Intuitively, Lisa Teasley understands that somewhere along South Florida's east coast, a man waits for her to discover him. He doesn't realize this yet. And for her part, she has never set eyes on him. "But I know that he's there," she explains, speaking over the phone from her home in Los Angeles. "I'll spend 10 days driving around and figure out exactly where it is that he lives and works."
Once he materializes, this man will metamorphose into a major character in Teasley's novel in progress, set in California, Florida, and Alaska, where Teasley recently put in two weeks of similar reconnaissance.
Not surprisingly, then, a strong sense of place informs Teasley's debut short-story collection Glow in the Dark, published in January and lauded by publications as diverse as Glamour magazine and The Village Voice. Structured geographically, its 12 stories range from Manhattan to Baja. "I lived in New York for almost six years," the 40-year-old Teasley notes, "and I was born and raised in L.A. Plus, I've spent a lot of time in Northern California and Paris and Mexico."
Teasley's tales brim with a palpable sense of menace, glancing off of -- but not directly colliding with -- suicide, rape, pedophilia, and (maybe) murder, while introducing readers to a corps of emotionally damaged protagonists. Some stories take their inspiration from actual news events. "Baker," for example, draws on the 1997 rape and murder of seven-year-old Sherrice Iverson in a Nevada casino. "I was horrified by the case," Teasley recalls, "because I was pregnant with my daughter at the time." Others, such as "Holiday Confessional," tap into Teasley's own life experiences: "I saw a shooting from my window, and there was a drug dealer who was macheted at the door of my apartment building."
She also mined her past for her characters' unconventional names -- Jazz, Zen, Nepenthe, and Pup, among others -- reaching back to remember ex-schoolmates, neighborhood kids, girlfriends/boyfriends, and family members. "I tend to collect names," she admits. "Sometimes I write them down, and as I'm forming a character, then I'll go through the names."
Meanwhile, she eagerly anticipates her upcoming SoFla search: "All of the drama that has taken place in Florida in the past few years, I find it tremendously intriguing."