Face Value: Collected Stories
by Paula Margulies
Following the success of her first novel, Coyote Heart, this collection of contemporary literary fiction explores the lives of men and women who find themselves facing the challenges of unrequited love, loss, and the secrets that bind family members together. In Face Value: Collected Stories, Margulies explores the themes of compassion, regret, loneliness, loyalty to family, and the search for true love. Tender and haunting, with touches of humor and magical realism, the collection focuses on characters who – sometimes unwittingly – discover their true selves as they play the hands that fate has dealt them.
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Questions and Answers with
Reviewers of these stories characterize them as “snapshots” into the lives of the characters they explore. Do you agree?
Yes, I think that sums them up well. I wrote these stories from 2000 – 2006, during the time just before and after the events of 9/11, when many of us in the United States were feeling raw and vulnerable. When I started writing them, I didn’t really have a general theme in mind. Each character and situation came to me on its own, as single images mainly – kind of like snapshots – that I felt I had to study further
Can you tell us a little about these stories?
I especially enjoy exploring the dynamics of family relationships, so many of the stories focus on how we relate to our fathers and mothers, and the ways in which these relationships define us. In Bird Song, for example, the main character, Elsie, lives with her widowed father and struggles to reconcile her feelings about her current situation with her sense of where she really should be in her life. In the title story, Face Value, the main character, Francesca, lives alone and suffers from agoraphobia. As the story unfolds, we learn a dark secret from Francie’s early life that helps us understand the role her family played in her condition and how she came to form her current view of herself and the world around her.
The final story in the collection, You Are My Father, is the only one written in second person. What made you choose that point of view?
When I first came up with the idea for You Are My Father, I wanted to tell the story from viewpoint of a young Hispanic boy who discovers an unsettling secret about his dad, who he deeply loves. I know that many kids see themselves as the main person in their parents’ lives, so I decided that writing the story in second person might make it easier for readers to get a sense of Julio’s character if they were immersed in his perspective. I also like the way the second person point of view gives us the true flavor of Julio’s voice and allows us to really feel his struggle to understand the events of the story.
Do you have a favorite among the stories in this collection?
Ha! It would be hard to choose – each of these stories is unique and memorable in some way. I suppose that if I had to pick one, the title story, Face Value, comes closest to representing the heart of this collection.
What advice do you have for authors who want to write short stories?
Writing short stories can be a great way for authors to tune up their writing skills before they tackle a novel. The short story genre is a wonderful way for writers to capture a moment in a character’s life, when something significant happens that forces the character to face the situation and either change or submit to the event and its consequences. Even though there is a beginning, middle, and end to a short story, the more compressed length lends an air of intensity to the events, and the epiphany or resolution is often striking and, sometimes, surprising. Also, the short story format allows authors to really explore one moment in time – the shorter structure provides a kind of magnifying glass to the incidents and the characters, which can sometimes result in a much deeper understanding of who the main character is. It can also help readers identify with the characters, which is what makes the endings so powerful – we either don’t expect them, or we are surprised at them, along with the main character.
Have you written any other books?
Yes, my first novel, Coyote Heart, which is a multicultural love story set on the Pala Indian Reservation here is San Diego, was originally traditionally published, and is now available as a self-published second edition.
What is your next book about?
I’m working on a historical novel called Favorite Daughter, which is about Pocahontas, who tells the story in first person, in her own point of view. I recently read Sena Jeter Naslund’s novel, Abundance, which tells the story of Marie Antoinette in her own voice and was fascinated by the way it dispelled so many myths about her character, while showing us who she really was as a person. I’m trying to do something similar in Favorite Daughter, by telling the story from Pocahontas’s perspective and letting her show us the true nature of her relationship with John Smith and how she came to play such a significant role in American history.
Prior to publication, Face Value: Collected Stories received a 2003 San Diego State University Writers’ Conference Editor’s Choice Award for the title story, Face Value, and a 2004 award for the collection.
The collection has received praise from established members of the writing community:
“In Face Value: Collected Stories, Margulies’ characters speak in voices that are tender and soulful, full of love and a quiet acceptance of the inevitable. These are stories of life and death, and the peculiar human ability to mourn the past while remaining ever hopeful for the future.” ~Drusilla Campbell, author of When She Came Home, Little Girl Gone, and Bone Lake
“Reading Paula Margulies’ stories is like peering in a window on a rainy afternoon. Each word is a drop, tactile and surprising, patters of laughter and fat dollops of truth, dislodging secrets, causing hidden fears to trail away. The windows of our eyes are cleared, revealing the face of someone we have only just discovered we care about.” ~Craig English, author of The Anvil of Navarre
“Like a cool wind nudging a curl in the water to the ominous explosion at the end, the poignant stories in Paula Margulies’ Face Value: Collected Stories start quietly with heavenly prose and exquisitely-drawn characters, rise in conflict and power, and finally crash on the reader, causing shock and wonder at what we humans are capable of.” ~Bonnie ZoBell, author of What Happened Here and The Whack-Job Girls
“I wrote these stories over the course of several years during the early 2000’s, when our country was undergoing tremendous tumult and change after the events of 9/11,” said Margulies. “I especially enjoy exploring the dynamics of family relationships, so many of the stories focus on how we relate to our fathers and mothers, and the ways in which these relationships define us. A number of the stories take place in San Diego and contain elements of Southern California lifestyle and culture, in addition to the general themes of accepting what life brings, searching for love in unexpected places, and coming to terms with past regrets.”
Paula Margulies is the owner of Paula Margulies Communications, a public relations firm for authors and artists. A graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara, Margulies holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Language Arts & Literature, a certificate in Marketing Communications, and single subject and community college teaching credentials. Margulies has received numerous awards for her short stories and novels, including her debut novel, Coyote Heart, and her essays have been published in a number of professional journals and magazines. She has been awarded artist residencies at Caldera, Red Cinder Artist Colony, Centrum, and the Vermont Studio Center. Margulies resides with her husband in San Diego, California.