Tim Craig’s brilliant debut flash fiction is released for publication, this Friday, 1st July by Ad Hoc Fiction, and it will then also be available on Amazon in paperback worldwide. You can still buy it before July 1st on preorder at a 25% discount from Ad Hoc Fiction. There’s a mini launch of the collection at the Flash Fiction Festival 8th -10th July in Bristol, where Tim will read a couple of his micros and another book launch on Wednesday 20th July at Ink@84 Independent Bookshop in London. Jude’s going to be there representing Ad Hoc Fiction, and it will be great to see lots of other flash fiction enthusiasts at the launch to hear Tim read, drink some wine and buy the book. It’s the first in-a-bookshop-launch coming up for an Ad Hoc Fiction published book in ages! Read the Q & A to find out more about the book and how Tim put it together.
Q & A
- Congratulations on the publication of your debut flash fiction collection Now You See Him with Ad Hoc Fiction. We know building a collection involves sifting, resifting, ordering and reordering. Can you tell us about your compiling process? And how you arrived at the title?
I’m so pleased that Ad Hoc Fiction is publishing Now You See Him. Thank you, and for your patience as I prevaricated, messed around, changed the title, the cover, and the stories, a million times.
The title came from the story of the same name (which placed third in the Bath Flash Fiction Award last year). The story was about a man – not unlike my father – who had a habit of disappearing when the heat of family conversation was turned up. The cover sketch – by the portrait artist, Alan Coulson – is from a photograph of my dad as young man. I like that it isn’t clear whether he’s appearing or disappearing.
Deciding which stories to include – and the order – was a process not unlike that of writing a story. A combination of logic (eg it seemed to make sense to finish with the story ‘That’s All There Is, There Ain’t No More’) gut feel, and trial and error. But, as with writing a story, I think you can overthink it. I wonder how many people sit down and read a collection of flash from beginning to end. Oh dear, have I just given myself away?
- Do you think the collection has an overall theme?
I’m not sure it has one clear overall theme, but there are definitely some subplots! I think loss / death is a significant subject in the collection – as it has been in my life. My relationship with my parents – and theirs with each other – also features in several stories. Sadly, they’re both gone now, but I guess I’m still turning the Rubik’s cube, trying to work it out.
- Your writing style is very distilled and one of the compelling things about your fictions, is how more is revealed on each re-read. You are on a panel at the forthcoming Flash Fiction Festival where you, Sharon Telfer and Hannah Storm, talk about how your day jobs influence your writing of short-short fiction. You have worked for many years in radio. Do you think this work has influenced your facility in creating layers of meaning in your stories?
I think the distilled style is certainly informed by writing for radio, where, because you have a lot to say in a very limited time —and because on radio you don’t generally have the opportunity to flit back and forth as you do on the page — the language needs to be extremely succinct and clear. I think any story worth the effort of reading will always have different layers of meaning, not all of which I think the author necessarily intends!
You are (or have been) a reader for Smokelong Quarterly and other magazines. Do you think this has influenced your writing of flash fiction too?
I was so honoured to be asked to read for Smokelong Quarterly. It is widely – and rightly – thought of as the best journal of short-short fiction. I was also very pleased to be asked to read for the wonderful Janus Literary which, in a very short space of time, has managed to elbow itself onto the top table of online literary magazines. I would encourage anyone who is offered the opportunity to read for a journal to snap it up. It’s a lot of work, and usually unpaid, but it gives you such a great overview of the work that’s out there, and forces you to confront why you believe a story works or doesn’t; generally, you learn to spot stories which are ‘dishonest’ with the reader, and thereby, hopefully, learn how not to be dishonest in your own writing. I’ve certainly been guilty of it in the past.
- You are also known for your wit, which infilitrates much of your writing. Were you a stand up comedian in a previous life?
I’m reminded of the old Bob Monkhouse line: ‘People used to laugh at me when I said I wanted to be a comedian. Well, they’re not laughing now.
- I’m far too much of a coward for stand-up. (though I have written comedy for BBC and independent radio, and elsewhere) Humour is very important to me in my writing. Someone once said ‘all fiction is irony’ and humour is a great tool. It’s an age-old gripe amongst writers that ‘funny’ stories rarely win the big prizes. But that’s as true for the Booker or Pulitzer Prizes as it is for most Flash Fiction awards. Having said that, ‘funny-for-funny’s sake’ has never really appealed to me. It needs to be working harder than that.
- Now You See Him is being launched at The Flash Fiction Festival and you also have a bookshop launch planned in London on Wednesday 20th July. Details please for people who might like to attend, have a glass of wine, hear you read from your book and hopefully buy a copy.
It’s being held at the brilliant Ink@84 Bookshop, 84 Blackstock Road, Highbury Park, London, N5 2XE, from 6.30 pm -8.00 pm. Do come along and say hi!
- You have been very successful in writing competitions in the last few years and have been placed three times in the Bath Flash Fiction Award, as well as being commended there and winning The Bridport Flash Fiction Prize. Now you have completed this publication, are you taking a break or working on anything else at the moment?
After I finished writing for the collection, I found it difficult to write anything else for quite a while. Then the deadline for the latest round of the Bath Flash Fiction Award began to emerge from the mist, and my typing fingers started to get itchy. (‘I don’t need time, I need a deadline’ – Duke Ellington)
- It’s funny, though. People do ask if I might try writing a novel now. In the same way that, through all my years in radio, people have always asked me if I’ll ‘move up’ to TV. With radio, I felt at home straight away, and never felt any need or desire to go anywhere else. I feel the same way about flash / micro fiction. It’s not a staging post – it’s endlessly satisfying and surprising, both to read and to write. Why would I go anywhere else?
- (This almost certainly means the next thing I write will be a novel:)