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 Deb Foy (again, again, again, again!!). Read her winning story here. Note that this is her FOURTH win!!! Head on over to her winner’s page to read her previous winning stories & then come back to get to know her better.
1) What about the prompts inspired your winning piece?
The picture was gripping but “Lawyer” did nothing for me. (Is there anything more boring than the legal system? No. The answer is no.) I scratched out two different drafts: one involved a time-traveling demon-attorney (already taken), and the other centered on a suicidal lawyer with feelings of insecurity thanks to the manly men in his lineage (lovely, right?). Those ideas died before the ink dried.
When I visited the prompt a third time, I reconsidered the character requirement. What else is a lawyer? An advocate. Someone who intercedes for another. And the picture? Images of being in the cockpit, careening toward the iron-hard face of the carrier, took over. How would the body respond? What chemical reactions would ignite? Everyone is their truest self in the face of death so who was this guy? What memories were rushing at him?
Near-death experiences (NDEs) are enthralling, and whether you believe in an afterlife or not, the testimony of “life flashing before your eyes” is well known. My faith is the crux of who I am. If I were the pilot in those moments, the idea of Christ as our advocate, our “lawyer” not only for things already achieved and regretted but also for that fearful separation of body and spirit, would be what held me through impact. And the hymn just fit too perfectly to not include it. (BTW: My history buff brother informed me later that the pilot DID survive – does it get better than that? Nope.)
2) Your four wins have all been within the past four months, which is just crazy; you’ve also won over at Flash Frenzy and MicroBookends. Aside from being a flash fiction rockstar, what are your writing goals–where would you like to see your writing go this next year? Five years? What would be a real “win” for you in that sense?
A “real win,” and the ultimate goal, is to know others enjoy and find inspiration in what I write. (And millions of $$.) Whether they’re reading on pixels or paper, I want my readers wrestling with questions they hadn’t before, discussing issues they’d avoided, and arriving at a better understanding of why they believe what they believe. I want everything I write to have meaning, to have purpose.
Goals for the next year? Now that’s a fine question! Let’s see… in the next year I’d like to get a 2nd draft down on any of my four WIPs (maybe even finish it). For the next five years, I will (note the pretend confidence) completely transition from a worker bee to an artistic bee. Writing might not be the most profitable profession but, for me, I think it’ll be the most rewarding.
3) Still plugging away at your NaNo novel? how’s that going? can you tell us anything about it? and what’s it like forging through a longer work as opposed to flash?
Yes and no. After recently losing my USB (clever me!) with the most up-to-date version of my 2014 NaNo book, the gears ground to a halt. Grmbgrmbgrmrm. For a month, I putzed around in other WIPs, moped, pouted, grumbled, and cursed my negligence. Then one day – voila! – I found it safely tucked in a pair of infrequently worn pants. *Cue Hallelujah chorus* With my confidence and the USB restored, my goal for May is to hammer away at that rough stone and see if there’s a diamond hiding inside.
Now if I told you what the story’s about–well, okay! I guess you can have the blurb:
“Diversity is the enemy of peace.” This is the philosophy that’s kept 24th century America from falling into factions. When Di’Angelo discovers Nohemi, a 12-year-old Infiltrator, he must decide whether to harbor her as a political refugee or report her to the State. In a society devoid of dissimilarity, their friendship will threaten universal concordance, proving that nothing is more divisive than our differences.
Like I said, it’s a work in progress. Novel-length is so much harder than flash; a book won’t write itself in 24 hours and get feedback within 72. I need patience.
4) You’ve talked in the past about taking risks in writing. Could you expound on that? What does “risk” look like in a contest such as FF? in a novel?
What’s the point of writing if you can’t take risks? It’d be boring, right? Actually, if you know your audience (or in this case your FF judge), taking risks isn’t that risky. This past week is a perfect example. My writing can be vague; I leave a lot unsaid. My thought is, people are smart. You don’t have to lay everything out there for them to “get it.”
I was comfortable letting the lawyer piece be mostly subtext because I’ve gotten familiar with Mark and Tamara’s styles. Both of them are incredible writers and say far more than most with fewer words. When reading their stories, you ALWAYS know there’s a deeper meaning. With We Rest on Thee, I trusted them to understand what wasn’t explicitly stated: that Christ is the ultimate lawyer. It might seem risky but it all goes back to knowing your audience; I wouldn’t have submitted the same to a more literal judge.
In my novels, I try to incorporate at least one controversial element. Not to be bellicose. But to keep people thinking, and, hopefully, interested. You know the saying; “Well behaved women seldom make history, and pleasantly bland books never make classics.” Okay, I added that last part.
5) What’s your take on publishing today? do you see yourself going the traditional agent/big house route, small press, indie?
These days I’m leaning more toward Indie, thanks to the brave women who’ve gone before (looking at you, Margaret Locke and Tamara Shoemaker). Also, if working for a non-profit with grants has taught me anything, it’s that I want freedom in creativity. Restrictions and regulations are water to flame. That and I doubt I’d have the patience to wait 6 months for a response from a big house pub.
6) Favorite book so far this year? Favorite new or new-to-you author? What upcoming book(s) are you excited about?
This question panicked me (I haven’t been reading as much as I should). But I’m going to have to give favorite book of 2015 to Margaret Locke’s “A Man of Character.” I don’t do romance, but hers had enough paranormal happenings to feed the fantasy beast. Plus, Eliza! (Shameless plug: tune in May 27th for the Insider Interview.)
Books I’m excited for: the second FlashDogs Anthology, baby! It’s been such a thrill working with my FlashDog partner on stories for this next book, and hers are brilliant. It makes me excited for the rest. I’ve convinced my entire family (and we are legion) to buy it.
7) Talk about writing as a craft: do you make a conscious effort to grow as a writer, or do you feel it happens organically? You’ve been writing a long time–what are some ways you’ve already grown? what would you like to grow better at?
Both. Organically, through participating in weekly contests and occasionally judging for Finish That Thought or Micro Bookends. Consciously, through the Shenandoah Valley Writers Critique Group. It’s hard to find encouraging feedback that’s also honest, but we’ve got a good team and I learn something every time I’m in the hot seat. The group recently critiqued a story I’d written in my teens/early twenties. It’s a speech-tags-poor-punctuation-to-be-verbs colossus. They were kind.
There’s so much I want to improve! Punctuation and grammar are Mount Everest. I’ve reached base camp with the rest of that snowy face waiting to be conquered. Then there are genres-jungles I need to explore, comfort zones I need to venture out of, grooves trying to bog me down. It’s a process.
8) Have any writerly pet peeves–what drives you crazy in novels/stories/flash?
I don’t enjoy stories that fall back on sexualized violence for cheap attention. You know the ones. Guy pissed at uninterested girl, kidnaps her, chains her in basement, and takes out his sexual frustrations on her. Same with child abuse stories. It’s lazy shock value. That’s not to say we shouldn’t write about evil. If we’re true to the human experience, we must. Evil exists. But while the stories that expose it are raw and terrifying, they have a purpose. They’re not looking to hook readers then dump them feeling dirty. Sexualized violence is prevalent in all forms, flash to novel. A good writer shouldn’t have to rely on it.
9) Shout out time: who in the FF community inspires you?
Oh, good! We get to end on a happier note. J I could mention so many brilliant writers but I’ll narrow it down to two:
Clive Tern – I’ve had the pleasure of reading some of Clive’s longer works, and I envy his ease of blending science and fiction. I had to ask him his background because his imagery and terminology feel seamless. (He could’ve had me believing he was a Cosmonaut.) One day I hope to be able to write Sci-Fi just as well.
Holly Geely – Holly is one of those writers who can take your heart, warm it with a tender story, then rip it into bloody halves at the final line. Her writing has the same emotional remnants as “Cliché,” a flash piece in the first FlashDog Anthology written by our own Rebekah Postupak — though, thankfully, she doesn’t usually go that far and instead keeps me laughing. Humor is not my strong suit (what? you’d noticed?) so I’m hoping one day she’ll teach me her art.