Smoke and Mirrors: An Interview with Joshua Jones

by Jan Elman Stout Read the Story December 18, 2017

Did this story start with a particular image or idea? If so, how did it take shape from that point on?

The genesis of this story originally came about in one of Kathy Fish’s Fast Flash workshops, which I cannot recommend enough. I wanted to play with the idea of a beach vacation gone wrong and subvert it. I remember having the image of peeling skin as my starting point, but how it went from that to its current form is a mystery to even me.

What are the joys and struggles for you in writing flash fiction? 

I love that I can experiment on a smaller scale with the shorter form. I’m also often a slow writer, so flash affords me the opportunity to keep feeling like I’m making forward progress. I like the challenge of compression and how it focuses my attention on language far more than longer-form work does. That said, I don’t consider flash more or less of a struggle than working on longer pieces; it’s all hard work, and I put just as much time (if not more) into a flash piece as I do a longer piece, at least on a per-word basis. Lastly, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the wonderful community of flash fiction writers on Twitter. There are all these talented writers who are so encouraging and inspiring, and I’m grateful for all their support.

Who are some of your favorite flash writers (or flash stories)? Why?

This one’s so hard to answer. There are so many excellent writers and stories out there, and I’m constantly blown away by stories I see here and in other journals. There are some classics like Barthelme’s “The School” and Forché’s “The Colonel” that I will read and reread. Some stories I’ve read recently that have stuck with me include Jess Zimmerman’s “The Bearded Lady”, Meghan Phillips’ “The Creature from the Black Lagoon and Other Things I Wish My Boyfriend Would Call Me During Sex”, Maggie Tokuda-Hall’s “Miri and the Squid” , and so many others that are too numerous to list. What I love about those and so many other flash pieces is the strength of the voice, the precision of language, and so often a sense of playfulness or surprise.

What’s the best flash writing advice you’ve ever gotten?

Read your work aloud and give it breathing room between revisions. Cut out the fat. Make it sing. Flash is such a naked form. It has so few words that a writer can’t hide anything.

What do you do when you’re not writing?

 Writers with children will attest that there is precious little free time when one isn’t working a day job (in my case, I’m an animator at a game development studio), helping out with homework, or cleaning up after kids or pets. However, I do try to carve out time for reading. I wish I were a faster reader, since my to-read list keeps piling higher and higher. I’ve barely made a dent in the books and journals I picked up at this year’s AWP. I enjoy visual arts, and I’ve been trying to reinvigorate my all-too-rusty traditional art skills. Also, one of the perks of my day job is I can decompress with a video game and call it research.

About the Author:

Joshua Jones lives in Maryland where he works as an animator. His writing has appeared in Fanzine, Necessary Fiction, Juked, Cleaver Magazine, and elsewhere. Find him on Twitter @jnjoneswriter.

About the Interviewer:

Jan Elman Stout’s fiction has been published in Literary Orphans, Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Midwestern Gothic, Shotgun Honey, The Airgonaut, Jellyfish Review, (b)OINK and elsewhere. She is a reader for SmokeLong Quarterly. In her former life she was a psychologist. Jan lives with her husband in Washington, DC.