Apples made the world fall, from that bite in Eden to the one that dropped upon Newton’s head, creating gravity. But they were red apples, I assume. Tell me more about blue apples.
I always saw Newton’s apple as green—a crisp Granny Smith—but I’m often wrong and always contrary. “Blue apple” here was a flash-prompt, so I can’t take the credit for it. I’d recently read one of the Narnia books to a child, where the health-giving apple was brought back to the dying mother from a guarded garden. I’d also seen the twisted ropelike veins of chemo in the arms of a friend, and something made me google Vincristine. When I found that it originated from periwinkle flowers it connected blue, apples, health and those clear blue-sky moments we all reach for, and the story wrote itself (and I had ink-stains on my fingers).
What challenges did this piece pose to you as a writer?
It was difficult to keep the truth of the piece without becoming too clever-clever. There were many neat allusions that fitted into the theme, but I wanted the story to be character-led without getting carried away with “thirty-four uses for the word blue in a story”. There was also a problem with a weak ending which Kathy Fish remarked on. I rewrote it, but eventually we agreed it was better just to cut the final paragraph, losing a too-sweet, too-neat summing up.
Talk to me about your hyphenated words. Love, love, love them. Dancing-shoes. Poster-paint. Heart-sickness. Milk-blue. Willow-patterned. Skin-deep. Hammock-seat. Through-and-through. Pink-white. Squirrel-hair. Tea-towel.
Ha. The prosaic reason is that I’m ridiculously verbose (haven’t you noticed?). It’s the only way to get the word-count under the magic 1K. I honestly hadn’t noticed it as an idiosyncrasy—I’ll be all shy about it now. Don’t other people do it? It’s probably because I’m not yet quite brave enough to invent my own words very often, and I’m also a very proper Brit who likes to connect the thoughts rather than leaving a reader to say “huh” too often. And I like to write with rhythm and sound, so it sometimes acts as a phrasing mark to a sentence.
You are relatively new to the short fiction genre and have enjoyed much success already. What led you to flash fiction?—and what’ve been the keys to your quick rise to fame and glory?
Hmmm. Not exactly fame and glory. I’ve entered a lot of comps and had some success – more than a dozen first prizes so far—but comp places are often filled with the same names time and again, and I probably started writing at a time when several contests wanted a new voice in the placings. I’m sure this year will be far bleaker. I write with Alex Keegan’s Boot Camp, and we work HARD. If you constantly write, crit, rewrite, submit, you’re more likely to get published. As far as flash fiction goes, you won’t like my answer. I’m TERRIFIED of timed flashes, sit and shudder in front of a blank screen, but I know the exercise is good for the writing muscles. I like writing 4-5K stories at the moment, and they’re getting even longer.
Word is you live in a village in England. Give us details. We love details.
Life in an English village is a mixture of stifling intimacy, natural freedom, eccentricity, conformity, distrust of strangers and open-armed welcome. It’s a place where anyone who’s lived there less than thirty years is an outsider, but when your house burns down you, your family, your pets will be taken into another household without question, and everything will be offered as a gift, from potato-peelers to school uniforms (yes, that happened). It’s a place of drunken wheelie-bin racing, a school dog sitting quiet by a student’s desk, mad parties because nobody has to drive, your neighbour knowing you’re pregnant before you do, letting young children cycle and camp out in safety. A good English village is a magic place to bring up a family, and a safe, companionable place to grow old in.