Ten answers to ten questions in 20 words or fewer. That’s less time than it takes to burn a match*.
(*Depending on the length of the match and your tolerance for burned fingers, obviously)
Our newest Flash! Friday winner is longtime FF writer & current dragon captain judge Sinéad O’Hart. Read her winning story here. Then take a couple wonderful minutes to get to know her better below. Special note: Sinéad has been competing at Flash! Friday since early 2013, and this is her first win. We’ve told her to be as wordy as she wants. ❤
1) What about the prompt inspired your winning piece?
My love of strange, slightly dark folk music, probably. The first place my mind went when I saw the prompts was a situation like the one in the song ‘Long Black Veil’, where someone is innocent of a crime but can’t defend themselves out of love or loyalty to someone else, and they take a punishment not meant for them. Turning the narrative viewpoint over to the wife was a natural development out of that.
2) You’re one of the earliest Flash! Friday participants; you’ve placed or have been mentioned many times, but this is your first outright win. Can you talk to us about the whole “winning” thing? What’s kept you writing week after week without a win?
Sheer bloody-mindedness, I guess! I’m not going to lie: it hurts to put so much work in, week after week, and not get anywhere (and there have been times when I’ve lagged). But I kept reminding myself it wasn’t about winning; it was about creating a new story every week, and sharing it with the best bunch of writers on the web, and feeling like part of a community. Plus, I love a challenge!
3) How has your approach to flash fiction changed since you started at Flash! Friday two years ago?
Writing with Flash! Friday has done so much for me. The wordcount limits help to focus my mind on the kernel of the story, and the ever-changing rules keep me nimble. I’m not sure my approach has changed all that much; I still see flash fiction as centring around an ‘epiphany’ or an explosive moment of realisation, or a climax of some sort, but Flash! Friday has given me huge discipline. I learn from my fellow writers, week on week.
4) You’re (at last!!!) a winner; but you’re also a FF dragon captain. What flash advice would you give other writers? Has judging changed your view of flash?
Judging is, to a large extent, subjective (which is why having a fellow judge is such a good idea!) but, to me, a winning story always shines out because it will have a build-up, a resolution, and a hint at aftermath (not necessarily in that order). Even in flash, this is possible. I love stories which make me feel, which bring me right into a character’s mind and life, which show me something shattering or significant, and which whisper to me about what might happen next. And, even though I’m usually one for sticking closely to the prompt image (something I need to work on!) taking an oblique view is always good, too. Judging has given me a huge appreciation for the amount of work it takes to run Flash! Friday, and my hat is off to you, Dragon Queen, and all my fellow Dragon Captains.
5) Who is a writer we should follow, and why? It would be remiss of me not to mention the awesome FlashDogs at this point. Definitely follow that pack, on Twitter and their website (www.flashdogs.com) and anywhere they’ll have you.
Currently, I’m faithful to Flash! Friday, but I owe my participation here to a wonderful weekly competition (now, I think, defunct) called CAKE, which used to run on Wednesdays. I ‘met’ the lovely (and talented) Marie McKay there, and I’m pretty sure she led me to Flash! Friday. Perhaps time is clouding my memory, but that’s how I recall it. I don’t have time for any other competitions at the moment!
7) What other forms do you write (novels, poetry, articles, etc)?
I blog, and I sometimes write articles for websites and other online publications, but mainly I write novels. I write Middle Grade fiction (stories for children, 8-12 years old), and I don’t inflict my poetry on the world anymore after the last time someone threatened to press charges. You know those Vogon guys? They’ve got nothing on me when it comes to poetry…
8) What is/are your favorite genre(s) to write, and why?
In terms of flash, I love to write anything folkloric or vaguely mythical, or with a historical bias, or SF/alternate universe. In terms of writing in general, my favourite genre to write (and read) is Middle Grade fiction. I’m obsessed with children’s books. As to why – I don’t think we have enough space to go into it!
9) Tell us about a WIP.
I’m very pleased to say my debut Middle Grade novel, The Eye of the North, is set to be published in late 2016 by Knopf Children’s Books in the USA and Canada. It’s about a small girl with no friends and a small boy with no name who are thrown together in a quest to save the world, and there are mythical beasts and the Northern Lights and the frozen wastes of the Arctic Circle and airships in it. It’s good. Check it out. 🙂
10) How do you feel about dragons?
I’m a medievalist at heart, so I’m fascinated by them, even if I can’t stop thinking of them as being symbolic of dark and scary things. So long as they speak to me in the voice of Benedict Cumberbatch, we’re all good!