I’m a florist by day, but by night (and by days off) I’m a writer in embryonic form. I live in Bristol in the UK and scribble between fiddling with flowers, blogging and tidying up Lego. My short stories have appeared in print and online, but my real ambition is to write novels. Well, my real ambition is to write like Neil Gaiman and have the hutzpah of James Patterson. I am in equal parts supported and distracted by an animator husband and an apprentice Iron Man in the shape of my eleven-year-old son.
100 words ain’t many. How do you fit a story into so few words?
I’d like to say it was planned to perfection, but my blog name (Word Shamble) closely reflects my approach to writing – plop some ideas on the page and see what images sparkle from the rubble. Once I’d pinned the basic story idea and honed a few choice phrases, I cut the fat away until it’s was as lean as I could make it.
Why do you like flash fiction?
Short and flash fiction is a useful discipline if you tend towards rambling, as I do. When I’m dazzled by a great piece of flash fiction, I just want to anatomise it, to see how the author has achieved the effect – and how I can steal the technique and use it myself.
Been writing long?
I wrote a lot up until my teens, then thought I should yank my head out of the clouds and go and earn some money, which I did, albeit a very small amount. Writing punched me in the head again about seven years ago, when my other half gave me a Tudor sixpence. An idea for a YA time travel story popped into my head and I had to write it. I soon realised I couldn’t actually write at all, so I developed two other novels, umpteen short stories, took a creative writing course…
You write anything else?
Yes, but all of it slowly! In February, I finally got my blog up and running as it’s been on my writing ‘to-do’ list for the last six years. I write regular posts for that. The style is jokey and informal, which is a nice contrast to my fiction which tends to be YA or adult (not in the E.L. James way, though).
Any advice for other flash writers?
Plunge straight into the meat of the piece – you only have a few words to say what you want to say. And It’s worth taking time to find the right word – sit back, watch the bumble bees, do the washing up and explore your vocabulary (or search someone else’s and use a thesaurus). The right word is worth a dozen nearly-right ones.
Any interesting writerly projects in the pipeline?
After seven years and three re-writes, my YA time travel novel is close to completion (I told you I was a slow writer). I’ve been working with Ruth Warburton from the WoMentoring writers’ project, developing a submission package I can send to agents and publishers. So, if all goes well I’ll be posting that out in the next few months and I’ll get a massive advance and a three book deal. If all goes badly, the book will vanish into the sinkhole of self-publishing.
I just finished reading a book. Can you recommend another?
Just one? The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton is the most recent book that hit me for six. It’s the author’s debut novel, beautiful, atmospheric, with deep mysteries at its heart. Definitely one I wish I’d written.
Under the leer of a new moon, inky slithers melt into life.
A mermaid licks salt-crusted lips, flicks her scales and dives, breaking through the waves of skin that roll across your chest.
The rose unfurls its petals, nips at flightless doves, thorns snatching at banners declaring ‘Stella’, ‘Gloria’ ‒ ‘Mum’.
You wanted ‘ink’ ‒ to be a man. Now the pictures that smother your skin smother you.
They weave and warp to form a tattoo where you never felt the sting before – your throat.
You dream of the needle, of the sea, of Sleeping Beauty cradled in her bramble nest. You stir, gasp, swallow.
Ink is your final breath-taker.
The first phrase was the clincher – ‘Under the leer of a new moon’. Only something unpleasant would happen on such a night. I had the photo prompt strongly in mind (as the first time I wrote for Micro Bookends, I forgot it completely!) and once the idea of pictures coming alive occurred, it was a short jump from that to the tattoos turning on their host. I imagined the images as parasites, though where they’ve slithered off to now, I dread to think.