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A Conversation with Mathieu Cailler, author of ‘Loss Angeles’

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Mathieu CaillerMathieu Cailler is a writer of prose and poetry. His work has been widely published in national and international literary journals. Before becoming a full-time writer, Cailler was an elementary school teacher in inner-city Los Angeles. “I came to writing in a rather circuitous way. I always penned jokes for stand-up comedy appearances but later realized it wasn’t just comedy that applealed to me, but all writing.” A graduate of Vermont College of Fine Arts, Cailler was awarded the Short Story America Prize for Short Fiction and a Shakespeare Award for Poetry. His chapbook, Clotheslines, was recently published by Red Bird Press. LOSS ANGELES is Cailler’s first full-length book.

For More Information

  • Visit Mathieu Cailler’s website.
  • Connect with Mathieu on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Find out more about Mathieu at Goodreads.

About the Book:

Set in the glamorous city of Los Angeles, California, LOSS ANGELES skips the shine and celebrity the city is known for and instead dives deeply into the lives of ordinary Angelenos. In each of the fifteen stories in this collection, Loss Angeles 2author Mathieu Cailler examines the private lives of a diverse mix of characters. This collection of stories showcases the rawness of real life, the complexity of navigating personal challenges and internal conflicts, and the ever present possibility of encountering unexpected compassion and empathy.

The stories in LOSS ANGELES uncover the reality that the interiors of people’s lives often have huge holes in them. In the collection, a quiet divorced man, who is still deeply in love with his ex-wife, finally speaks up when his son’s soon-to-be stepfather becomes enraged over a broken birthday gift. A young man visiting his parents for the first time in nine years delays his presence at his family’s Thanksgiving dinner to see an old friend who was influential in his early life. Cailler also goes beyond loss and grief to reveal hidden human kindness in the stories of a widower, who steps out of his melancholy to save the life of a stranger, and an aging bachelor, who becomes a father figure for a wayward young woman.

In “Over the Bridge,” Ella is a teenager learning to manage her grief over the death of her mother and the new life she and her seven-year-old brother have with their father, with whom the children have not lived with since their parents’ divorce. While Ella is receiving weekly counseling at school, she continues to struggle with the changes in her life. When the counselor instructs Ella to write a letter to her father explaining the uncertainty and distance she feels in regard to her relationship with him, Ella complies and writes with the type of honesty that one allows when there is no plan to share what is written. But when Ella finds herself in a frightening situation with a boy at a party after consuming drugs and alcohol, the letter becomes the catalyst for a change in perspective for her father.

“Hit and Stay” is the story of a young married man making the long drive home from an out-of-town business trip. Penn is troubled as he drives his SUV through back roads to avoid the highway traffic. The quiet drive in the warm cocoon of the truck affords Penn the opportunity to reflect on the one-night stand he had with a new employee. As he contemplates how or if he will confess his mistake to his wife, Kimberly, Penn reviews his life with the woman he was once passionately in love with who has grown distant since the death of her mother. During the drive, Penn has an unfortunate accident that breaks the delicate hold he has on his volatile emotional state.

The conflict between familial violence and love is the foundation of “Dark Timber.” Clevie and his older brother, Roy, reluctantly accompany their father on a hunting expedition. Their father, an alcoholic recently released from prison after serving time for beating the boys’ mother, is determined to teach his sons how to hunt for their own food.

The relationship between father and sons is strained. Roy has personal experience with his father’s violent temper, but young Clevie remains hopeful that life with their father will improve. Neither boy is interested in hunting. Clevie is the most reluctant to fire on innocent animals. However, when their father comes face-to-face with a menacing predator, both boys instinctively respond to his pleas for help.

LOSS ANGELES is a throwback to eclectic short story collections of past years and is only bound by the theme of loss in a very general sense,” Cailler says. “The stories are by turns fragile, tender, and always memorable. The characters in this book are as diverse as the city itself… they all have a story to share, and it was my job to do just that. I don’t believe in being predestined while writing; therefore, some of the stories end with a bit of hope while others reach their coda in a disconcerting fashion.”

Exposing emotions was Cailler’s focus when writing the collection. “I want the reader to relate to the feelings and sentiments expressed in the book. I think loss is the greatest bond we possess as humans, and there isn’t a single person around who hasn’t experienced it. We’ve all lost something dear to us, something profound,” the author says. “I think if a reader comes away from LOSS ANGELES feeling more connected to others and/or him or herself, I’ll have done my job. Whenever I write, I think of Plato’s words: ‘Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.’ That’s something that I hope will resonate with the reader.”

For More Information

Q: Welcome to Beyond the Books, Mathieu. Can we start out by telling us whether you are published for the first time or are you multi-published?

Thank you, Beyond the Books. My chapbook, Clotheslines, was published last year by Red Bird Press, but Loss Angeles is my first full-length collection. I’ve also been lucky enough to have my work appear in numerous publications, including Epiphany, The Saturday Evening Post, and the Los Angeles Times.

Q: When you were published for the first time, which route did you go – mainstream, small press, vanity published or self-published and why or how did you choose this route?

Loss Angeles was published by a small press, Short Story America. It was an easy choice really. “Over the Bride”—the first story in the collection—won the 2012 Short Story America Prize for Short Fiction and through that I was able to get to know Editor-in-Chief Tim Johnston quite well. We maintained a wonderful relationship throughout the years, and I’ve been a huge fan of all the books/anthologies SSA has put out.

Q: How long did it take you to get published once you signed the contract?

One year, almost to the day.

Q: How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?

To be honest, I’m still trying to process this. I love the characters in these stories very much, and I’m just happy that their struggles and triumphs are light and free with the world. I celebrated quietly with my family and a few friends. In writing, I don’t think one should get too high or too low.

Q: What was the first thing you did as for as promotion when you were published for the first time?

I shared the release on Facebook and did a local reading.

Q: Since you’ve been published, how have you grown as a writer and now a published author?

I’m still exactly the same really. I have a story that I’m working on right now… that I’m enjoying putting together. Tiffani, the main character, is intriguing to me and I’m savoring getting to know her better.

Q: What has surprised or amazed you about the publishing industry as a whole?

I’ve been amazed by the support and kindness I’ve received from fellow presses. Editors and publishers have been quick to send notes and messages, and make me feel welcome.

Q: What is the most rewarding thing about being a published author?

Seeing the characters that consumed so much of my life… wrapped in the hardcover they deserve.

Q: Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?

Control what you can control. Have a routine, stick to it, and block off your writing time with caution tape. Stay in the chair and let it go.

Thank you so much for taking the time to interview me.

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