Today, I’m very pleased to welcome flash-fictioneer Karl A Russell to my blog. At 1000words, we have published two of his tales: the humorous Stormin’ Norma (a 1000words National Flash-Fiction Day 2013 winner) and the haunting (and very recent) Such Sights To See.
Hi, Karl. Thanks for agreeing to be interviewed. What prompted you to submit your flash-fictions to 1000words?
I love writing contests, prompts, anything which gets the ideas flowing, and I’ve been so impressed with the stories I’ve seen on here, I thought it was high time I had another crack at it.
We’ve published two of your stories at 1000words. Can you give us an insight into how you get from your chosen image to a final flash-fiction?
I just scrolled through the boards, looking at all the photos, till I found the one which “spoke” to me. Sometimes, photo prompts can be completely incidental to my stories, but for Such Sights To See, it was a very clear inspiration. I saw the photo, wondered where she was and why it was blurred, and that just made the whole thing pop in my head; OK, so she’s got bad eyes because… and she’s in the city because… and he took her there because…
Other than images, what inspires your stories?
Music. I can (and do) write anywhere, but I can’t write in silence. Wherever I am, I’ve got a couple of pads, a couple of pens and my mp3 player. It can be very obvious – I rewrote the lyrics to I Say A Little Prayer as a zombie love story, and just used Talking Heads for a fake reality tale – but other times it can be more of a tonal inspiration; Can I take the feel of listening to this and turn it into fiction?
Which writers (or other creatives) have inspired you?
Of the big names, Stephen King for his apparently careless ease with words, and Philip K. Dick for his endless stream of ideas. Much closer to home though, I have a fantastic group of supportive and inspirational friends – Jacki Donellan, David Shakes, Bart Van Goethem, Beth Deitchman and many more – who turn out every week at The Angry Hourglass and show me how many different ways there are to interpret a single prompt and how many different kinds of stories one writer can tell. I occasionally judge there too, and I’ve learned so much reading their work out of competition.
What do you like about reading and writing flash-fiction?
Going back to music, it’s like the difference between a triple gatefold concept album and a minute-thirty punk single. There’s no time for digression and superfluous noodling, you just have to jump straight in and grab the reader by the throat. There’s nothing wrong with Dark Side of the Moon of course, but I could listen to Teenage Kicks all day and night, and reading flash is the same. As a writer, it’s also incredibly challenging as all I have is this moment, a tight deadline and a limited word count to tell you everything about the world; “I’ve got three words left to express how much he loved his late mother, and the contest closes in an hour…”
What tips would you give to aspiring flash-fiction writers?
Write, and don’t be afraid to show people what you can do. Whether you think it works or not, whether you express what you wanted or not, it doesn’t matter; Someone will appreciate it, and this time next week, there’ll be a whole new prompt, a whole new set of stories, and you get to try all over again. But don’t be afraid to try. And maybe get yourself over to Flash!Friday or The Angry Hourglass too and meet some of the nicest people around (and me…).
Thanks again for agreeing to be interviewed. But before we let you go, is there anything else you’d like us to know?
Taking a leaf out of Jacki’s book, I should say that I’m writing a novel, just so that I can’t let it slide again. I’m also thinking about trying my hand at another screenplay and a comic script or two as people keep referring to the visual element of my stories.
Most of all though, I should tell you that I’m selling a collection of my stories through Just Giving, raising funds for a local hospice, The Halton Haven. They do great work and will appreciate every penny they get, so if you want to read more of my stories, head on over to the link and drop a couple of quid for a very worthy cause.
You can read Karl’s stories here and here. You can also find him tweeting here.