Feature Interview with Author Maria S. Picone
by Christine Nessler
Nov 8, 2023
With each piece of prose, there is a story beneath the story. For Rock, Shore, Thunder, Maria Picone drew on her own experiences and curiosities to form a story of strength and hope and self-preservation.
As with much of Picone’s creative writing, Rock, Shore, Thunder, grew from an idea or something essential that then needed to be explored. A collection of lines and ideas formed in a state of flow, she creates a narrative mosaic with each piece. In this case, a juxtaposition of the wider world with mini flashbacks in the form of flash fiction.
“The exploration is really my favorite part,” said Picone. “Figuring out how best to communicate the idea to others and how best to express that. It is really a pleasure every single time.”
Rock, Shore, Thunder’s inspiration came from Picone’s love of the ocean. Growing up in New England, she spent much of her time on the water, whether it was lakes or seashores. But it was more than her love of the culture of the sea that caused this story to surface. Picone was also exploring questions about sustainability, what to do in the face of the climate crisis, and how that intersects with the economy, capitalism, and the corporate and private pressure to make money.
Now living in South Carolina, Picone has also experienced first-hand the dramatic effects of hurricanes.
“There is a huge push/pull between our mental and physical well-being and the state of the planet and the state of the climate,” said Picone.
Picone is no stranger to research and digs in for the benefit of her stories. Having never been a lighthouse keeper like her protagonist, Picone inserted her own experiences in the story as well as the information gleaned from her research.
“I tried to take that research and translate it into physical and sensory experiences,” said Picone. “I think that’s really important because if you just stick your research in there like facts, it doesn’t feel like an integrated part of the narrative.”
Throughout her life, Picone had been to lighthouses on tours and learned about their conservation. Still, with her research, she dug into the portrayal in the media and the significance of lighthouses today.
“I was really interested in exploring the lighthouse subculture and the stereotypes about lighthouse keepers as commonly portrayed in the media,” said Picone. She thumbed her nose at lighthouse stereotypes by inserting a female protagonist of color. Her character was younger than most lighthouse keepers and was not raised in that culture.
Picone also found out many lighthouses aren’t being kept up and a lot of them are donated to people or non-profits with the hope of keeping them as historic buildings. The upkeep can be overwhelming and expensive. This made her curious about what would happen if a defunct lighthouse was taken on by a well-meaning person. What would have drawn her female protagonist to this mission to save a lighthouse?
“I hope that I was able to portray the feeling of a non-profit or some sort of noble mission as a sinking ship that formed a vehicle for what was going on in her life but also with what is going on on our planet and in our economy today,” said Picone.
In Rock, Shore, Thunder, Picone is masterful at telling a story within a story. We have the surface story of our protagonist fighting a hurricane, but also the story of her fighting a painful past. At one point her protagonist relates her efforts to fight the storm of a vengeful God to her marriage to a “vengeful human who thinks he’s God.”
Picone uses this story to explore toxic masculinity and patriarchy. After an abusive relationship, the protagonist gave up what we think of as normal life to live in survival mode in a lighthouse.
“I think there is a parallel between living inside a relationship where there’s a significant asymmetry and fear of a partner and living inside a situation like we are now where we’re just worried that God or nature or whatever you want to call it is going to come and just blow it all away,” said Picone. “That inevitability matches the inevitability that one might feel when they’re in a relationship where the power is held and everything in their life is controlled by the moods and whims that they can’t predict of the partner.”
During the story, the protagonist’s family reaches out to her through text. For years she was isolated through a violent relationship, cut off from family and friends. She is isolated once again but for an entirely different reason.
“The protagonist chose to isolate herself in the lighthouse and forge her own way that was maybe not understood by her loved ones,” said Picone. “It was something that she needed to do for herself and something that, unlike the relationship she is escaping from, she has chosen because she wants to be on her own and she wants to not be beholden to what other people think.”
Picone hopes the interaction with the protagonist’s parents is a source of light and warmth in the story, but also a representation that we don’t always make decisions that the people we love agree with. We sometimes need to make those hard decisions for our own mental and physical well-being.
Through Rock, Shore, Thunder Picone’s message to her readers is one of resilience.
“I wanted to end in a moment of ambiguity because I don’t want this to be a piece that is just about experiencing trauma,” said Picone. “I want it to be a piece about resilience through trauma and what we can do after our paradigm shift. In this case, the physical lighthouse and the life the protagonist has built for herself is physically shattered.”
Picone has several projects in the works including three forthcoming chapbooks, Anti Asian Bias, Adoptee Song and This Tenuous Atmosphere. She will also be releasing an echapbook, Water Gwisin Saves the Earth, within the month.
Maria’s story, Rock, Shore, Thunder, can be found in issue #13 of The Good Life Review.
Thank you, Maria, for the extra time you spent with us for this interview. We appreciate you and wish you the best!