14: J. Robert Lennon, "Blue Light, Red Light"

It's December 14. J. Robert Lennon, author of See You in Paradise and Broken River, occasionally watches television unsupervised.

How would you describe your story?

J. ROBERT LENNON: It’s a cautionary tale about parenting told largely from a child’s point of view.

When did you write it, and how did the writing process compare to your other work?

JRL: I wrote it a few years ago, and the process was typical for the very short fiction I write; I scribbled it really quickly into a notebook, then revised it later, as I transferred the text into the computer. I think I wrote it in a single sitting, in a bar at the Jersey Shore.

What kind of research went into this story?

JRL: I’d heard an anecdote, presented as evidence of clever parenting, about a couple who calmed their anxious toddler by lying about the function of a glowing blue night light. My thoughts immediately went to all the ways this could backfire. I think our kids tend to be more perceptive than we think; they can detect a lie and will go out of their way to expose it.

What, to you, makes the short story a special form? What can it do that other kinds of writing (novels, poems) can’t?

JRL: I think a story can be really good at honoring the integrity of a particular moment in a way the novel can’t. Or rather, a novel could, but its priorities usually lie elsewhere. A story is great for experiments in form, too. Here, I was trying to keep the third-limited point of view distant enough so that the reader could understand what was going on, even though the protagonist didn’t. This combination of tone and distance eventually made its way into a novel, actually, which is coming out soon.

Where can people go to learn more about you and your writing?

JRL: jrobertlennon.comtwitter.com/jrobertlennon

What's on your Christmas list this year?

JRL: A real nice skillet!

* * * * *

What did you think of today's story? Use the hashtag #ssac2016 on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to check in with your fellow advent calendarians.