Caroline Greene won our 2022 Novella-in-Flash Award in April this year with her wonderful Novella in Flash, Lessons at the Water’s Edge and the novella is now available on preorder from Ad Hoc Fiction at a 25% discount until publication on July 1st. We’re delighted Caroline’s novella will be launched at the Flash Fiction Festival 8th-10th July. The 2023 Novella-in-Flash Award will be open soon and Caroline has some great advice here for writing one. Scroll down the post of our judge Michelle Elvy’s report to find her interesting comments on this novella. It is a marvellous, absorbing read with many layers and we thoroughly recommend it. You can also hear Caroline talking about it next week on a panel about novellas-in-flash for National Flash Fiction Day New Zealand, 19th June.
- Can you give us a brief synopsis of Lessons At the Water’s Edge?
- What inspired you to write it?
- In her comments Michelle Elvy points out how the novella, which is set in a watery city (unnamed) flows like water and, she remarks that ‘the story lines glide, skim, sometimes sink below the surface and then emerge again.’ Were you aware of the elemental component of your writing, when you were structuring it?
- What is the most challenging aspect about writing a novella in flash, in your experience?
- What did you most enjoy about the process?
- Have you any other flash fiction projects on the go?
- Top tip for someone thinking of writing one?
Q & A with Caroline Greene
It’s the story of a young woman leaving difficulties at home and going to live in a different country. But it’s also the story of the family she goes to live with, and the changes she brings, from their point of view. There are new discoveries about identity, but there are also love stories that intertwine – the love for a place, for family, and an unrequited love too. And it’s about how language connects and moulds us, with ‘language lessons’ that thread through the whole.
This has been a very long time in gestation! Many, many years ago I wrote a short story called ‘The Father’, about a dedicated single father, bringing up two girls. It was inspired by a story by Natalia Ginzburg called ‘The Mother’, about an erratic single mother bringing up two boys. But I never really did anything with it. Then, a few years ago, when I discovered flash fiction, I wrote a couple of scenes based on my experience of living in Italy. I had an idea of combining elements of the short story with the flashes, but was very dithery and unconfident about it. Then when lockdown began and I started to get messages from Italian friends I just thought, now is the time to celebrate the experiences I had there and the people I met.
I love that Michelle picked this out. In a way it was the most subconscious outcome. On a conscious level, I tried to weave the three strands together in a loose way to convey how the various experiences and the different points of view informed each other. But the water imagery was doing this too.
I would definitely avoid trying to think of the thing as a ‘whole’ from the start. That’s too daunting. Although I had a story, I only had a rough idea of how it would be put together, so I just wrote scenes in a random order and gradually a patchwork pattern emerged. The beauty of writing a novella in flash is that you can construct scenes individually and follow thoughts where they want to go, without trying to follow any strict linear structure or plot line. But it’s sometimes hard to be ruthless when you have a suspicion that a certain flash doesn’t work within the whole and so it needs to go.
Once I’d thought that I could create a novella out of the early pieces I had, I absolutely loved the impetus it gave me for writing more. I loved living with the characters and I had fun with the language lessons. While life was strange, difficult and uncertain during lockdown, I also had this other world of the novella going on inside my head.
Once I’d submitted the novella, I felt as though I’d never write anything ever again! But gradually ideas have crept back and I trust myself more now to follow them through.
Trust the process. Follow inklings and instincts. Eventually, it feels as though the separate flashes almost tell you where they are all going, and how they fit together.