In The Field: Conversations With Our Contributors—Ernie Reynolds
In your flash fiction, “The Sergeant’s Daughter,” you’ve built a tightly-knit piece that revolves around a man’s relationship with his to-be wife over the course of 10 years, and her father. Where did these characters come from?
The characters come from fragments of my own life and relationships, from observations of other’s lives, and from my imagination. Too, I’m intrigued by the triangulation of father/daughter/suitor in the courtship phase, and beyond as the governmental stamp of “in-law” is imposed. A father may never be more conflicted than the day he gives his daughter to another man. Even a loving, good man who has won the heart of his daughter is unworthy. The possible past, present and future dynamics leave a rich field for fiction writers to work in.
You wrote an earlier, or perhaps related, version of this story published in the Nashville Review, The Marine, that tells the father’s side of the story. What was the impetus to return to these characters in “The Sergeant’s Daughter”? What is it like delving into this story again from a different angle? Will you return to these characters in the future?
“The Marine” was the first of these pieces. Its focus is on the male survivors and their relationship in the years following Heather’s (Judith in “The Sergeant’s Daughter”) death.
I was inspired to write the backstory after randomly running across a Boz Scaggs “Silk Degrees” vinyl album cover that scraped off a scab. The cover is iconic. If you don’t know it, look it up, front and back. Don’t miss the crossed fingers.
I have returned to the couple’s story in another short. The Sergeant isn’t a named character in this one, though he casts a subtle shadow. It is currently titled “Sudden” and focuses more on the husband/narrator’s hauntings and flashbacks in the months following Judith’s death. I’m beginning to send it out with fingers crossed that it will find a home.
What authors inspire you? Are there stories you keep returning to?
I am inspired, especially, by a few Southern authors who were working in the latter half of the last century (and some still are) who have been grouped into the Southern Gothic or “Grit Lit” genre. William Gay, Harry Crews, Larry Brown, Breece D’J Pancake, Dorothy Allison, Ron Rash, and others. A couple I go back to are Pancake’s “Trilobites” and Gay’s “The Paperhanger.” It’s non-fiction, but Crews’s A CHILDHOOD: The Biography of a Place is a terrific source for inspiration as well. Oh, and Bobbie Ann Mason’s “Shiloh” is a favorite to teach.
What writing project are you working on now?
I’m editing and looking to get a collection of micro and short fiction, currently titled Grounding Out, into the world soon.
Ernie Reynolds is a University of Tampa MFA graduate and currently instructs at Florida State University. His fiction has been featured on NPR’s All Things Considered and in Vanderbilt’s Nashville Review, The Writers’ Loft, Smoky Blue Literary and Arts Magazine, and other publications. He is a certified arborist and former women’s NCAA and professional coach. Reynolds splits his time between Tallahassee and the Tennessee mountains.