Smoking With H. A. Fleming

Read the Story June 15, 2004

We don’t see many dead body flashes. Can you tell us a little about the genesis of this story?

There are a few answers to this. Some, like the answer to why I have been fascinated by serial killers and forensic science since I was an adolescent, are better left for my shrink. But seriously, the story started when the sentence “I found a body” popped up as I was lying in bed.

I’m very interested by the public’s fascination with death and murder. I thought of a character who could take this to an extreme. I wonder about why people love slasher films and true crime stories. Maybe it’s to assuage our fears about our own mortality that we turn horror into entertainment. Why are there shows like HBO’s autopsy and “CSI” and why the heck, to the disgust of my spouse, do I TiVo them?

Are there any recurrent themes that you find yourself visiting again and again in your work?

I always seem to write about suburbia, missing fathers, infidelity, adolescence, death, unfulfilled artists, and cigarette smoking bad girls who like to hang out at 7-11.

At what age did you know you wanted to be a writer? Was there an event that triggered it?

I always loved to write. I remember being so excited in 3rd grade when we were asked to incorporate our vocabulary words into a story. My story involved a murdered baby sitter and a kid who killed the bad guy. Growing up I thought I was going to be a lawyer like my father, but I changed my mind when I was a senior in high school when I took my first writing workshop. I decided that writing was the only thing I wanted to do.

I then spent an absurd amount of my parent’s money at a tiny liberal arts college that didn’t give grades—where I wrote stories, painted, and read 16th century literature, and graduated with no marketable skills whatsoever.

How do you feel about flash fiction vs. other forms of literature?

It’s so hard to make such a tiny story complete. It’s more like poetry—it either works or it doesn’t. Short stories are more forgiving.

If you could choose any fictional character to live next door to, who would it be?

Hmm. This is a hard one. I think I would like to have Lolita as a neighbor. We could hangout by my pool, drink margaritas, and talk about older men.

My real neighbor is a scary old man with a big belly, plaid shirt, and a long white beard. He has a lot of junk on his front yard, never sleeps, and threatens to shoot the neighborhood hooligans with his shotgun.

About the Author:

H. A. Fleming lives in New York. She received her BA from Sarah Lawrence College where she studied creative writing. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in or are forthcoming in The Barcelona Review, Carve Magazine, Literary Potpourri, Word Riot, Flashquake, The Vestal Review, and other journals.

About the Artist:

A native of Ohio, Marty D. Ison lives with his wife transplanted in the sands of the Gulf of Mexico. He studied fine arts at Saint Petersburg College. In addition to the visual arts, he writes poetry, short stories, and novels. See more of Ison's work here.