Today we’re checking out a very psychological work of flash fiction by Louis Rakovich. You can check out “The Beast” over at Zetetic Record by clicking the appropriate link:
Have you read the story? Great! Let’s talk with Mr. Rakovich about his writing process and how this quietly haunting piece came to be…
The Beast: Behind-the-Scenes Q+A w/ Louis Rakovich
Did you draft this story in a notebook, on a computer, or on semi-damp cocktail napkins while sipping Long Island iced teas?
I don’t always remember on what and with what a particular story was written, but I do when it comes to The Beast. I drafted this one in a journal to avoid technological distractions, while sitting in the reading room of the New York Public Library. That was before they closed the entire room for restoration. I’ve since managed to forge enough self-discipline to get writing done on a laptop at home, but still take the occasional dive into a journal or notebook.
In your experience as a writer, what is the most underrated writer’s tool? Examples of important writing implements include: mechanical pencils, sticky notes, social media distractions, bagels, alcohol and psychotropic drugs, coffee (obviously), track changes, high-lighters, fellow writers and writers’ groups, and cats who sleep on your laptop keyboard while you’re trying to write and hiss at you when you attempt to move them.
In this day and age, a smartphone. That’s a rather underrated one, probably because of its unwriterly demeanor. No one knows you’re a writer when your face is glued to a smartphone screen, fingers tapping away, and it doesn’t have the flair of journals, notebooks, laptops in coffee shops, what have you, but it’s a lot more convenient. No matter where you are and what you’re doing, you can always write something down, no extra baggage necessary.
How many “drafts” did this piece go through, from brainstorming to line-editing and publication? Define the term draft anyway you like, since digital composition has made the term a slippery concept these days.
I’d say three. The first, hand-written in less than two hours; the second, polished but largely in the same vein as the first; and the third, following an almost-complete rewrite.
What is your favorite sentence in the entire story? Why do you like this sentence? What were the circumstances under which the sentence occurred?
At first the beast was an idea. Which is the first sentence of the story, so that’s good. I knew I wanted to write a story about an “invisible revolution,” and that’s how revolutions begin.
Tell us something we don’t know about this story.
I originally wrote it as part of the Story a Day in May challenge.
Was this piece inspired by another story (or movie, artwork, poem, etc.)? How does this influence manifest itself in “The Beast”?
The Beast, as the name suggests, was very heavily inspired by the Book of Revelation, which I’d reread the day before I wrote it. Here the two beasts of Revelation are merged into one. The line “The sound of crashing waves put it in a man’s mind, or a shape drawn by the wind in the sand” corresponds with Rev. 13:1 and Rev. 13:11, where the two beasts are described as rising out of the sea and coming out of the earth, respectively. The idea of the Mark of the Beast is mirrored in the eyes of the people in the story, “marked” with a peculiar, undefinable quality. On the whole this is a twist on the biblical beast, but a twist that does go back to the source in a way – Rev. 13:18 says “Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man,” and in the story the beast is, at the end of the day, people.
As you were writing this story, did you have any missteps or dead-ends to contend with? How did you respond/adapt to these obstacles?
I wrote the first draft quickly, and at the time it was more of a concept piece than a full story. It took me a while to see that. When I did, I rewrote the whole thing to find a better balance of concept and character.
Now the really personal question: were there any significant events or themes going on in your life during the composition of this piece, anything that suggested a life/art parallel? (Feel free to skip this question if you want.)
Boringly enough, no. My fiction isn’t usually influenced enough by my life to warrant a life/art parallel, except perhaps on a very metaphysical level – in this case, the best I can think of is the idea of feeling like a stranger in one’s life, which is a theme that goes through some of my other work as well. Thankfully, this doesn’t hold true for my personal life anymore, but it did to an extent at the time of writing The Beast.
On publication: to how many journals/websites did you send this piece? What was your submissions strategy? Were there rejections? (Boo to any publication that would reject it; we love this piece.)
I sent it to about ten places, if I remember correctly. There were some rejections, and also another acceptance, which I had to decline, shortly after it was accepted by Zetetic. My submission strategy wasn’t as well thought-out as it should be (in retrospect, I wasted time on a few publications which were simply not a good fit for the story), but in the end The Beast was published by a superb publication that I’m proud and honored to be a part of, so, mission accomplished.
Louis Rakovich writes sometimes-fantastical literary fiction. His short stories have appeared in Bartleby Snopes, The Fiction Desk, Criminal Element and other publications. He’s inspired by authors such as Truman Capote, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Edgar Allan Poe, and filmmakers such as David Lynch and Andrei Tarkovsky. He grew up in Jerusalem, and now divides his time between New York City and Tel Aviv while working on multiple writing projects, including his first novel – a psychological thriller.