[img_assist|nid=9444|title=|desc=|link=node|align=left|width=150|height=213]This fall, PS Books releases its latest title, Public Displays of Affectation by local author Shaun Harin. Marc Schuster interviewed Shaun to learn more.
Q: All of the stories in Public Displays of Affectation are set in Philadelphia and its surrounding suburbs. What’s your connection to the city, and what makes it an ideal setting for this collection?
A: Aside from my having been born and raised here, the stories are set in Philadelphia because this city is a perfect metaphor for two seemingly contradictory sides of my personality. I’ve long since tried to reconcile the dreamy artist in me with the working-class pragmatist who says I should be doing something more respectable or lucrative with my life. (Many of the characters in PDA are struggling or failed artists at odds with themselves.) Obviously there’s a thriving arts scene here in Philly, but in my experience there’s also a stigma associated with making art, as if it’s frivolous or somehow not hard work. As a fiction writer, I can tell you that all worthwhile fiction is hard work.
Q: Many of the stories in your collection are about love and the many forms it takes—as Liz Moore says in one of your blurbs, “new love, old love, faithful and unfaithful love.” What draws you to this theme?
A: Walter Ego once said that all thematic roads, no matter how circuitous, eventually lead back to love.
Q: What’s the unifying theme of your collection, and how did you decide on the sequence of stories?
A: Love, of course! But other detectable themes include squandered talent and this driving need we all have to constantly reinvent ourselves, whether reinvention means sporting a new pair of spectacles on any given day or something more profound and truly life-altering.
Q: Public Displays of Affectation features a fairly long piece, a novella-length story titled “Me, Tarzan.” What’s it about, and what was behind the decision to include it?
A: “Me, Tarzan” is a coming-of-age story that deals with the question of personal fulfillment vs. familial duty. The adolescent protagonist is in search of a father figure, and he finds a flamboyant (though less-than-satisfactory) one in the person of Johnny Paradise. I included the story because it serves as a thematic microcosm for the entire collection.
Q: Your book trailer features a young woman walking the streets of Philadelphia armed with a water pistol and haunted by a pair of lovers. How does the trailer relate to the collection?
A: “Blondie Girl” (as she appears in the credits) is not a big fan of public displays of affection/affectation, although she too traffics heavily in the trappings of reinvention. There are quotations from the book interspersed throughout the trailer, but we didn’t take ourselves too seriously while shooting it. Once I had the image of her filling a water pistol at the beginning, Chekhov pretty much dictated how it would end.
Q: Are you working on anything new?
A: Yes, the novel I’m currently working on is another exploration of the theme of reinvention, only now the emphasis has shifted a bit to the ways in which we invent each other.
To order a copy of Public Displays of Affectation, visit www.psbookspublishing.org