“Space in One’s Life That Needs to be Filled”: An Interview with Erin Fitzgerald

by Tara Laskowski See all Guest Readers
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The writer of the story Erin picks this week (January 18-24) will receive a copy of her novella, Valletta78.

What makes you keep reading a piece of flash fiction?

The piece is different somehow—in topic, in viewpoint, in tone, in approach—and there’s genuine confidence behind that.

What’s the worst offender when it comes to bad flash fiction, in your opinion?

Besides punchline endings? Lack of attention to language. Good flash fiction writers make me want to read their grocery lists.

For those of us out there who haven’t read it yet, give us your elevator pitch on your new book. Make us say, “Oooh! I want to read that!” before we hit our floor.

When you hear about online hoaxes, it’s from the point of view of the victim. Valletta78 is from the point of view of the perpetrator.

So tell me where the idea came from for Valletta78? And what was the most fun part of writing it, and what was the most challenging?

v78coverI read “Manti Te’o’s Dead Girlfriend, The Most Heartbreaking and Inspirational Story of the College Football Season, Is A Hoax.” (http://deadspin.com/manti-teos-dead-girlfriend-the-most-heartbreaking-an-5976517). A lot of people thought that Te’o was really clueless, and I found myself arguing with people about that. Falling for a hoax like that is less about intelligence, and more about having a space in one’s life that needs to be filled. Once interest in it all had passed, I was still thinking about that. Writing about it was the next logical step.

The most fun part of writing Valletta78 was the research. I never tire of research. Most of the story is set in an upscale planned community in 2003—just long ago enough to offer some interesting challenges. At the same time, current tech was also a huge help—there’s a section in which someone drives several hundred miles, and Google Street View let me take most of that trip.

The most challenging part was living with the main character in my head for a few months. I think unsympathetic characters are easier to deal with in flash fiction. In that case, I can say to myself “If I make the time, this character will be out of my hair soon.”  But with V, I was stuck for a while. I had to find ways to get from the beginning to the end that didn’t rely on me liking her, because I never did.

Give me three links to recent online flash fiction that you would’ve been thrilled to see land in our submission queue.

Ravi Mangla, “Anamnesis

Flash fiction as blockbuster. I’ve copied it out by hand just to get a better sense of how it works.

Wyl Villacres, “Junk Mail and Hospital Bills

A story about loss, in which the less-than-real makes it all more real.

Kashana Cauley, “Building Jumper

One of the pieces of advice one commonly hears about flash fiction: Include lots of detail. Here’s exactly how to do it.


About the Reader:

Erin Fitzgerald is the author of the novella Valletta78 (Outpost19), and her stories have appeared in fine literary magazines such as Salt Hill, Wigleaf, and matchbook. She is Online Editor at Barrelhouse, @gnomeloaf on Twitter, and everything else at http://erinfitzgerald.work.

About the Interviewer:

Tara Laskowski has been editor at SmokeLong Quarterly since 2010. Her short story collection Bystanders was hailed by Jennifer Egan as "a bold, riveting mash-up of Hitchcockian suspense and campfire-tale chills." She is also the author of Modern Manners For Your Inner Demons, tales of dark etiquette. Her fiction has been published in the Norton anthology Flash Fiction International, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Mid-American Review, and numerous other journals, magazines, and anthologies. Tara lives and works in a suburb of Washington, D.C.