How and when did you decide, or discover, that you were to be a writer?
There is an implied compliment resting somewhere within the nuance of this question. I should clarify that for me the title ‘writer’ is a crown that can be legitimately worn by fewer people than most likely claim it. For some, a writer is simply a person who writes. To extend it to the aspirational term ‘professional writer’ is where an acknowledged distinction can be made. In regard to writing pursuits, I would label myself a hobbyist.
The earliest original story I can remember carrying around in my head (which I never did get around to writing) was the scenario of a child – naturally it was always me! – being accidently locked overnight in a supermarket and making the best of a bad situation by getting amongst the delights of the lolly aisle.
I recall also wanting to be a writer for Rolling Stone Magazine from about the age of 16. One of my earliest writing superheros from my late teens through to my early twenties was the celebrated American film critic Pauline Kael (1919-2001). I admired the intelligence, wit and insight about the human condition she brought to film reviews that, in many others hands, amounted to little more than simply the retelling of plot synopses.
What inspired you to write flash fiction?
I think the goal for ‘real writers’ has always been the novel. Until relatively recently, short stories and very short stories were considered practice for the longer forms of storytelling. That has now changed, with so many avenues and outlets for flash fiction and shorter narratives.
The most practical thought I can summon to this question is one I remember reading a few years back which put forward the idea that with a novel you can toil away for years, never knowing if what you’ve written is any good, but with the more condensed forms you find out sooner.
Describe your writing process.
Creative writing makes for a refreshing break away from the definitely more mechanical rituals of a public sector day job. That’s not meant to sound disrespectful to the 9-5 because in reality the two pursuits can balance each other in a yin and yang sort of way.
I’m one of those people who’s always writing things down in a notebook (I have several, all with little colour dividers to separate sections). It could be anything from a funny line of dialogue from a tv cartoon to something I’ve read on-line to a description in a ‘serious novel’ (though to be fair I don’t read many of those!). What I’m really attracted to are ideas, and they can come from science, history, mathematics, sports and so many other diverse areas, not just stories and literature.
I usually have a few little stories on the go at the same time. A discipline of mine is that once a week I send off an entry to the New Yorker Caption competition. It attracts more than 5000 on-line entries from around the world every week and is notoriously difficult to win. I won’t tell you how many weeks in a row I’ve entered so far without success but the hunger is still there so I’ll keep at it. Renown American film critic Roger Ebert (1942 -2013) famously entered the competition 107 times before he got to stand on the winners podium.
What was the inspiration behind what was published on FewerThan500.com?
This story was born from a prompt challenge to use the words ‘softly’, ‘birthday’ and ‘umbrella’ in a micro story of 149 words or fewer. I did that but then went on to sire the twelve inch extended version. There have been numerous real-life cases resulting in prosecution of people over-ordering printer ink – in some cases to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars over many years – from firms they were employed by and then on-selling it.
What are you working on now?
For the flash fiction writer, the 80 000 word full length novel most surely represent their own personal Everest. I’m in the foothills of just such a mountaineering challenge with a story about a retired train engineer who uncovers a sinister conspiracy(always wanted to say those two words together!) involving the management of the retirement home he lives in, the local cemetery and the town’s biggest employer, a fertilizer manufacturing company named Eastman Chemicals. It currently goes under working title of RETIRE AFTER DARK and should be due in all good book stores around the year 2036.