I had the conversation below with Michael Loveday on the eve of the street date of his new book out today on Bamboo Dart Press. You can find the book at your finer independent bookstores, yer gross big box sites or direct from us here.

Your novella in flash, Three Men on the Edge offered a number of portraits of three souls struggling with varying degrees of troubles.  It is easy to view that book as cohesive, but I find that your new book Do What the Boss Says employs a lot of connective tissue from story to story even with each being unrelated.  Were these stories written before, after & during your writing of Three Men on the Edge?

I was writing Three Men on the Edge from 2011 to 2017. I began writing some of the stories in Do What the Boss Says during that same time, but the majority were begun after Three Men on the Edge was completed. And definitely the editing part (which, for me, is where most of the work gets done) took place during the pandemic – from 2020 to 2022. My feeling is that any “connective tissue” in Do What the Boss Says is thematic (or related to subject) – for example, the image of opening doors or going through doors recurs across three stories – rather than there being any linked narratives. By which I mean that there aren’t any characters that appear in one story and crop up in another. But I definitely did want to try to build a cohesive collection. In fact, the stories here were gathered from a longer collection I’ve been finishing – about 120 pages long. I noticed that quite a few stories were about family and childhood, and I became interested in the possibility of gathering them separately in a chapbook or pamphlet. It took a while to figure out which ones to include and which to leave out – I had a number of others that referenced family/childhood but they didn’t fit the themes of the final collection.     

In the final story in the book, Every Time We Fall, you write that Parents don’t want  to be rescued by their children  This after a number of the stories in the book about parents of varied walks.  I wonder if this was a conscious decision to ground the book in reflecting on childhood and adulthood.

Yes, definitely. The final two stories in fact are about a kind of role reversal – the “adult child” looking after an older parent. Whereas most of the other pieces are about narrators and protagonists in their actual childhood. It’s not easy to ensure that a miscellaneous collection, even one that explores a broadly unified territory thematically, adds up to a statement about life. But I would admit I was trying for something like that – some sense of reaching a concluding position (even though the ending isn’t tying a linked narrative together, as might happen in a novella-in-flash or novel-in-stories).  

For all of the unsaid in the aforementioned story, there is a detailed transgression in the parable Silver and Blood about a mother and father diminishing a child both physically and mentally.

Yeah, it’s a pretty dark story, that one! I guess it’s playful in some ways, because of the fairy tale elements (the daughter with a heart made of silver) and it uses an energetic “once-upon-a-time” folk tale mode of narration, but what happens in the story is certainly quite tragic. It was inspired by a Japanese folk tale I encountered, called Tsuru Nyōbō, or The Crane Wife, in which a man marries a crane who, out of love, weaves brocades from her own feathers in secret so that the man can sell them and make them rich, but she makes herself ill in the process. It’s an astonishing bit of folklore about a form of self-harm, self-denial and neglect that’s nevertheless arising from a place of love and loyalty and creativity, and I thought it would be interesting to transfer those ideas into a framework where a child is doing something similar under pressure from greedy parents. Here’s a link to an early version of the story online, although I did make some crucial changes to the final published version in the chapbook that change the balance of its meaning slightly, so the chapbook version is more ambiguous in its conclusion: Silver and Blood – Fictive Dream

 The boss that you reference in the title makes an appearance in nearly every one of these stories, be it the parental figure, god, the abstract voice in our head etc.

Yes, I guess my hope was to explore the pressure inherent in the relationship between children and adults. Freud, of course, famously wrote about the family as a microcosm of society, one that was at once a civilising influence and simultaneously a source of internal conflicts and repression. I found it interesting to write about that process from the child’s perspective – a mixture of civilisation and ruin. And the title Do What the Boss Says, which is lifted from a particular story about work This Be the Curse | The Journal of Radical Wonder, is intended to take on a different meaning across the collection as a whole. My hope was that “the Boss” might start to mean something other than an employer, and listening to that other definition of Boss isn’t necessarily such a bad thing. Although I don’t want to name who/what that “Boss” might be.