A couple of months ago, I received an email about a new short story anthology. Low Down Dirty Vote was a collection of stories centered around the theme of voter fraud (how topical, right?). Proceeds from sale benefited the ACLU. The collection was edited by Mysti Berry and featured a forward from the Legal Director of ACLU Nebraska. It sounded…intriguing.
Then I saw the list of authors and I thought, “I have to get my hands on this.”
Luckily, I was able to do so…and even more lucky to get contributor and Mysterista friend Catriona McPherson agree to answer a few questions.
LM: How did you get involved with this anthology? What about the project attracted you?
CP: Mysti Berry got in touch and told me about it. My first thought – as I was still reading the email and before I knew what the collection was about – was that I’d love to work with Mysti on whatever she was doing. Then when I read the theme “voter suppression” my heart soared. Very often the theme of a collection is either just a hook or it’s something you’ve thought about a lot or even written about before. This was completely new to me and caused a such an efflorescence of ideas I felt like a mushroom farm. Also, you know, the ACLU and the protection of democracy. That didn’t hurt.
LM: We all know your novels, from Dandy Gilver, to Lexy Campbell, to the stand-alones. Have you done a lot of short fiction? What do you see as the biggest challenges and/or differences between writing novels and short stories?
CP: Hardly any. I’ve written over twenty novels but only thirteen short stories. Nine of these are published (or in the works) and, of the other four, two were apprentice pieces (they stink) and two were written up after collaborative workshops to give back to the students as a takeaway from the class. One of these I did overnight! That’s the thing I love about short stories. The first draft can be written in a splurge. My favourite place to do the first draft of a short story is a long flight. Coast to coast and then over to Scotland gives me two 6+ hour bouts of writing. I enjoy being able to hold a whole idea in my attention at once. Writing a novel makes you let go of the beginning so long before you can glimpse the end. It’s not a comfortable process for me. Also, I write the Dandy Gilver novels in first person, but the “World of Gilverton” shorts let me inhabit secondary characters. It’s a lot of fun. Maybe if I write enough of them I can have an anthology one day. But I’d need to crack on because I’ve got three so far.
LM: The theme of this collection is very topical given the current political climate in the US. Coming from Scotland, do you think the theme resonates as strongly in non-US markets?
CP: I can’t speak for anywhere except the UK really – maybe just Scotland – but I know that people over there who’re interested in politics at all want to understand what’s happening over here. Also the Brexit surprise was similar enough to the Trump surprise to have British people paying closer than usual attention. I’m not sure how much people understand exactly what the ACLU is but everyone understands what voter suppression is, right? It’s still hard to wrap my head around the fact that there are sentient people who try prevent democracy from functioning. Do they think we can’t see what they’re doing? Or that we can’t work out why? You know when babies cover their eyes and believe themselves to be invisible . . . ? One of the weirdest conversations I’ve had about this collection was with someone who evidently couldn’t tell the difference between wanting to register people who’d vote for you and wanting disenfranchise people who’d vote for the other team.
LM: Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about the project?
CP: I particularly love the way that so many wildly different stories have come out of what looks like such a narrow theme. (There’s that mushroom farm again.) Kris Calvin is a friend of mine and she shared a worry that her story would have echoes in other contributions. To test the hypothesis, she told me what her starting point was and I went away to try to come up with the most on the nose interpretation I could. It was nothing like Kris’s wonderful story, of course! Thats my favourite thing about being part of a themed anthology: when you get to see what the other authors came up with and marvel at the diversity of our imaginations.
About Low Down Dirty Vote
This anthology of short crime fiction raises funds to help the ACLU fight voter suppression. Authors: Kris Calvin, Alison Catharine, Ray Daniel, David Hagerty, Mariah Klein, Derek Marsh, Jr., Catriona McPherson, Camille Minichino, Ann Parker, Travis Richardson, and James W. Ziskin.
Stories are set from Edinburgh to the San Francisco Bay Area and points in between. Some are ripped from 21st-century headlines, others explore the challenges of women voting for the first time in Wyoming during the 19th century.
Each writer has challenged themselves to experiment with form, point of view, or voice. Low Down Dirty Vote is a fabulous collection of stories from award-winning writers and brand new voices. Sales receipts go to the ACLU Foundation to help fight voter suppression.
This volume features a foreward by Amy A. Miller, Legal Director of ACLU Nebraska, and is edited by Mysti Berry.