Author Profile: Kate Mahony

KateMahony

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…

Love of My Life

By Kate Mahony

He sits on the pavement, singing an off-key The Ten Guitars song from the 60s. He’s a terrible singer, in his 40s, one eye yellowed and rheumy looking. In front, he has a notice, handwritten: “I’m singing because I need to make enough money to get my guitar fixed.” I dig in my wallet and find a stray $2 coin to put in the cap lying on the street.

“Thanks.” A tooth is missing from the row at the top of his mouth.

I’m about to move on, but then I pause, stand in front of him. I’m curious now. “What’s wrong with your guitar?”

He reaches behind him for a piece of wood, broken off the neck.  He drags the rest of the guitar out, too. The strings are missing.

“Yeah,” he says, looking down at the beat up instrument. “It’s because of my house mate.  He brought drugs back to the house one night and that’s not allowed. So I told him and his friend to get out. The mate got angry and that’s when he broke the head of the guitar.” He touches it gently. “I could’ve cried.” He looks at me again. Sees that I am still there, listening. Waiting for something. “Yeah, I’ve had her for years. Love of my life.”

“So can it be fixed?” I stare at the remains of the guitar.

“Yeah, yeah, it can,” he sounds as if he wants to believe it himself. “It’ll cost $80 the guy in the music shop said, and it’ll all be hunky dory.”

We both look at the guitar, an instrument that appears to have had its life beaten out of it ten times over.

“So I need to get the 80 bucks.”

“What about the strings?”

“Yeah, he broke them off, too.”

It seems all too much. I begin to move away.

He fixes his gaze on me, takes a breath, and when he speaks his tone is higher, more urgent.

“Yeah, my dad gave it to me.” A sound whistles through the gap where his tooth should be.

I consider this for a moment. The age of the man in front of me. The age of his father. “Really?” I ask.

Maybe it’s my dubious tone. He shrugs and turns to stash the broken guitar behind him, the conversation now over. At least for him.

Something makes me take a $20 note from my wallet and stash it in his cap even though he doesn’t see me do so.

As I walk off, I tell myself: his story alone is worth at least that much.


Kate Mahony’s fiction has appeared in literary magazines including Takahe, Flash Frontier, The Island Review, and Blue Fifth Review. It was shortlisted in Fish Publishing Ireland’s short story competition and the New Zealand National Flash Fiction competition, 2015. She has an MA in Creative Writing and lives in Wellington, New Zealand.