One of the best things about editing the World Unknown Review is meeting great new authors that might not have otherwise entered my radar, although they really should be there. S.L. Dixon is one of those authors, and I’m not just saying that because we share pen name initials. He brought us our featured story for March, “The Grind,” a sparse yet beautiful tale of love and survival in the face of insurmountable odds. Please check it out if you haven’t, and let’s get to the interview!
Let’s start simply, as always: who is S.L. Dixon?
Shawn Leslie Dixon. I’m a former just about everything that demands a limited education, this involved numerous labor position. For a while I thought I’d try and be a money person as it seemed a route to success. For a time I also wanted to be a reporter. I graduated a two-year print journalism course from Niagara College. None of these things stuck, and now my wife just moves me around the country for her job. Sometimes I take mindless, low-paying positions, but nothing lately. Instead, I read and write. I treat it as if I’m taking a second education. I fail a little less all the time.
How did you discover the World Unknown Review and what inspired you to submit your story, “The Grind”?
Now, you’ve told me the incredible story of what inspired “The Grind,” but I’ll give you the honors of explaining it to my readers. How did this story come about?
All right. So, my wife and I moved to a mountain range town in the midwest of British Columbia. We’d only been in the area for a week when we were out shopping and heard this creepy noise on the air. It was loud, and I remember things something was going no-quite-right at the train station. Apparently, it was the second time in two weeks that this noise filled the air for an extended period of time.
The rumors and conspiracy theories abounded. It even made national news before a town maintenance employee claimed responsibility. Sharpening the plow blade, apparently. People still think it’s something wild, and I just made up a story about aliens reclaiming their land.
Here is a link to a video someone shot the same day I was shopping: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FHi6LjKuNl4
Also, fun fact, The X-Files first episode back made reference to these sounds (a phenomenon with rather loose links around the globe).
You tell “The Grind” in a very simple, precise way, and it really highlights the tedium of survival for our main character. Was this a technique you employed intentionally, or did the story just naturally develop that way?
It developed that way. The first time I wrote this story it was a broken mishmash of crapola. I’d been reading a lot of literary stuff at the time and thought I should write a terror in a choppy, poetic style. It sucked. After a bunch of quick rejections (I didn’t see its suckery ways yet) I tweaked it some and still got nothing. Finally I sent it out to a place and received some feedback, the editor said he liked the style of the story but not the ending. It took six months for this send and return, by then I’d probably written a quarter-million words.
I started over and wrote the way I should’ve written it in the first place. Then I added a surprise ending. Originally old Beans uses that lost bullet to blow her head off.
One of my favorite moments in the story, which separated it from the plethora of End of the World stories I received this year, was when the husband first calls our main character by her pet name. It struck me right in the feels, and it felt so natural, so real. Is there a story behind why Beans is Beans that you’d be willing to share?
My wife and I have stupid, interchangeable pet names. Pants and Bears. Beans just seemed like a name someone might call the woman they love.
If the Grind were to happen tomorrow, do you think you’d survive?
No way, Jose. I’ve moved from those particular mountains, but I still live near mountains. No, no time to prepare, and I don’t live underground. I’d be vaporized.
Who would play your main character in a film version of “The Grind”?
Tough one. If it were a perfect world, maybe Ruth Wilson, she was awesome on Luther. Or, Noomi Rapace, she’s often quietly badass.
Who are your biggest writing influences and inspirations?
Stephen King, Margaret Atwood, Peter Straub. Also, the block of my life from age 10-22; many of my stories spring from that memory pool.
Tell us about the last book you read.
I didn’t really like that last book I read (usually do about 2 a week), but the one before was fantastic. Ninni Holmqvist’s The Unit. It’s translated, but if it lost anything, I don’t know that. It’s about a dystopian society where men and women no longer likely to reproduce or start a family, and thusly unneeded by any of the good citizens, are sent to live away from society and harvested for organs and body matter. She was right on with so many things, fantastic stuff.
Although you didn’t ask, here are the 5-star books I’ve read so far in 2016, Different Seasons by Stephen King, The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, Dead Men by John C. Scott, Bag of Bones by Stephen King, Bury Me Deep by Megan Abbott, Hell House by Richard Matheson, and The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist.
Hey, I will never say no to more book recommendations! And The Haunting of Hill House is one of my absolute favorite books. What’s next for S.L. Dixon?
More of the same. I have a novel coming out in May with a small publisher titled Truro Trap. I have shorts due for release from a few different publishers, and hopefully it will keep on that path for a time.
Where might we be able to find more of your work?
I’ve published a couple novels and collections. Everything is linked on my website, www.sldixon.ca.
Many, many, many thanks to Shawn for taking the time to interview with me and for sending his great story, “The Grind,” to World Unknown Review! I’ve definitely enjoyed getting to know this author a little better, as I sit here totally impressed by his list of accomplishments that reminds me that I really need to step up my game. I’m really looking forward to reading more from him in the near future and beyond.