In this interview, first prize winning writer, Louise Mangos from our twentieth Award, judged by Karen Jones, tells us how her winning piece came into being. We learn more about how she began writing flash, there’s a link to one of her first prize wins (illustrated by her) from the weekly 150 word story contest run by Ad HocFiction. Before the contest had to stop in 2019 when Ad HocFiction began publishing books in a big way, Louise won it six or seven times. She also tells us about her crime/suspense novels and other projects on the go. Her latest suspense novel,, The Beaten Track is launched in London in a couple of weeks (hope Londoners can get there!) We’ve also wonderful pictures of the Swiss Alps where Louise lives and great tips at the end for flash fiction writers. If you are coming to the flash fiction festival in July, you will meet Louise there and hear her read this story.
- What prompted your brilliant flash-fiction ‘A Roadmap of Womanhood? ’ I am particularly interested in the form you used.
One day I was standing in front of the bathroom mirror contemplating what life has done to my body. I have a vein on my breast very much like the one described in the piece, which has been there since the birth of my children. At that moment, it occurred to me that this vein resembles a motorway orbital around a city on a map, which later became the M25 in my flash fiction. It’s not the first time I’ve written a semi-autobiographical piece about the musings of a woman of a certain age. My idea to weave the description of a map into the timeframe of a woman’s corporeal experiences grew as I stared at myself in the mirror. I grabbed my notebook from my bedside table and returned to the bathroom. I furiously began writing, standing at the bathroom mirror in only a pair of knickers, much to the eye-rolling amusement of my husband.
- You were a prolific winner of the weekly Ad Hoc Fiction 150-word contest, which ran for about four years. from 2015. A long-list was posted on the AdHocFiction.com website and members of the public voted for the winner. You have had many flash Fiction successes since then Had you written much flash before?
Oh, how I miss my weekly Ad Hoc fix! I was introduced to it early on by crime writing friend Vicky Newham, who won one of the first contests. The Ad Hoc platform was fabulous for its one-word prompts, and I prided myself in entering every week. I was thrilled to win the contest several times. Some of my non-winning pieces went on to become longer flashes or short stories. I haven’t written flash fiction quite so prolifically since those Ad Hoc days.
- You are also an artist and illustrated those Ad Hoc pieces. Do you have a favourite illustration/story combo? And a link to it?
It’s so difficult to choose a favourite piece of writing. My first illustration was actually for another writer – the brilliant Eileen Merriman – who won the contest back in 2015. My first win was a month later and is still so special to me, as it was the first competition for flash I had ever won. But the combination of the artwork fitting the writing so precisely must my piece The Last Kiss, which won the contest in 2017.
- As well as writing very short fiction, you are a crime/suspense writer and have a new novel coming out soon can you tell us more about it? Is the story in this novel linked to your previous novels?
The Beaten Track is my third standalone suspense novel. The premise is as follows: “After her stalker takes his life and she’s jilted by a holiday lover, Sandrine comes home to Switzerland from her round-the-world backpacking trip perturbed, penniless and pregnant. She meets handsome Scott, who offers her love, security and all she and her new baby could ever wish for. But their dream is about to turn into a nightmare…”
The only link to each of my novels is that they are all set predominantly in Switzerland.
- I believe you have a couple of launch dates arranged in London shortly, can you give us the info?
Launch day for The Beaten Track is indeed just around the corner, and I am very lucky to have two events scheduled in London, north and south of the river to celebrate. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to promote these. They are free events, but attendees will need to reserve a place so the bookshops can get an idea of numbers. Come and have a chat, hear me read, pick up a signed book and share a glass of wine! Here are links to the tickets:
April 13th at Ink@84Books in Islington: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/305616807097
April 14th at Dulwich Books: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/305741851107
- Are you working on any new writing projects currently?
I’m lucky enough to write full time and am currently juggling several projects. Last year I finished a historical novel set in medieval Switzerland which is now looking for a publishing home. I’ve recently finished a character-driven suspense novel which reads like a contemporary Agatha Christie whodunnit. I’m over half way through the first draft of a humorous novel about a failing crime writer and I’m editing a personal memoir. And last but not least, I have a collection of award-winning short fiction ready for submission. In between, I still manage to write the occasional short story and pieces of flash fiction and love entering competitions.
- We’re looking forward to seeing you in person at the 2022 Flash Fiction Festival and hearing you read your winning piece. Have you any advice for those entering our contest for very short flash fiction?
I’m so excited to be attending in-person events again this year, and the Flash Fiction Festival in summer will be a highlight. I’m looking forward to reading my winning piece and hearing the work of many brilliant writers. My advice for anyone entering the flash award is to let your creative juices flow as soon as you have an idea. Even for 300 words, your initial draft might contain a thousand. It’s honing the work that’s important. Remove superfluous sentences that don’t move your story on, slash adverbs, keep your dialogue direct and your narrative active. My piece was edited several times, despite the initial story coming out in one sitting (or standing in front of the bathroom mirror in my case). One tip is to put your story away in a drawer for a week or so before coming back to it and editing with fresh eyes. And if you believe in your piece but don’t succeed in placing in a competition, tweak it a little and enter it somewhere else. Every judge’s opinion in subjective.