Which writers or poets inspire you and why?
My love of shorter fiction started from reading one of Adam Marek’s stories in an anthology. I was stunned by his story Tamagotchi and realised that you really can write about anything (possible or not) and achieve so much in just a few paragraphs. Reading Raymond Carver reminds me of the stunning impact that can be made through short stories using simple language. I then moved to ‘short-short’ stories, my now beloved flash fiction. There are many fantastic writers out there who can condense a whole world into one page, often leaving a tantalising ambiguity; Tania Hershman, Kathy Fish, David Gaffney and so many more that I may only read one story by in an anthology, but am motivated and educated by it.
Where and when do you do most of your reading?
I’m a sneaky reader. That is the only way it can be these days will a full-time job and three children with additional health and development needs. Flash Fiction is ideal for this – arriving early for a meeting and grabbing ten minutes in the car park, sitting beside a couple of splashing whooping children in the bath. I like intertwining fiction and reality this way. For real luxury, I book half a day of annual leave and crawl back under the duvet with a novel or anthology enjoying the rare silence of an empty house.
Are there some themes you enjoy more than others?
I think fiction allows you to explore sides that of yourself that your mind prefers to limit conscious access to. I am drawn to tales that explore the darker sides of human nature, as well as those that reflect the complexity of our intentions and desires. However short a story is, it is so much more satisfying when a character feels rounded, real and complex. I think there can be real emotional power in a story, when you need to take a moment to recover or process the story – a good story should stop you in your tracks and not let you move on the next quite yet.
Are you a library lover, a bookshop bird or an online owl?
I have a love for second hand books – charity shops, the internet, library sell-offs. I think it taps into the virtual shared space between people who have read the same book. I do have a kindle, but have so far only read two books on it – I want the feel of the book in my hand and to see the spine on my shelves.
Which genre of writing do you prefer and why?
I love flash fiction where there is nowhere to hide – every single word is needed, doing a job, powerful. There is great satisfaction in taking a longer story, decimating it (at times painfully), only to realise what you are left with is more potent. There is also the practical aspect of being able to snatch twenty minutes of creative time in which you can write an entire story, leave it rest, then edit it the next day in another twenty minute stint. There are many, many places to submit your work to, including online opportunities with fast turn around so that you get the joy of being able to share your work with others very quickly rather than facing a drawn out process of rejection.
What emotion do you associate with good writing?
I think good writing continues to elicit emotion long after the book has been put down. For me, I am just as thrilled when I am left with unease and tension as when I feel moved, amused or joyful. At times I think I have to pay real attention to what emotion has been elicited. As in real life, if something is close to the bone we can ‘flatten’ our emotional reaction to protect ourselves. If a story elicits difficult memories, envy, shame, anger this does not necessarily show itself unless we allow it to. I often find myself holding my breath in parts of a story, or my eyes racing so fast ahead I have to catch myself. All these reactions show that a writer has successfully written something that connects at a deeper level, in my opinion something to strive for.