The True Death of Abel Paisley by Maisy Card, published in Agni (online).

I was going to write an intro to The True Death of Abel Paisley, but then I came across this, written on Agni’s website, and it was probably written by someone much smarter than me, so I decided to use this intro instead of my own. Here it is, as published by Agni:

“A Jamaican has the opportunity to take on a dead man’s identity and live a free new life with a full-body alias. But things are never so simple. Never mind the long arm of the law—preordained retribution has a longer arm still. Stay tuned. The true death of Abel Paisley doesn’t get revealed until the very end.”

I suspect after reading the blurb you’re going to want to read the actual story. And you should. It’s fantastic. Here’s a link. Enjoy. And here’s an interview with Maisy.

Keith Lesmeister: Let’s start with the name of the first character we’re introduced to, Abel, which, for me, conjures memories from Sunday school where I learned that Abel suffered the wrath of his jealous brother Cain. After the horrible deed, Cain is cast out into his own no-man’s land, east of Eden. I was never convinced Cain had it as rough as people thought. After all, no one would bother him out there, but then there’s the whole notion of human connection blah blah blah. Okay, only the first question, and I’m already digressing. So, tell us about the name, Abel.

Maisy Card: I was looking at birth certificates from the town in Jamaica where one of my grandfathers was born and still lives. Abel is supposed to be roughly the same age. I noticed that names tended to be biblical or men were named after Roman emperors (my grandfather’s name is Augustus). I’ve always liked the name Abel.

KL:  The POV jumps out at me. An alternating kind of omniscient second person. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever read a story with this kind of POV. How did this POV emerge?

MC: This is one of the later stories I wrote, but I had been planning it out in my head for a long time. I had planned to tell it from Abel’s POV,  to try to understand how a man who abandons his family justifies his actions to himself, but I think by the time I got around to writing it, I knew so much about the other characters, I had a hard time letting Abel get the last word. This story, and the rest of the stories in the collection, is about intergenerational trauma. Even though some characters, like Estelle, grow up in a seemingly normal family, they manage to absorb and sense some of the negativity and trauma. I wanted everyone to be heard, for the reader to get a sense of everyone’s pain and anger, and this was the best POV to make it happen.

KL: Each character carries his/her own intrigue, which is a credit to the way you’ve developed each of these characters in nuanced and sophisticated ways, but within the parameters of a short story (length). I noticed in your bio that you’ve written a novel based on these characters. In which POV/POVs is the book written? Is there any one character who you enjoy writing more than the others?

MC: This story is part of a linked short story collection or a novel-in-stories–I’m not quite sure how I should describe it yet. Each story focuses on one or several members of the Paisley family. POVs change throughout. Some stories are told in 1st person, some are 3rd person, this is the only one told in 2nd person. I try to switch up POVs to keep things interesting for myself and hopefully the reader.

KL: Was there research involved in this story? If so, how much and what kind?

MC: No, I didn’t do any research for this particular story, but did a lot of research for other stories in the book.

KL:  Have you ever read the short story “The Disappearance” by Jeanne Schinto? Really fascinating account of an immigrant who essentially gets paid off to go back to his home country of Italy during the time of intense labor talks and negotiations and strikes and other issues, but his family doesn’t know, and they think he’s “disappeared.”

MC: I haven’t read it and couldn’t find a copy. Can you send it to me?

KL: Most likely. I will try to find it.

KL: A few random questions, preferences:

KL: Sprite or Sierra Mist?

MC: Neither. I prefer Coke or Pepsi

KL: Vacation or Staycation?

MC: staycation

KL: Sandals or shoes?

MC: shoes

KL: Candles or flashlights?

MC: candles

Maisy Card is a writer and a public librarian living in Newark, New Jersey. Her work has appeared in Lenny LetterSycamore ReviewLiars’ League NYC, and Ampersand Review. She recently completed a novel about the fictional Paisley family.

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