Short Interview 4: Patrick Abbott
Patrick Abbott is finishing his first novel, Fallen. It is about a PTSD-affected veteran assigned to a diplomatic mission to an alien race visiting Earth. Patrick's experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as his reintegration into everyday life after his deployments inspire his writing. Additionally, he is a certified coach through the International Coaching Federation.
1. According to you and apart from the number of words, what is the main difference between a short story and a novel?
The main difference is in the story arch. A novel is an epic with various acts featuring rises and falls and includes depths of characters and locations. Short stories, meanwhile, are basically board games with everything already in place for the main action. Comparing written stories to visual art, novels are like renaissance paintings featuring tons of action and detail, while short stories are snapshot photographs. Yet, both have their place and can equally entertain and impart morals.
2. What's your favorite short story?
I have to go with Hopkins Well by Adrienne Ray for a written short story. In about a dozen or so pages, this hard science fiction story makes one think about what being alive truly means and the nature of the soul. Moreover, Hopkins Well shows overtly religious science fiction can be well written, serious, and not preachy.
However, many of my favorite short stories have been orally passed down. I am very fortunate that I grew up in an oral storytelling culture, and many places I have traveled to also have rich oral storytelling cultures. My favorite has to be a true story my grandparents told me about an odd and terrifying night on their farm in the 1970s. My very religious grandparents, one Calvinistic and the other Lutheran of the very German form, went to sleep in separate beds during a storm one night. Sometime late at night, my grandmother noticed a bright light shining through the window like a searchlight. She lay in bed in terror as the light began to move around the house, all the time shining into the farmhouse through various windows. To her, it was as if the light was looking for grandpa and her. Finally, after a slow revolution around the house, the light was gone. My grandmother was too afraid to call out to my grandfather, so she stayed still and silent until dawn. It was only at the breakfast table that she mentioned the strange light. To her shock, grandpa said he saw the light looking into the house, too. My grandfather admitted the light scared him. Mind you, this was a man who was known to run outside in the dark with a shotgun when he thought he heard something usual outside. Neither of them had any idea what that light was, and it never returned. Nevertheless, both could independently recall that night for the rest of their lives. That short story gave me an appreciation of the fact that there are some bizarre and unknown things out there.
3. What's your favorite short story written by you?
Written short stories are a future project for me. Orally, I absolutely enjoy telling biographies about significant moments of historical people. The unique twist is that I say the story in the second person, only revealing who the person is at the very end. This way, history becomes alive for the listener as they imagine them doing the things these great men and women did. I have found doing this makes people willing to learn more about history.
4. As a Catholic, what is your experience of faith & hope?
That's a profound question, ha! Faith and hope are intertwined in Catholicism, and this has impacted me on a personal and writing level. Catholicism has an infinitely deep cosmology that combines everything seen and unseen, known and unknown. And what makes it so unique is that everyone and everything is a main character in the cosmos because of God's direct relationship with it.
In my life, both in the United States and deployed, I have had some rough experiences. Things like friends dying, personal mistakes made, and family collapsing have all taken a toll. But I know that suffering isn't some random side effect but something meaningful and purposeful because of my faith and hope. Knowing this has helped me through some very dark times.
This outlook also has significantly impacted my writing. I seek to show how everyone in my stories has not only their own motivations but also dignity, past, fears, desires, and sense of righteousness. Rather than being one-dimensional bad guys or merely misunderstood, I strive to have the villains be “real” characters. Their worldview and goals exist beyond simply being something the protagonist can defeat or survive. Additionally, deep down, despite their actions and beliefs, they still have the same spark of fundamental goodness about them that the main character has.