Really, he must have made a mistake was the general train of thought as I perused the message from flasher-extraordinaire (in the writerly way) Karl A Russell. It seemed that Karl wanted to co-opt me into being part of the My Writing Process Blog Tour. My usual response to such proposals is to feign interest and then flee, for some reason I find the spotlight the least desirable aspect of writing.
I mean most friends, family and acquaintances are oblivious to my alter ego and the fact that I even write.
Yet I appreciated that this was a wonderful opportunity being offered by Karl. Not only to engage with the flash community but a moment to step back and reflect upon my relationship with writing.
So thank you firstly to Karl, who decided that I deserved to stand alongside Beth and Voimaoy, writers who leave me in awe most days. I should also acknowledge that Karl is somewhat of a lurking behemoth in my short writing journey. A towering nemesis whose work has routinely inspired awe and fear in equal measure, not only because his technique is that good, but his mind is that scary. At the same time he is one of the most supportive and generous writers out there. You can find out what I mean by venturing over to his blog, where lurks not only his corpus, but also links back to those writers who have grasped the baton of the tour before (yes I am looking at you Shakes72).
Right intro waffle over now the questions …
What am I working on?
As I write this I’m currently in the post flash weekend comedown, my brain fried by the triple rush of Flash Friday, Luminous Creatures and The Angry Hourglass. Flash! Friday is the reason why I began to write, actually interact with twitter and was the conduit through which I met fantastic writers such as Karl, Shakes, @blukris, @brett-milam, @making_fiction, @theniceone, @fallintofiction and @donnellanjackie and the list goes on and on (so apologies if I missed you x). Flash Friday then led to The Angry Hourglass, comprised of some insanely good writers and then onward to my somewhat sporadic contributions to Luminous Creatures and Finish that Thought.
Aside from the online community, I try to maintain a target of writing at least three tales a month (be it flash or short stories). Currently I’ve just had accepted a Halloween tale of a boy and a stolen talking pumpkin to feature within the anthology In Creeps the Night; finished up a flash fiction based on the Krampus myth; and I’m currently wrestling a tale into shape about a demonic printing press for The Lane of Unusual Traders project being hosted by the Tiny Owl Workshop. I also seemed to have written, purely by accident, a project proposal to host some flash fiction workshops here in my new hometown as part of the QWC 2015 writer sessions.
Finally I would like to mention my flash fiction The Rink, which is currently lurking within the wonderful second issue of Firewords Quarterly and on sale now from their lovely website. Not because I’m in it, but because the talented people at Firewords have created an incredibly beautiful and supportive tome that more people should buy and read.
The larger projects, as in the one’s that I know I should get on with, yet flash and shorts get in the way. The first is a sci-fi novella featuring time travel, space-arks, mad priests and an immortal organic supercomputer, a second re-write is way overdue. I’m also tinkering with a novel set in 1990s Britain dealing with super powered people, aliens and the end of the world, which is slowly rumbling past seven chapters. And there’s this other thing itching at me to be written set on a desert prison planet, featuring the crew of a solar-powered vehicle known as Behemoth and a visiting VIP dignitary hell-bent on having his own personal army of nasty guys.
That last paragraph feels a tad ridiculous, like the Wizard of Oz I prefer keeping things hidden away, but slowly these projects are taking shape. One day I might indeed release them into the wild. Watching them soar elegantly into the sky before being gunned down by agents and publishers.
How does my work differ from others of its Genre?
Ah the genre question, if pushed I would probably say that I lean normally towards a dystopian inspired narrative which riffs on everything I’ve read, watched, played, strummed, eaten or ridden. I’ve always been inspired by writers who can blend the everyday with the surreal/fantastical (e.g. Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, Iain Banks, Frank Miller, Alan Moore, Mervyn Peake) and filmmakers who stretch cinematic convention (e.g. Nicolas Roeg, Christopher Nolan, Kubrick, Powell & Pressburger).
From such minds I’ve learnt that genre is there to be both fetishized and subverted, a path of thematic conventions that one can seek solace from and deconstruct. However, at the center of everything is the desire to simply write something I want to read, whether it is generically pure, a mash-up or subversive. Each time I sit down, all I’m striving to achieve is to simply enjoy the experience of writing that piece at that point in time.
So to answer the question, my work doesn’t differ, I lack the requisite talent to reach such heights. Yet I find it amazing that my work does exist, albeit virtually, alongside the millions of other tales that spring into life each day.
Maybe one day Neil Gaiman might stumble across one of my tales.
And that scenario I’m pretty content with.
Why do I write what I write?
Because I have a scratch that cannot be itched.
Because it makes me happy.
Because the elation at nailing that final line is as good as scoring a goal (career total three thus far) or car jacking in front of a police officer in GTA. Much like Karl however my writing style, ideas, passion and themes are rooted in a childhood obsession with film and comics. Many childhood summers were spent lying in in the shade of a tree, sweet cigarettes in my pocket, reading Watchmen, X-Men, Halo Jones, Strontium Dog, Rogue Trooper, Nemesis and Judge Dredd. Or consuming pirated film after film on our battered VCR, from Evil Dead to The Crazies, Condor Man to Performance.
Be it on page or celluloid I always noticed that I was never really interested in the artwork or the film effects, I was always drawn to the characters and the narrative. I gained as much pleasure from imagining the world beyond the frame as I did with what was actually contained within it. Writing just seemed the natural way of exploring that interest. And for a while I scribbled and wrote, working on ideas, supported by some amazing teachers and then …
Well I would then like to say that I spent my formative years writing, filling journal upon journal till in my twenties we burnt a giant paper Wicker Man sacrificing my art to some deity or other. But the truth is life just got in the way, the road is paved with good intentions etc. It wasn’t until recently, when I found myself living on the other side of the world, cut off from family and friends that I found myself returning to the idea of writing. As if I could deal with the stresses and strains of my diasporic reality by escaping it for a brief moment. So sometime in 2013 I found myself sat at the computer, white screen, black coffee, and writing a flash (at the time I was unaware that this was the term) about the end of the world, a cannibalistic husband, and a scratched bench.
Told you writing was a way of dealing with being a migrant!
To my surprise/horror/concern the folk at With Painted Words liked it enough to feature it on their site. Subsequently the passion that had lain dormant for so long was ignited and I began seeking other creative outlets.
Then I stumbled into the realm of creativity that is Flash! Friday.
The rest is history, so in truth I feel ill equipped to be answering any of these questions for I’ve only been writing for just over … [checks calender] … ten months. Barely anything in comparison to most of the other dedicated artists I’ve encountered along the way. But I suppose in answer to this particular question it is simply that I write to exist. I write to express what is happening around/within me, and I write because somehow it makes me feel connected to the rest of you.
How does my writing process work?
A lot depends on the prompt and how my brain decides to engage. Most times it’s a period of gestation, the lingering deadline enough to push something to the fore. I then normally scribble with a pencil various thoughts; drawings and dialogue into an A4 notebook (never pen, tales written in ink die on the page for me) and then the inevitable sitting in front of the white flickering screen and watching the thing slowly take shape. Sometimes, albeit rarely, it will be almost instantaneous, like alchemy, a prompt will just scream at me, the idea setting like concrete in my mind, those tales are the ones that go into the odd, dark places.
The writing process needs three further elements, chilled water, espresso and music. The music selection is the key component, the wrong artist, album, or playlist and the writing stalls, the right one however and the story flows. I’m forever in debt to the likes of Sigur Ros, New Order, Pixies and The The for helping me create some of my more layered works.
Then there follows the inevitable moment of rewriting, the hacking and slashing and rendering of fat. Sometimes I’ve found I’ve shredded and rewritten 1200 words for a 300-word piece. Other days the tale just fits like a glove, barely an alteration required.
Then that dalliance with the submit button, and the inevitable dance of rejection that follows.
The Good Bit
Right I’ve waffled on and thank you for being such a tolerant reader. The next section was the one aspect I was uncertain about. Having to select three writers from the extraordinary talent that I have read, engaged with, stalked over the past months, seemed such a foolish task. In the end I had to just pick three whose work, or role in the flash community, have inspired me to work harder at my writing.
Now the first is an individual (as my internal gooner reminds me) I should despise, primarily due to his staunch support of all things Liverpool. Yet the enigmatically named Zevonesque’s fiction lingers in the darker recesses, capturing effortlessly cinematic imagery. Part of the Poised Pen writing community (alongside other familiar names) back in Liverpool, his skill and dedication to writing as an art form has been incredibly inspiring to a rookie such as myself.
The next is someone whose style, playfulness and lightness of touch are just inspiring. StellakateT is a contributor to both the Angry Hourglass and Flash Friday and has a wide range of publication successes, the most recently featuring in an anthology entitled War, Conflict and Resolution anthology. A outstanding writer and active member of the flash community, her support and feedback has always been greatly appreciated.
Now the final person, well this is a wildcard. To be honest when I reached out to this person I felt like one of those supporting actors approaching Brando in The Godfather, expecting to get whacked for having the gall to make contact. Yet I should have known better, for such was their enthusiastic response. So, step forward the Godfather, sorry, Godmother of Flash! Friday, writer of immaculate taste and a dedicated advocate for flash fiction, the Dragon aficionado herself: Rebekah Postupak.
Her incredibly intricate and rich flash fiction is justification enough to warrant a mention in this post. However it is Rebekah’s time, enthusiasm and dedication to creating a space in which writers of all levels and styles are welcome and supported that made this decision a no-brainer. Genuinely, if it wasn’t for Flash! Friday I wouldn’t be writing this now nor would I have reconnected with that kid who dreamt of what lingered beyond the frame all those years ago.
Now go, engage with those three talented writers, tell them how cool they are, and follow the virtual trail back to the rest. There are some talented folk out there on the edges of publishing, working tirelessly, striving hard, not for fame or wealth, just because they have an itch they need to scratch.
So go say hi.
Trust me we really appreciate it.