Interview by Rupert Dastur
Hi Rebecca! What was your introduction into Flash Fiction?
I fell into flash fiction last autumn, after finishing the first draft of my novel, when I read this piece in BoinkZine and was intrigued by the form. I had an idea for a story so thought I’d have a go myself and I haven’t looked back since.
What’s the best writing advice you’ve been given?
Don’t hold back. It resonated with me because my favourite books (American Psycho, The Secret History, The Handmaid’s Tale) are stories in which the authors pull no punches. But I don’t think this advice is reserved for novels with controversial content though.
Jonny Geller talks about the importance of a story resonating with readers in his TedX talk. I think when authors are honest and write from their gut and their heart, it connects with the reader whatever the subject – from love stories to thrillers.
Where do you like to write and what inspires you?
I write whenever and wherever I can plug my headphones into my laptop and get on with it. I have written with my kids climbing all over me and I have written all alone. My favourite place to write is at my kitchen table, looking into the garden, by myself, with a candle lit, but that’s not often an option! The place I am most productive is when I stay with my inlaws in Wales and they watch my kids so I can write.
More than anything else, music inspires me. I have mild synaesthesia – where you experience something through another sense eg my numbers have ages and colour and genders – I “see” them. Music isn’t just an auditory experience for me, it paints pictures in my head like nothing else. I get scenes and people and places almost immediately and they often coalesce into a story. I tend to listen to music – my novel playlists – very very loudly as I write and it seems to work for me.
What’s the hardest thing about writing Flash Fiction?
Making sure your story is the right length! I tend to write it all down in a big rush and then go back and pare away. Often, I find I’ve cut away too much when I’m editing, so I have to add stuff back in.
You’re one of TSS’s Senior Editors for the Best of British and Irish Flash Fiction 2018-19. What more can you tell us about this initiative?
I am delighted and privileged to be part of BIFFY50. The initiative has come out of a desire to celebrate the incredible flash fiction produced in the UK and Ireland. The Flash Fiction community is supportive, welcoming and talented and I can’t wait to champion the excellent writing out there.
Flash is uniquely placed to take us away from our life for just a moment or two. Whilst there might be people out there thinking flash is not for them, for whatever reason, those are the people I want to encourage to write and submit to journals. We want to read your pieces, show us those worlds and voices we’re not hearing.
Good writing isn’t always something that plays by the rules – some of the best writing breaks all rules. If you’re reading this and you’re worried about breaking rules, I’d say go ahead and break them, write in the best possible way for you to tell your story. It’ll be stronger for it.
What do you look for in Flash Fiction pieces?
For me story is everything. I don’t like style over substance. I want to feel what the narrator feels – fear, shame, pleasure, joy. The best flash writers, to me, excel at getting across voice – even in just a sentence or two. I’m not interested in shock for the sake of it, if there’s violence, sex or horror – and that’s all good with me – it needs to have a reason. We have a responsibility I think, as writers, when we’re telling tales that push boundaries and I think we need to be mindful of how we show the world – what we condone and what we condemn and how we do that. My very favourite pieces have a touch of magic, a modern fairy tale perhaps and paint a broad canvas on a small scale.
Do you have any particular flash fiction examples you like?
What would you like to see more of in the world of Flash – be that by writers, journals, or organisations?
I’d like more variety in the stories I read. I want to show people there is a demand for their stories and to encourage them to write. I’d like to encourage editors and zines and publishers to publish these stories and encourage a variety of submissions. I’d also like to see this reflected in the editorial boards of zines and publishers.
I’d like more facility for writers to support each other and talk to each other. A lot of communication is done via twitter, but where there are flash festivals, these are few and far between. I’d love to see more webinars, more mentoring, more networking and more fee-waiving initiatives to break down barriers and widen access for all writers.
Rebecca Williams has had pieces in Zero Flash, EllipsisZine, The Cabinet of Heed, Retreat West andSpelk amongst others and is currently working on a novel. She enjoys stories that are dark, quirky and bold. Her favourite authors include Bret Easton Ellis, Margaret Atwood and Alice Hoffman. She lives in Surrey with her young family. You can find her on Twitter @stupidgirl45 or on her website here.
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