Three in the Morning and You Don’t Smoke Anymore

Cover Art. Three in the Morning and You Don't Smoke Any More. Close up of a Caucasian man's hand holding a cigarette

Three in the Morning and You Don’t Smoke Anymore
Peter J. Stavros

Etchings Press, UIndy

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Dark humor and gritty reality meet in a small, dirty house belonging to a man trying to escape his past. In this collection of intertwined, nonlinear short stories, Peter J. Stavros depicts the ups and downs of life and the pain of trying to move on when everything is a reminder of what life once was. With a protagonist that is perfectly flawed in the way any person can be, the journey of this collection is one that leaves an impression as Peter puts us directly into the mind of this down-on-his-luck man.

Three in the Morning and You Don’t Smoke Anymore is a story that doesn’t shy away from embracing the highest of the highs and the lowest of the lows, and shows that life doesn’t have to be that white picket fence and perfect family to be important and worthwhile.


“Rarely does reading make me want a cigarette, but Pete Stavros’ portrait of a man going down the rabbit hole delivers that beautiful post-coital high of having been through the wringer in the best possible way, even though (spoiler alert!) it contains absolutely no sex. Read it and weep. And laugh. And smoke ‘em if you got ‘em.”

—Bret Witter, 8-time New York Times bestselling author


“The editorial team was drawn in by the overarching story of this tragic yet hopeful depiction of reality at its lowest and highest.”

—Etchings Press Student Team for Three in the Morning and You Don’t Smoke Anymore

Interview with the Author

EP: What was the inspiration behind the collection?

PJS: One evening my wife pulled up this picture on Facebook of some friends I had been close with at an earlier point of my life but we hadn’t kept in touch – and it was a picture of this smiling happy family on a beach somewhere, who I hadn’t seen in a few years and hardly recognized at first by how much they had changed (or “moved on” would be a better term). It occurred to me then how with social media you can never really escape your past. So I thought of writing a story, which then became this collection, about someone who, despite his best efforts, could not escape his past because his past, like really everyone’s past, can generally be accessed with just a few keystrokes on a laptop. I’ve also always been drawn to this idea of devils versus angels (not a truly original idea, I know, but still). I had wanted to write something that would incorporate that theme, and I thought this story, with this protagonist who was really struggling, would lend itself well to that.  

EP:  How long have you been working on this collection? Did it evolve over time or did you have a clear idea of it from beginning to end?

PJS: This definitely evolved over time. I wrote the title story in 2016, and then “All Those Devils” came a year later. As I mentioned above, I thought that this would maybe be a trilogy, so I did at least have a beginning, middle and end (although the ending actually changed as the rest of the collection came together). I just continued to add pieces to it over the next few years to complete the arc of this character, and ended up with this collection.

EP:  What do you want readers to take away from reading this collection?

PJS: I want the readers to see the humor in this. It can get heavy as the readers go through this journey with our character, with the anxieties and uncertainties that he is experiencing. But there are moments of dark comedy as well. I especially like the image of him pushing this terrible squeaking desk chair down the hallway as he’s being escorted out of the office by security. As someone who has been escorted out of an office by security, I wish I had had the nerve to pull off something like that. Also, I hope the readers appreciate the interconnectedness of the individual pieces, with the callbacks and slow reveals, particular since these stories were written over a period of a few years. And lastly I just want the readers to enjoy reading this–and maybe read it again–and perhaps it’ll spark some creativity in them.