. She turns to me, grabs my face, and kisses me. You know how that goes. I am already, in my mind, kissing her back, pulling her to me, reaching up inside her shirt. She smells of suntan lotion. “I better get back to work,” I say. She’s young, twenty-three at the oldest. I was twenty-three so long ago I can’t remember what it’s like. Best to just figure their enthusiasm is innocent, you know? Even if they don’t mean it to be, they’re still too young to know what they’re getting into. “Tomorrow, then?” she asks. I shrug and climb out of the truck. Don’t make promises you don’t know if you can keep. Might be busy. You know, sometimes I’m busy all afternoon. I leave her in the truck and I head back to the shed. Of course, it turns out that I’m not busy. The doc is out of town all this week and the next. Without him sending me to town three times a morning, I get all my chores done by lunchtime. When she pulls up in the truck, still lurching slightly as she shifts gears, I am just finishing up watering the horses. “Frank!” she cries and wolf-whistles at me. “Look at you!” I grab my shirt off the fence and slip it back on before I get in the truck. “Oh, too bad,” she smiles. But she’s just teasing. We drive around the far pasture in big slow loops. Truck won’t go faster than forty-five. I made sure of that years ago. “I could leave,” she says, that dreamy look passing over her face again. “I could drive on out of here and be so far gone by the time he got back he’d never be able to find me.” I don’t say nothing. If she runs, I’ll have to bring her back. She can’t be hidden enough that I can’t find her. When I first started out with the doc, girls ran...

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