Contributor Spotlight: Bob Armstrong

In Bob Armstrong’s Frank 2.0, a man explores the life he could have lived when he realizes, while preparing for an evening out with his wife, his house is quite a bit more opulent than he remembered.

Tell us a little bit about what inspired “Frank 2.0“.

Like many people (at least I hope I’m not alone in this) I have often found myself day-dreaming about alternative life paths. What might have happened had I made a different choice at an early age? Where could I have ended up if some key opportunity had worked out? How could my life have had a more dramatic, exciting story arc to it? That these fantasies might be quite at odds with my actual personality or might have ended up very badly doesn’t seem to stop my mind from spinning through them.

What do you hope readers get from reading “Frank 2.0”?

Aside from a few laughs, I’d like readers to feel a little shock of recognition or the sense that they aren’t alone.

How has life in the Prairies affected this story?

Let’s face it, the prairies aren’t exactly the centre of the action. There may be many lifestyle benefits to the prairie provinces (and I’ve spent most of my life in Winnipeg, Calgary and Edmonton), but this isn’t the place to live if you place a high priority on experiencing the great dramas of your time. I tapped into the feeling that real life with real stakes takes place far from here when I was writing Frank 2.0.

What do you feel anthologies and short stories accomplish that novellas and novels don’t?

For me, the short story is a great way to explore one idea. A concept like the one in Frank 2.0 couldn’t sustain a 300-page treatment, but it fits perfectly into the 4,000 or so words here. An anthology, then, provides the reader with a series of such explorations grouped thematically. And since the points of view, styles and ideas of the writers will be widely varied, the reader gets a wide array of perspectives on a common theme.

What other work would you like readers to know about?

The big thing that I’d like readers to know about is my new novel Prodigies (Five Star/Gale). It’s a western with elements of a superhero story, in which three youths with uncanny talents find themselves in Deadwood in 1877 facing off against a powerful megalomaniac. Plus it’s packed with pistoleros, steam engines, circus performers, strikes, strikebreakers, night riders and bounty hunters.

What are you working on now? What can readers look forward to next?

I’m working on a sequel to Prodigies, which I hope to send my publisher soon. I’ve also been shopping around a short fiction collection for a few years now. Publishers seem to like collections to be thematically and stylistically connected, perhaps still influenced by Alice Munro (Who’d have guessed it? Another reflective story set in small town Ontario!) and my stuff is quite intentionally all over the map. My next publication will be a creative non-fiction piece about my experiences with cancer and stand-up comedy, entitled The Cancer Joke, coming next year in The Fiddlehead.

Winnipegger Bob Armstrong has worked as a writer across western Canada. His western, Prodigies (Five Star Publishing), was published in 2021, almost a decade after his debut, Dadolescence (Turnstone Press). This year’s publications include memoirs on cycling (in Write to Move) and cancer and comedy (in Reunion: The Dallas Review), an essay on Canadian literary westerns (in the Literary Review of Canada) and a magical realist take on the pandemic (in FreeFall Magazine).

Prodigies is available online through Amazon or McNally Robinson Booksellers.

Alternate Plains: Stories of Prairie Speculative Fiction is available wherever books are sold like Amazon, Chapters Indigo, through our publisher Great Plains Publications, and local booksellers like ours, McNally Robinson Booksellers.

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