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Interview: Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam on “The Men Who Come from Flowers”

Bonnie Jo StufflebeamTell us a bit about “The Men Who Come From Flowers.”

On the outskirts of a village that grows their men from flowers, Susan cares for the gardens. When she saves a flower that would otherwise have been discarded, she risks her post and her heart.

What was the inspiration for this story, or what prompted you to write it?

The phrase “boy flowers” popped into my head, and I was left with an image of talking flowers like the ones in Alice in Wonderland. I then started thinking on how flowers were often associated with femininity, and femininity versus masculinity, and why beautiful, softer things are often labeled feminine. I wanted to play with expectation and also explore this idea of toxic masculinity in a metaphorical context.

Was “The Men Who Come From Flowers” personal to you in any way?  If so, how?

Absolutely, in the way that all my work is personal to me: there are many elements in it that I have taken from experience. For example, I have been a gardener since I was a child, I have loved men who have spoken to me of their desire to be vulnerable without fear of repercussion, and I have felt lonely enough to have acted irrationally as Susan does.

What would you want a reader to take away from this story?

Whatever they need from it when they read it. I intended to write a modern fairy tale of sorts, and I hope that comes through. I also would like to inspire more people to think about gender from new perspectives.

Why do you write?

For so many reasons! I was a shy child and writing was a way to express myself that allowed me to cultivate the bravery to speak. I’ve been changed and moved so much by the stories and poems I’ve read over the years and I long to move people in similar ways. It’s the only thing I’ve ever loved doing this much. I have so many worlds going on inside me and I feel a need to play in them.

Who do you consider to be your influences?

When I first discovered the work of Aimee Bender, Karen Russell, and Kelly Link, I felt like I’d stumbled upon the kind of fiction I’d always wanted to write. I’m also heavily influenced by fairy tale and mythology. The magical realists get me: Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Jose Saramago, Toni Morrison, Carmen Maria Machado. I’m influenced by music and art: surrealists like Dorothea Tanning and melancholy indie musicians like My Brightest Diamond. Also, for classic SFF, Ursula K. LeGuin and Octavia Butler.

What are you working on now?

I’m writing text message stories for the app FlashReads, which is a fun exercise in dialogue and suspense. I’m also in the initial stages of writing a novel, as I’ve been writing a novel a year for the last four years. Various short stories are in the works as well; I write on those as I have time. I’ve always got several irons in the fire.

“The Men Who Come from Flowers” appears in the September/October 2018 issue of F&SF.

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Author photo by Tony Najera.  Click on it to go to Bonnie Stufflebeam’s website:


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