Who are you? Where are you from? What are you working on these days?
My name is Nathan Pettigrew, but folks in my life know me as Nate. I’m a short story writer and corporate healthcare worker, born and raised an hour south of New Orleans in Terrebonne Parish.
I moved to Massachusetts in 1996 to pursue college, and then to Clearwater in 2011 to build the life I wanted to live. I’m happily married to my best friend of 20 years—she was born and raised in Algeria and came to the States in 1989. She’s a proud Muslim, one of the greatest people I know, and I’m blessed to share a life with her.
We have a sweet little rat terrier named Brody—an old man, actually—he’s been with my wife since 2006 and he’s still going strong. Alhamdulillah. We also cared for 2 rabbits named Milky and Lola. Milky was with me from 2012 until May 7th of this year, while Lola was with me from 2013 until July 24th, 2020.
I enjoy reading and writing on my personal time, but I also enjoy Sundays at the beach with my wife, and we both spend the year waiting for football season.
Since Louisiana, Mass, and Florida have all been “home” for significant parts of my life, I’m a Saints guy first, a Pats fan too (unless they’re playing the Saints or the Bucs), and yes, I do root for the current Super Bowl champions.
That’s me right now. As far as what I’m working on, I’m always writing 4 or 5 stories at a time, the current lineup including a dark crime tale set in home base of Terrebonne, another set in 1981, and then some nonfiction—one about my wife’s grandma and her life in North Africa as a rebel against the French. I’m also contemplating a story called “Milky.”
What do you hope to accomplish as a writer?
Finishing stories—first and foremost. Seeing those stories published (and all of my stories have been so far excluding the fresh batch that I’m waiting to hear back on), and then a short story collection published in the next year or two. In the long run, I hope to see 3 volumes of short stories published, and never say never to a novel—there’s no shortage of ideas but right now my focus is on a short story collection. Short story collections and anthologies are what I enjoy reading most.
Who are some of your influences? How have they influenced your work?
Influences include Amy Hempel, Denis Johnson, Junot Diaz, Donald Ray Pollock, Vince Gilligan, Gwendolyn Kiste, and Elmore Leonard.
They’ve influenced my work by helping me build confidence in writing short fiction. A good story is a good story. And no matter who you are or where you come from, you have a story to tell. You’re never too old or too young to write. You can take your time and you’re never wasting it by telling a good story. You’re also not wrong for keeping it simple.
What are some writing tips you’ve received over the years you feel have helped you improve your writing?
Rejections are the name of the publishing game—do not be discouraged. Rejections can be a good thing. Rejections help you see or understand that your story isn’t ready or right if you’re swimming in the wrong pond.
Be open to criticism. Take your time. Forget deadlines. Focus on the story and characters. There will always be deadlines, and as long as you have a good story with good characters, the execution gets easier and better if you stay honest with yourself.
Focus on the story. Edit honestly. And execute.
What are you currently reading? How’s it going—recommend, or no?
Currently I’m reading Love Like Bleeding with an Empty Gun in Your Hand—A short story and poetry collection by Stephen J. Golds, Transference: Love + Hate in City Rain (Black Viking Thriller Book 2 of 2) by John Bowie, the latest issue of BOMB Magazine, and anything I can find from Tia Ja’nae. Her story “Diggin’ the Scene” at Shotgun Honey is a good one, and she gives fantastic interviews. My wife and I are both huge fans. And yes, I recommend this stuff.
As far as what I don’t recommend, well, everyone has their own tastes. Not my place to shit on something I didn’t enjoy that others might. There are some well-known stories and books I didn’t enjoy but obviously a good amount of other people did. I’m just happy people are still reading.
We live in a time where reading is low on the entertainment pole as far as I can see. We have social media, video games, YouTube, Tik Tok, Smart TVs and Spotify and whatever else that’s going on in 2021.
I remember walking into Barnes & Noble when Harry Potter was blowing up, but also when Glimmer Train was still kicking ass among short story readers in the magazine section. I remember Elmore Leonard’s short story “Fire in The Hole” becoming “Justified” on FX and “Justified” becoming a conversation in the same breath as The Shield. There’s an even a movie adaptation of Jesus’ Son by Denis Johnson that I found on Amazon a year or two ago.
Sadly, I’ve had to go online to find other readers and writers too for that matter. I remain hopeful, though, as Crime Fiction seems to be booming with so many great outlets.
If you had the chance to see one musician/group live in concert, living or dead, who would it be and at what point in their career would it be?
Let’s call it a tie between both the living and the dead. Stevie Wonder is my favorite artist and I’ll take any point in his adult career. My wife loves him as well, so now would be the perfect time to see him. On the flipside, Jimi Hendrix—preferably after Electric Ladyland so I’m getting to enjoy the songs from those first 3 albums. My dad introduced me to Jimi on the way home from baseball practice one night, and I only kept playing so we could listen to more Jimi. I was much better at football than baseball as a child, it turned out, but Jimi kept me in the outfield until my mother and father had the guts to tell me “This ain’t for you kid.”
The best concerts I’ve been to are Nine Inch Nails in New Orleans ‘95, Tool in ’96 and ’01 up in Mass, Black Sabbath in Biloxi with my brother in ’99 and Run-DMC at the House of Blues in New Orleans—1995 if I’m remembering correctly. Guns-N-Roses gets Honorable Mention for the stellar sound and playing quality, but they were far too rehearsed. They weren’t just playing live but performing routine “theater” with stage cues throughout the entire show. Jane’s Addiction in 2009 was actually better—they came out and kicked ass with the same impeccable quality but were moving around freely and jamming with the crowd.
And I’m assuming you asked this question because a lot of folks who write do so while listening to music. These days I listen to Configa, Public Enemy, Sabbath, Hendrix, Wonder, Reznor, and Deftones. Arrested Development’s comeback album Don’t Fight Your Demons from 2020 has also been good for my life and my writing.
What should we look for from you in the near future?
Next up for me is the Tainted Hearts & Dirty Hellhounds anthology from Bristol Noir, which will feature my story “Justice for Leandro.” There will be 2 volumes, so I’m not sure where my story will land because it’s being done alphabetically by first name from what I understand, but folks who prefer print can look forward to that if they’re interested. I also have a story called “Work. Life. Balance.” which will appear in 10th anniversary “2011” themed issue of Pulp Modern. This story is special to me because it’s loosely based on a road trip I took with my father that year. Crimes committed and conversations that take place in the story aren’t real, of course—the story is fiction but the time I spent with my father in July of 2011 was a highlight for me as an adult making my own way, and that experience helped me form the idea for “Work. Life. Balance.”
In the meantime, I’ve had three other stories published in 2021 so far, including my first non-fiction story “Lola” at Deep South Magazine: https://deepsouthmag.com/2021/02/04/lola/
“Manny” in Hoosier Noir: Three—a Football/Crime story if you dig sports, crime and people fucking up. Has a happy ending, too: https://www.amazon.com/HOOSIER-NOIR-THREE-Hoosier-Noir/dp/B091WJBHF5/
“The Steel Pelican” in Mardi Gras Mysteries from Mystery and Horror, LLC—this one’s about a lawman and serial killer who takes DMT and then tries to transform his purpose in life: https://www.mysteryandhorrorllc.com/blog/presenting-mardi-gras-mysteries
Thank you for this interview and I hope that everyone out there is staying safe and well. In the words of Coach Taylor: “Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose!!”
Nathan Pettigrew was born and raised an hour south of New Orleans and lives in the Tampa area with his loving wife. His stories have appeared in Deep South Magazine, “The Year” Anthology from Crack the Spine, Stoneboat, and the NASTY: Fetish Fights Back anthology from Anna Yeatts of Flash Fiction Online, which was spotlighted in a 2017 Rolling Stone article. His story “Dog Killer” was named among the top 4 finalists of the Writer’s Digest 8th Annual Popular Fiction Awards for the Crime category, while his story “The Queen of the South Side” was named Honorable Mention in the Genre Story category for the 88th Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition. Other genre stories have appeared in Thuglit, Switchblade issue 12, Hoosier Noir: Three, the Mardi Gras Mysteries and the Mardi Gras Murder anthologies from Mystery and Horror, LLC, and at Bristol Noir and DarkMedia.com.