- Can you tell us the story behind your winning piece – was it prompted by a word, a memory, a scene, a wish to write in a new way?
It’s difficult to say exactly what prompted my story, but I initially intended it to be a longer piece of flash fiction (the first draft was 750 words). I was thinking about drowning, and read up on the different types of drowning when I researched this piece. Although I’m a doctor, I hadn’t appreciated the differences between ‘dry’ and ‘wet’ drowning before, and I decided to have my characters experiencing both types. Hence Ferg inhales water and experiences a very painful death, whilst his brother Luke goes into ‘laryngospasm’ (his larynx ‘locks’) and experiences the euphoria of a death due to hypoxia. Then I won the entry to the Bath Flash Fiction award via Ad Hoc Fiction, and I decided my 750 word story could be much more powerful if I turned it into a 300 word piece of flash.
- What do you particularly like about the very short form? Have you been writing in this genre for long?
That’s what I love about flash – that you can take a longer piece of work and wind up with a distilled version that is much more powerful, and more beautiful, than its predecessor. The best flash fiction is like a fine wine, its taste lingering long after one has read it. I’ve been writing flash for two years now, and am a regular contributor to the bimonthly on line publication, Flash Frontiers. Having deadlines is a good incentive to keep writing.
- Which short story writers have inspired you and what is it about their writing that appeals to you?
I love short stories that evoke powerful emotions, or that make me laugh, or portray something from a unique perspective. For all these reasons, my favourite short story writers are Ian McEwan, Christos Tsiolkas, Tim Winton, James Claffey, and Tania Hershman. The best short stories resonate with me for days, after I’ve read them.
- When and where do you do your writing?
I usually write in the evenings once I’ve finished work and my youngest child is in bed. But I also steal time to write whenever I can, as I’m very short on time. Long plane journeys are a great time to write, when I know I will have a guaranteed length of time free of interruptions by family, my on-call phone, e-mail and social media. At those times I’ve been known to write for six hours solid!
- What are your current writing projects? Have you further writing ambitions?
Currently I’m working on a YA novel under a mentorship awarded by New Zealand Society of Authors, and I hope that will result in publication. The novel, ‘Pieces of You’, has its embryo in a short story that was awarded third place in the NZ Sunday Star Times Short Story Award in 2014. I like writing short stories and flash fiction for relief, as the process of editing a novel can be tedious at times. They are also a great discipline and really help my novel writing, as the word limits imposed mean that there is no room for ‘excess baggage’ in one’s writing. One of my writing ambitions is to publish a YA novel, as I really think I can connect with the YA audience and I think we need books that encourage teenagers to read.
- We’d love to know your best tips for writing flash fiction.
My best tip for writing flash fiction is to remember that every word counts. If it’s not important, then strike it out. Then read through your flash piece, repeat! The last line is also very important. A flash piece can gain or lose a lot in that final sentence. Make it count.