Interview with Tim Craig, June 2018 Third Prize Winner

Tim Craig, who won third prize in the June Award judged by David Gaffney with his story ‘Northern Lights’ only recently began writing flash. We love how Tim was prompted to write in this form by his friend, Mandy Wheeler’s suggestion that ‘Life’s too short to write long things’. It’s a great incentive to get into writing short short fiction and then perhaps to stitch the pieces up into longer fictions like novellas or novels. After I received Tim’s answers to my questions, I asked him for a photograph of his dog, as he mentioned it. We’ve noticed many of our prize winners for this contest own dogs. He’s included a picture of it looking very chilled under a lattice of shade. We hope he gets some quiet time himself soon to do some more writing. He’s a very good reader and we’d really like to hear more of his stories. The other picture included here of what he calls ‘the hairy babies’ he saw in a French cafe, looks like a perfect story prompt. And his tip quoted from Ray Bradbury, to think of rejection as nothing more than a wrong address is a further incentive for anyone to get those words down on paper and not worry about how they will be received.

  • Can you tell us what inspired your powerful and atmospheric flash fiction ‘Northern Lights?
    I did a fair amount of hitch-hiking when I was younger, and came across some interesting people on the way – a bit like my character Pavel the truck driver, so maybe it was that. There’s certainly something magical about entering a stranger’s life and hearing their story in such a confined space and limited amount of time. In that respect, I suppose it’s a bit like flash fiction itself.

  • You told us that you picked up the email about your win while you were mooching around Foyles bookshop in London. Did you end up buying a book as a consequence?
    I think I had only gone in that day to inhale. (I know I’m not alone in finding the smell of bookshops addictive. Don’t tell Foyles. They’ll bottle it and sell it). I think I was so shocked to get the email about the win that I just wandered out in a daze. So, if anything, it maybe COST them a sale.
  • We were amazed at Bath Flash Fiction to learn that you had only been writing flash fiction for a few months. What prompted you to begin writing in this form?
    Earlier this year I mentioned to a very good friend of mine, the radio writer and director Mandy Wheeler, that I had become disillusioned with the opportunities for creative writing at work. She told me that she and her friend had for some time been writing prompted short pieces – one a week – under the general heading ‘Life’s too short to write long things’. She asked me if I wanted to join them. Pretty quickly, I was hooked.
  • And following on from the last question, you told us your main work until recently, was writing ads for the Radio. We wondered if you think having to write in a very condensed way was good practice for writing flash fiction?
    I think it probably was. Like a lot of writers, I suspect, I find a paradoxical liberation in restraint. I certainly enjoy the challenge of making it all work in a tight space. Radio also teaches you how to write for the ‘ear’ of the reader, not just their eyes. Which I think is crucial.
  • We were very happy that you were able to come to the recent Flash Fiction Festival in Bristol and you did a great reading of your prize winning story as well as reading another memorable piece. Do you like reading in public?.
    I loved the festival – one of the real highlights of the year. I met some fantastic and very talented writers that I’ve kept in touch with, and I was very inspired by the stories and speakers I heard there. I do like reading in public. I hope that doesn’t make me sound like an insufferable show-off; it’s simply that reading out loud – and hearing other people reading out loud – seems to me very much part of the storytelling tradition. I guess I’m just a bit of a caveman at heart. (My wife will confirm this.)
  • Any further writing projects on the go?
    I’ve written three more stories since the Flash Fiction Festival. I’m going to let them ‘brew’ for a while before revisiting them and deciding what to do with them. I do find competitions like The Bath Flash Fiction Award really useful not just for ‘keeping me regular’, but as a way of challenging myself against other writers and getting my work read by some of the best writers in the game.
  • Where and when do you write fiction? Music on or off? A muse?

    I’m currently on holiday in France. Two of my kids are loudly splashing about in the pool just outside the window, the other one is in the same room as me watching The Lion King on DVD for the 412th time, at ear-splitting volume. Also the dog is barking and nudging me to take him for a walk. There’s no way I could write a story here! I have to have silence – or as close as I can get to it – and I seem to need to get the first draft down in one go before I stop, or get interrupted. Mid-to-late mornings seem to work best for me, when the opportunity presents.
  • Based on your recent forays into the world of short fiction contests, can you give any tips for those wanting to embark on this journey?
    As a relative novice, I’m not sure I’m in any position to give anyone else advice. But, for myself, I’m trying to keep in mind Ray Bradbury’s sage advice to think of rejection as nothing more than a wrong address…
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