Laura Golden Bellotti’s short story Empathy was published Niche’s fourth issue. We’ve invited her here for a brief chat and she kindly agreed.
You can read her story here.
Laura Golden Bellotti is a writer and developmental book editor living in Los Angeles. Her short story, “It Will Be Sweet” was published in WEST, the Los Angeles Times Sunday magazine, having been selected by their Literary Editor, Amy Tan. Her story “Fighting the Bulls” appears in the anthology, Literary Angles (Sybaritic Press). Holy Triangle: Stories of Pico-Robertson is her first collection of short stories. Laura’s poems won Honorable Mention in the National League of American Pen Women, San Francisco Branch, Poetry Competition, and her poetry appears in Poetic Medicine, by John Fox (Tarcher/Penguin) and Essential Love, edited by Ginny Lowe Connors (Poetworks/Grayson Books), as well as in a number of literary journals. Ms. Bellotti is the co-author or collaborative writer of a number of nonfiction books, including Parents Who Cheat (HCI); Latina Power! (Simon & Schuster); You Can’t Hurry Love (Dutton); and Emotionally Healthy Twins (DaCapo).
NICHE: Firstly, what began your interest in writing?
LAURA GOLDEN BELLOTTI: I started writing stories, poems, songs, and plays when I was very young. Writing has always been something I’ve been driven to do.
NICHE: By some happy accident, our latest issue of Niche ended up being very women-orientated. You have co-written and edited a number of books having to do with complicated dynamics in relationships, psychology, and women issues. How did you begin developing those interests as a writer?
LAURA GOLDEN BELLOTTI: Actually, I fell into it. I worked at a publishing company as a developmental editor. One of the books I worked on was Women Who Love Too Much. After the success of that book, I began to freelance as an editor, co-writer, and ghostwriter. Most of my clients tend to be psychologists and other professionals interested in relationships and women’s issues. Also, some of my best friends, including my sister, are psychologists.
NICHE: Increasingly, writing of all kinds, poetry, prose, creative nonfiction, and very short fiction has become more and more fragmented. Some would define the format of Empathy as modular What factors lead to you writing Empathy in this way?
LAURA GOLDEN BELLOTTI: I love that there is such diversity of format and style in contemporary short stories. And I am thrilled that short story collections are finally gaining the prestige and popularity they deserve. Thanks to the brilliance of writers like Alice Munro, it is no longer assumed that if you are a short story writer, you are merely gearing up to become a novelist. No one expects a writer of haiku to “work their way up” to one day writing an epic poem!
As for what lead me to write Empathy in what you refer to as a modular format: I saw it was a way to give equal, focused attention to the baby’s story and the therapist’s story, while also creating tension and suspense. I enjoy stories in which the reader initially wonders how disparate elements are going to converge.
NICHE: Empathy leaps forward in time at the end. For some, this would be considered a risk that might alienate certain readers. Could you explain your decision to do this, and what advice would you give writers who aspire to take similar narrative risks in their stories?
LAURA GOLDEN BELLOTTI: I never really thought of the “leap forward” as a risk—or that it would be alienating to hear from the baby at the end. Putting myself in the reader’s shoes, I wanted to know what became of the baby. Also, I’m interested in the idea of how our lives can be deeply influenced by people we may not even know. As for risk-taking advice: Yes. Do it.
NICHE: Literally and symbolically your story is about a woman who dies of empathy. Thus, your story also begins to point to a certain ‘universal experience’ for lack of a better word. We have all no doubt empathized with someone and been burned for it. Do you believe that it is dangerous to give too much of oneself to other people?
LAURA GOLDEN BELLOTTI: It was not my intention to imply that empathy should be avoided. In fact, I think there is far too little of it in the world. I was more interested in developing a unique character whose extreme empathy is beyond her control.
NICHE: What writing projects are you working on now?
LAURA GOLDEN BELLOTTI: I am working on a collection of short stories that take place in two very different neighborhoods of Los Angeles.
NICHE: What advice would you give aspiring writers.
LAURA GOLDEN BELLOTTI: Write. Read. Write. Rewrite.—and join a trustworthy writers’ group that will give you smart, sensitive, objective feedback.
NICHE: Lastly, is there anything else that you would like our readers to know?
LAURA GOLDEN BELLOTTI: I love short stories—and haiku.
This interview appeared on Niche’s website on July 2nd, 2014.