How and when did you decide, or discover, that you were to be a writer?
As a teenager, I won a non-fiction writing competition and also had some opinion-piece articles published. Then at university I had a short story published in a literary magazine under a pseudonym. I remember the editor sending me a note afterwards saying, if you are serious about being a writer, use your own name. That struck me as important. So from then on I did!
What inspired you to write flash fiction?
I’d always been a writer of longer fiction – 5000-word stories; I’ve one completed draft of a novel (for my MA in Creative Writing) and a few incomplete novel drafts. I came across Flash Frontier a few years back with its 250 word count and given theme each issue and submitted a story. After that I was hooked! Since then my flash fiction has been shortlisted and long-listed in a number of international competitions.
Describe your writing process.
I’ve taught short story writing and know all about writing every day, at a certain time, place, number of words, persistence etc, but I’m not good at taking my own advice. There are many times I just don’t want to write! I’ve been a journalist and editor – so I make excuses, telling myself that over my working life I’ve written millions of words and that must be good practice.
I know I work better in the late afternoon. I also like to go to a café some days and write there, or record scraps of conversations.
Some of this writing languishes in a notebook until I come across it ages later and see how it can be used in a story. I don’t outline stories. I mull them over as full stories, and try to see where they might start and end. I’ll be walking by the sea and my subconscious will come up with another layer/sub-text to add. Maybe I work out how to improve an old story that has been rejected a few times (it’s always exciting when that story finally finds a home).
I do lots of revision/re-writing to the point I actually enjoy it. Writing flash fiction has helped me improve how I edit longer stories. It’s about efficiency, making every word count.
What was the inspiration behind what was published on FewerThan500.com?
The city I live in, Wellington, New Zealand. It’s a small arty place (“The coolest little capital city in the world” – Lonely Planet). You get to recognise faces on the street – the softly-spoken elderly lady with a suitcase who begs on that corner (“Got a $2, Ma’am?”), the guy who goes everywhere with a bottle of coke in his hand. There’s been some so well-known they’ve had new names bestowed on them (“Blanket Man” and “Bucket Man”) by the local community. Each has their own story or stories, and sometimes these come to be heard only after they have passed from this life. The busker (“Guitar Man”?) in Love of my life also has a story to tell. It may be one of many.
What are you working on now?
A novel which I have been planning for some time. A tract of land has been home to a number of people over different periods of time. Tragic events have occurred on this land, linking the main character and other characters to the past. It’s a kind of time-slip novel. But there will always be short stories to write, competitions to enter…