Nathan Pettigrew, author of "The Steel Pelican", was born and raised an hour south of New Orleans and lives in the Tampa area with his loving wife after sharing a close friendship as residents of Massachusetts. Recent stories have appeared in “The Year” Anthology from Crack the Spine, Switchblade, issue 12, and at Bristol Noir. Other stories have appeared in 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 “The Queen of the South Side” was named Honorable Mention in the Genre Short Story category for the 88th Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition, while his story “Dog Killer” was named among the top four finalists of the Writer’s Digest 8th Annual Popular Fiction Awards for the Crime category. Other genre stories have appeared in the award-winning pages of Thuglit, and at DarkMedia.com. Visit Nathan @NathanBorn2010.
What is your favorite part of Mardi Gras?
That’s a difficult question to answer since there’s so much going on. It’s basically a month of parades, great food, killer cookouts, drinking, getting together with friends and family but also with strangers to celebrate the joy of just having a good time.
If I had to narrow it down, I would say the friends and family part. For example, I have cousins that live in Lafayette, which is 2 hours away from Terrebonne Parish where I grew up, and so they’ll drive down to go to the parades with us. It’s that serious where family from all over the state will meet up for at least one parade. In fact, I have cousins who live in Alexandria which is 4 hours away from Terrebonne, and even they’ll show up. It's more serious than Christmas down there, and it can either be a pleasant reunion or some good ol’ family drama. Lol. Same with friends. There are a handful of different high schools in Terrebonne, and you get to meet up with friends from other schools that you might’ve gone to grade school with. This is all extremely fun so that would have to be my favorite part.
Now people from all over the world come to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, but Terrebonne is an hour south near the Gulf.
Do you find any similarities between Mardi Gras and Tampa Bay's Gasparilla celebration?
Yes and no. The obvious similarity is the community coming together to celebrate a good time, but I see Gasparilla as a different thing—the pirate theme being the main difference, and the “krewe” element being the only direct link. I must confess that I don’t know the history of Gasparilla, however. Also, and this might be surprising, but I see Gasparila as much more unique than Mardi Gras. Gasparilla is exclusive to the Tampa Bay area from what I understand, while Mardi Gras goes on in within a few different communities around South Louisiana. Mardi Gras is also more commercial, and by that I mean the tourist element and those sleazy videos they used to sell on infomercials that suddenly turned Mardi Gras into a flashing fest.
You were an editor of the ezine Solarcide the last time I interviewed you. Are you involved in something similar these days?
Sadly no. Solarcide was Martin Garrity's baby—he was a short story author from the UK who asked me to be a co-editor with him. In exchange, he let me promote my short stories on the site under my own section or author page. So, I was co-editor and featured author of Solarcide. I also conducted interviews with authors and found artwork to feature while Martin maintained the site, edited submissions, and put 3 short story anthologies together.
Somewhere along the way, Martin lost his passion for writing. I tried to keep Solarcide going by myself for a couple of years, but could never secure the rights and the domain expired.
We didn’t have a falling out or anything like that—I still consider Martin a friend. He simply lost his passion and walked away, but fully intended on giving me the ownership. For one reason or another, that never transpired. It was a situation like, “I keep meaning to transfer the ownership to you.” And I would respond, “Great! Thanks so much! Looking forward to it.” Next thing I knew, the domain expired.
All that said, Solarcide was one of the greatest joys of my life, and I would gladly be part of something like that again if someone asked. I cannot thank Martin Garrity enough for the Solarcide experience.
I’m glad you asked this, by the way.
What gave you the idea for "The Steel Pelican?"
I watch the Joe Rogan Experience sometimes and he talks a lot about DMT. He had Mike Tyson on as a guest, and Mike Tyson revealed that he had taken DMT and explained how it completely transformed him into a kind, loving person who just wants to help others and see humanity succeed. I was blown away by his enthusiasm and thought, “Damn. What if a serial killer took DMT?” And that was in addition to a previous question I had, “What if a serial killer had mistakenly chosen a distant cousin as his next victim?”
That brought a family element to the story, which is important during Mardi Gras. So, it started with questions, but I didn’t have any motivation to answer those questions until I saw the announcement for Mardi Gras Mysteries. There wasn’t a chance that I would pass on the possibility to appear in Mardi Gras Mysteries, so I got to work, just writing about a serial killer who takes DMT and the results. The rest of the story came to me while writing—Thank God. I started seeing the serial killer as a lawman, but the setting was easy because most stories I write take place in the community where I was born and raised.
And then it came full circle. People who take DMT claim to encounter entities, aliens, and jesters. Perfect! The serial killer encounters Mardi Gras jesters when taking DMT.
What is your current project, and can you share a little of it with us?
Current projects are submissions. I’m working on a few stories that I hope to have finished before certain deadlines, and I’m waiting to hear back on 4 stories that I feel very good about. These stories include crime fiction, and I guess what folks call “literary fiction” (not a fan of the term). I also just finished my second non-fiction piece.
My goal for now is to see a short story collection published. My favorite books to read are short story collections, examples being Knockemstiff by Donald Ray Pollock, Jesus’ Son by Denis Johnson, And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe by Gwendolyn Kiste, Crimes in Southern Indiana by Frank Bill, and Drown by Junot Diaz.
Honestly, I’m just glad to be writing and seeing stories published again. I took a few years off from writing to address some personal matters and wasn’t sure if I would return but 2020 was very good to me writing-wise, and I’m confident that I’ll reach my goal in 2022 or 2023.
I’m yet to write a story that fails to find a home, and I’m very proud of that. But I must point out it’s best to submit to publications that you read and enjoy vs. just trying to rush the kids off to college.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
When I’m not writing, I enjoy spending time with my wife. She’s an extremely funny person, far more intelligent than me and was my best friend for 20 years before we finally fell love or at least admitted what it was between us. We enjoy going to Honeymoon Island on Sundays (a beach area near our home) unless it’s football season. We are football fanatics. We used to live in Massachusetts, so we were Patriots fans, and my wife likes to tell herself that Tom Brady moved down to play for Tampa Bay because he missed her. LOL. So yeah, I’m a Saints guy first and foremost, a Bucs fan when they’re not playing the Saints, and a Pats fan unless they’re playing New Orleans or Tampa Bay. We also have a dog named Brody and a rabbit named Milky and they keep us busy. Wish there was more to my life that I could tell you, but since the pandemic hit our life is basically working from home, me writing after work while my wife makes some monster meals, TV time together before bed, the beach or football on weekends. Oh, and we absolutely love spending time in downtown Dunedin!
One thing I’m thankful for during this whole pandemic mess is the chance to catch up on reading. I’m always reading but have a long queue. I also tend to reread a lot of books vs. moving on to new ones right away. My favorite books to read are short story collections and anthologies. I still enjoy novels, but not nearly as much as short fiction.
Currently I’m reading Coyote Songs by Gabino Iglesias, Untethered by John Bowie (almost finished), and the new issue of Pulp Modern. No novels right now but I am about to start Always the Dead by Stephen J. Golds and am really looking forward to it based on how much I enjoyed his 2020 novel Say Goodbye When I'm Gone. Other authors among many that I’ve read and enjoyed are Sarah Read, Gemma Files, Fred Venturini, Tamela Miles and Gabriel Hart.
What is your next project?
My next story to come out is called “Lola”, and it will be featured in Deep South Magazine.
“Lola” should be published there within the month, and it’s my first non-fiction story, so I’m very excited about it.
Lola was the name of one of my rabbits that passed away in June of 2020, and the reality of that event was extremely difficult for me to accept. Writing about her was also hard, but the end result is a story that Deep South editor Erin Z. Bass was kind enough to call “a beautiful story” and she expressed that she’s excited about it as well.
Beyond that, it’s back to crime fiction and I have a football crime story called “Manny” appearing in Hoosier Noir: Three, and a story called "Justice for Leandro” that will be featured in the Tainted Hearts & Dirty Hellhounds anthology from Bristol Noir. The Hoosier Noir: Three and the Bristol Noir anthologies should be coming out sometime in Q1 of 2021.
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