The Hippo


Apr 23, 2019








Meet the writers

At Gibson’s Bookstore: 45 S. Main St., Concord,, 224-0562, Thursday, Feb. 12, at 7 p.m.
At Portsmouth Public Library: 175 Parrott Ave., Portsmouth, 427-1540, Friday, Feb. 14, from 2 to 4 p.m

Pulp fiction romance
Love Free or Die in New Hampshire

By Kelly Sennott

Readers may be surprised at what they find in New Hampshire Pulp Fiction’s latest anthology, Love Free or Die.

Its pages contain, yes, love stories in the pulp fiction tradition, but anthology editor Elaine Isaak said many submissions took more literary approaches to the assignment. 
“Come Live With Me and Be My Love” by Michael Samuels, for instance, tells of a young woman who falls in love with the Old Man on the Mountain. Judi Calhoun’s submission is about a protagonist who falls in love with a dog on Elm Street, and Isaak’s work, written under the pseudonym Leah Brent, has its character rock climbing in Rumney.
“Seeing how people approached the subject was a lot of fun,” Isaak said. “I guess the stories I got surprised me. I thought the items in the pulp fiction anthology would be more pulpy. … But some of these stories also had sort of a beautiful lyrical approach to the idea of love in a way that transcends what people would characterize as the pulp fiction feel.”
Love Free or Die, published just in time for Valentine’s Day, is Volume IV in the NHPF series. It follows volumes like Live Free or Undead, Live Free or Die! Die! Die! and Live Free or Sci-Fi, but like these prior texts, it comprises short stories (20 in this volume) between 1,000 and 8,000 words that tie to the state in plot, setting or characters.
Their “pulp fiction” style is meant to resemble those narratives you’d find in pulp fiction magazines from the early 1900s and 1950s. (The “pulp” refers to the cheap wood pulp paper on which the magazines were printed.) The stories were fast-paced, exciting, and “widely available commercial reads you’d pass on to your friends,” Isaak said. 
This was Isaak’s first go at editing a NHPF anthology. She sifted through 60 submissions that she narrowed to 20. Her aim: to offer a variety of styles, themes and New Hampshire elements (though Canobie Lake Park made it in there twice — they were two very good submissions). 
Isaak had written stories for past NHPF anthologies, and she’d been bugging editor Rick Broussard (who also edits New Hampshire Magazine) to produce a romance anthology. Not quite as comfortable with the genre as Isaak (who is a member of the New Hampshire chapter of the Romance Writers of America), he asked her to perform the honor.
The opportunity is ideal for local writers working within short story form. Fewer and fewer opportunities exist in this medium, said David O’Keefe, whose short stories have been published in all NHPF works. 
O’Keefe’s love story, called When Autumn Leaves Fall, takes place in an Alzheimer’s unit and is told from the perspective of a nursing aide. He enjoyed receiving critique and feedback from Isaak, who both complimented his work and offered advice.
“I think the market has really changed,” O’Keefe said. “There are people out there — writers, authors, singers — and sometimes the market doesn’t always reflect their talent. It’s hard to determine: How am I doing? Am I writing well? Am I writing poorly? Is my writing lacking, or was the market just not looking for that at the time? When someone actually picks yours out of a crowd of stories and wants to sell it, that’s very affirming for somebody who’s trying to break into the writing craft.”
It’s very difficult to cram a love story into 8,000 words and do it well; however, there are some tricks and characteristics of successful takes.
“A large part of it has to do with being really true to your characters. They have to be believable, sympathetic and unique. Once you’ve done that, you’ve moved away from the corny,” Isaak said. “But at the same time, you’re trying to cram all the relationship goodies in a short span of space and time. … From their first meeting and first date to their first kiss and on from there. … You need to compress that. … A lot of the stories are first meeting, first date stories.”
She hopes the book opens readers’ eyes.
“Romance, as a genre, tends to be sort of, well, not neglected — there are a lot of people who enjoy it, but it’s not appreciated by wider audiences,” Isaak said. “This anthology is a way to introduce a lot of romance ideas and approaches to a wide variety of people who may have purchased the other pulp fiction stories.” 
As seen in the February 12, 2015 issue of the Hippo.

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