Pat Remick is an award-winning short story author and veteran journalist, and has co-authored two non-fiction books. She won the 2007 Al Blanchard Crime Fiction Award and her stories have appeared in previous LBB anthologies. A member of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America, Pat is working on a novel. Her web site is www.PatRemick.com. Her personal blog is at http://patremick.blogspot.com and she blogs with the Working Stiffs at http://workingstiffs.blogspot.com
In your story, “The Lesson,” a schoolteacher gets a series of messages that at first seem benign, but then get steadily more threatening. How did you come up for the idea for this story?
I wrote “The Lesson” as a birthday gift for a dear friend and modeled the main character, Richard Springfield, after her cheating, no-good, slimy ex-husband. Having him get his due this way provided great satisfaction. There are clues to his identity in the story but fortunately; taking revenge through fiction doesn’t automatically lead to an arrest or lawsuits. The escalating series of threatening messages was modeled after a successful prank I learned about years ago, but I probably shouldn’t say any more about that.
You’ve been a winner of the Al Blanchard Award, and then a judge on that panel. What do you think makes a good short story?
I believe a good short story captures the reader’s imagination and conveys setting, character and plot with tight but vibrant prose. Because of the length, a short story author must carefully control all the elements and carry the reader to the conclusion without being obvious. But it’s also important to “play fair” so the reader can solve the mystery if he or she looks closely enough. Being able to lay in the clues and red herrings in a short mystery without the reader becoming aware of the mechanics—or solving the mystery too soon—is a true art form requiring great skill and creativity.
What do you look for as a reader?
I am extraordinarily fond of stories with a good twist. I absolutely adore being surprised at the end and realizing the author has nimbly manipulated me without my knowledge. Like many authors, I devour books but it’s a rare — and exhilarating occasion – when I finish a short story or novel and think, “I NEVER saw that coming.” I love that experience.
What are you working on now?
I am working on several short stories that are in process and preparing to return to “Murder Most Municipal,” my novel in progress. I’m doing some non-fiction writing, as well.