Steph Ellis is the winner of MB1.44. Follow her on Twitter and check out her website. If you enjoyed Steph’s MB1.44–winning story, and want to read more of her work, take a look at Terror Tree Pun Book of Horror Stories, which she co-edited.
Steph lives with her husband and 3 children in sunny Hampshire. To earn a living, she works as a TA supporting teenagers with SEN; to live, she writes. Her speculative fiction stories have appeared in anthologies and magazines and she has also co-edited a collection of horror stories. She has recently completed (sort-of) a gothic horror novel which now lurks with hundreds of others on Hodderscape’s virtual desk. When not writing, she is usually to be found reading or watching something on TV with subtitles (by which I mean foreign, I’m not deaf!). She also surprises people with her love of heavy metal … proving appearances can be deceptive.
100 words ain’t many. How do you fit a story into so few words? I usually write two or three times the word count and then just cut and cut. Anything flowery, anything not vital goes.
Why do you like flash fiction? The sheer challenge of trying to tell a complete story in so few words. It forces you to consider your words carefully and to slaughter your darlings mercilessly. It has also brought me into contact with some wonderful writers in the Flash community and I love reading their work to see what I can learn from them.
Been writing long? For a few years on and off, mainly poetry at first with some local and national publication. Nothing serious fiction wise though until a couple of years back. I discovered an anthology call for a short horror story and thought I’d give it a go – I’d NEVER written horror before – and they accepted it! After that I just kept writing and submitting … and learning to take rejection.
You write anything else? I have a blog that I never seem to update regularly even though it’s on my to-do list. I have almost completed an alternative Nursery Rhyme book – you know, Mother Hubbard flaying the children, Mary, Mary as a mass murderer that sort of thing; all for fun and I intend to self-publish that some time this year. I’ve just recently submitted a novel for the first time. That was a big step in itself – just completing it, I kept putting it off all the time. Oh and the other big step forward was being invited to write for an anthology instead of having to submit in the usual way. I’ve also got a few stories due for publication this year and I’m waiting on decisions for other short stories and a novella (that was another first). It sounds a lot when I look at it like that but it never feels it. Flash fiction takes over the rest of my time Thursday – Sundays(!) I enter most of the comps on the schedule over at www.flashdogs.com
Any advice for other flash writers? Just dive in. Write the story and don’t worry about the word count, that can come in the edit. First and last lines seem to be quite critical in flash and again I would say don’t spend hours trying to get these lines perfect until you’ve got your story arc.
If I’m writing for one of the Flash competitions, I try not to read what others have written until I’ve submitted. I get depressed because I immediately start judging myself by what’s already been posted and thinking I’ll never match their standard. The drawback to that is when you find someone else has had the same idea and done it better, posted earlier than you. Writers are their own worst enemies.
Any interesting writerly projects in the pipeline? I’ve had an idea for some time now for another novel but would never allow myself to start it until I’d actually finished the one I sent out recently. It’s a horror story based on the world’s diminishing resources and how far man would go to maintain his power supply.
I have also started sketching out ideas for a crime story. I love the noir element of a lot of Scandinavian and European crime novels and TV programmes and would really like to have a go at writing a novel in that genre.
As you can see I’m a cheerful type of writer.
I just finished reading a book. Can you recommend another? The one I recommend to anyone and everyone is Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes, a dark gothic tale with one of the scariest carnivals ever, and also any Discworld novel by the late, great Terry Pratchett.
Love is a light that has faded from my life. The roads I have taken, dark and lonely. My journey, as I cast off friends like worn-out clothes, is one they cannot follow. It is obsession that has brought me here, to this place.
Will my words gain my admittance, my acceptance? Or will I be rejected and be sent back into the void?
I cling to my sanity, now wafer thin and leave my offering at these gates of perdition, my words, my other self. And wonder again at how I have been consumed by this craft.
Hmm. Could I say haven’t a clue?! Is that allowed? The picture showed a lonely road on a dark night and so immediately I’m off on a journey. Lovecraft’s voice is already in my head (his works are on my shelf) and it is as though he is actually reciting it to me. Many of his stories deal with madness and obsession and that led me to consider the obsessiveness of writers, when their need to tell a story becomes all and everything. (Thankfully I have a tolerant family). And the title? It can be taken two ways, the submission of a story, or the submission of the writer to their obsession.