Author Interview with Vineetha Mokkil

  1. Who or what inspired you to write short stories and when did you begin writing?

All the writers I read and digested inspired me to write. I was a voracious reader as a child. I started writing when I was in middle school. Some of those stories were written for competitions held at school and some stayed on the pages of my notebooks. I’ve loved books ever since I can remember. Reading stories was such a pleasure and a fascinating voyage of discovery—of other lives and worlds—and I couldn’t resist the temptation of trying my hand at writing them. I was enthralled as a reader and I wanted to see if I could write stories to recreate that immersive and magical experience for my readers.

  1. How has living in various places – New York, Delhi and Taos affected your writing? Do you think travel helps to inspire your work?

Every place I’ve lived in or visited shapes my writing in particular ways. The energy of a place—inspiring, soothing, manic or comatose—rubs off on me. The essence of a place stays in my heart long after I say goodbye. The people I meet and the stories they tell, the sights, sounds, skies, and hidden histories of a place all spark my fiction. Travel is inextricably linked to my process. New places jumpstart my imagination. The memories they gift me are fertile ground for stories to germinate.

  1. Do you create a structure for your stories before you begin or are they more fluid?

I tend to write short stories and flash fiction in a fluid way. I have a basic idea of the flow of the story, but it’s not strictly structured before I begin. Whereas with my novel, which I’m currently working on, I found that I had to create a solid structure before I started.

  1. What advice would you give to writers wanting to submit work to literary journals?

Get your story into the best shape possible. Rewrite, refine, edit and polish vigorously before you submit. Keep at it inspite of rejections. Appreciate the feedback editors give you and incorporate it into your work. Acceptances will eventually come your way.

  1. How has winning writing competitions affected your journey as an author?

Writing competitions come with strict deadlines and they force me to sit down at my desk and finish a story on time. Competitions make me a more disciplined writer in this sense. Winning a competition makes me feel my hard work is being appreciated. That’s a wonderful boost for a writer. It gives you reason to believe in yourself and your art and to carry on writing in a world which is largely indifferent to creative endeavours.

  1. Can you tell us about your collection, A Happy Place, and your route to publication with Harper Collins?

I didn’t start out with a collection in mind. The stories were written one at a time. The title story was published in the Santa Fe Writers’ Project Journal. My eternal gratitude to the editors for that acceptance! Then, a few more of my stories got published in literary journals and magazines, and that gave me the confidence to consider putting together a collection. Once I had enough stories, the hunt for an agent started. It was not easy. Some agents loved my writing, but they were running scared of taking on short stories. It took a lot of effort and patience to find an agent who believed in the collection’s possibilities. She sent it out to several publishers and I was thrilled when HarperCollins said yes to it.

  1. Who are your favourite short story authors?

It’s a long list. To name a few: Chekhov, O. Henry, TC Boyle, Anita Desai, Lucia Berlin, Anne Enright, EL Doctorow, Akil Kumarasamy, Chimamanda Adichie, KJ Orr, Deborah Eisenberg.

  1. What do you think is the essence of a good piece of short fiction?

Telling detail, tension, humour, nuance, startling imagery, and the ability to make a word resonate in different registers at the same time.

  1. What are you currently reading and which book would you take to a desert island, and why?

I am currently devoting all my time to working on my novel, though it’s a tough challenge to resist the call of my very attractive to-read pile. The last book I read and was bowled over by was The Friend by Sigrid Nunez, an incredibly perceptive and well-written novel about friendship, loyalty, loss, and grief. My desert island pick would be Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient. The copy I own is falling apart because I’ve re-read it so many times. This novel surprises me every time I read it. It is so lyrical, insightful, wise, and immense in scope—I’d be delighted to be marooned on an island with it.

 Vineetha Mokkil is the author of the short story collection, A Happy Place and other stories (HarperCollins), which was listed as one of the Ten Best Works of Fiction by The Telegraph. She was shortlisted for the Bath Flash Award June 2018, shortlisted for the Desi Writers Lounge Short Story Contest 2018, and is the winner of the New Asian Writing Short Story Competition 2018. She was a nominee for Best Small Fictions 2019. Her fiction has appeared in Barren, Cosmonauts Avenue, Fictive Dream, The Best Asian Short Stories 2018 (Kitaab, Singapore), GravelJellyfish Review, Quarterly Literary Review Singapore and chosen for the Longform fiction pick-of-the-week.

You can find Vineetha on Twitter @VineethaMokkil and her books on her Amazon author page

Interview with EllipsisZine Editor, Steve Campbell


Ellipsis Zine is an online and print literary magazine for beautifully written fiction & creative nonfiction.

How and why did you begin Ellipsis Zine, and how long has it been running?


I set up Ellipsis Zine in June 2017 and initially wanted to create an online space for flash fiction I liked to read. I hadn’t been writing flash very long and thought that a website with a mixture of work I enjoyed reading would help improve my own writing, while also offering a new space for writers to submit to. I wasn’t sure how well that was going to be received but pretty soon I was swamped with great submissions. Following on from the wave of excitement during the first month, I took the plunge and opened a call for work to be published in print and I was completely overwhelmed with the response.

What have you learned from your experience as Founding Editor?

It’s all subjective. I’ve declined work that has almost immediately been snapped up by other publications and reading them again, it was clear I was wrong to pass on them. There can also be any number of factors for a piece being declined, it’s not always because the piece isn’t ready. The magazine may not be the right fit. Timing can also be important – and not always something that a submittor can do anything about. If a piece submitted deals with the break up of a relationship, for example, I would generally pass on it if I’ve published a similar piece recently.

What do you do with your time outside working on the Zine?

I work in a marketing department, with a background in design, and so the setting up of the magazine and print zines has been a fairly smooth process.

The editorial team has expanded. Can you tell me who is on the team and how or why they were chosen?

I have a great team of flash writers helping me behind the scenes. Stephanie Hutton, Amelia Sachs, Richard De Nooy, Helen Rye, Jennifer Harvey and Christina Dalcher. It was Richard who first suggested putting together a team, to help strengthen the website and have a team to help compile the zines, and as a sounding board for ideas and advice. Working in a bubble can be difficult at times, so having a team of writers to work with has been invaluable.

What are you looking for in a piece that you hope to publish?

We want to publish stories that make us forget where we are, stories that introduce us to people, places and things we’ve never seen before and stories that stick with us long after we leave them. In the same way a great song, novel or film, hangs around with the audience. We want a great piece of flash to be something that will be read again and again, and something that will linger.

Can you tell us about the process from submission to publication in the online and print zines?

With print online submissions, I try to get back to everyone within seven days. If selected, I may put forward minor edit suggestions and then provide a date for publication. This is usually scheduled around a month or so later, depending on the time of year. With the print publications, the time between submission and selection is a little longer. With the last few zines, I’ve had one or more of the editorial board compile the list of published work for me. Again, once chosen, we ask for minor edits to the work. Once the zine is compiled, I will send page proofs to all writers, to ensure I’ve copied everything over correctly. At this point, writers have the opportunity to make any last minute changes. This is usually a week or two before publication.

Do you have any advice for authors sending you submissions?

That’s a tough question, because I tend to want to publish a wide mix of work, but it is important to note that it is all subjective. I’ve published sci-fi, horror and humour and I do notice trends with submissions. I sometimes get a batch of work that hasn’t made the longlist/shortlist of a competition, because they are all on the same theme. I’ve also noticed that I can receive a large amount of work based on death, relationship breakdown, dementia etc. I have written pieces on these subjects myself, and although, individually they are brilliantly written, when I receive a lot of them, they can lose their impact. I’d suggest that anyone who approaches these subjects to think a little differently. This will help set the work apart from others.

Can you tell us a little about the expansion into areas such as the Novella-in-Flash, collections, and zines celebrating LGBTQ writers?

Much like everything with Ellipsis, the expansion into publishing Novella-in-Flash and collections stemmed from wanting to try something new. Stephanie Hutton’s novella was a huge success, selling much more than any of the other zines and so it was natural to try and replicate that success. Talking with Stephanie about an open call, she put forward the idea of publishing an author who wasn’t as established – hence, the call for a debut flash collection from an unpublished author. This desire to give underrepresented voices a platform, naturally, influenced the decision to publish a zine that celebrated LGBTQ writers and their work.

What are your plans for Ellipsis for the coming year?

We have an extremely busy year ahead. There are a few flash events, which I will be attending in the Summer: National Flash Fiction Day, June 15th, has just been confirmed, and a publication launch. Our Love | Pride zine, celebrating LGBTQ writers and their work, is released at the end of February, along with a flash fiction collection in April/May. The Summer zine publication will be collection by a single author. Later in the year we’ll have a call for submissions for another zine and a micro-fiction competition. There are ongoing website submissions and, at some point, I may need to have a lie down.

You have recently had some of your own work published. Can you tell us about your own writing?

I’m still finding my feet with my own writing, but running Ellipsis has been extremely helpful. I have read some amazing work and this has enabled me to see what does/doesn’t work with a piece of flash. I began to write my own novella-in-flash, which was sidelined to write a novel, which was then sidelined to write another novel. At some point in the next few years I’m sure one of these projects may be finished.

What are your top five literary journals or magazines?

I love the work in Flashback Fiction. There is the added bonus of hearing the pieces being read by the authors. Popshot Magazine is also a favourite. I’m a sucker for a printed publication, and this is beautifully put together. I also regularly read MoonPark Review, TSS Publishing and Reflex Fiction, but this list is not exhaustive because there are so many great publications out there. I’ve compiled a list of some of my favourite publications on the Ellipsis website here: ellipsiszine.com/literary-magazines/

Follow EllipsisZine on twitter: twitter.com/EllipsisZine or on facebook: facebook.com/EllipsisZine.LitMag

Ellipsis is managed by Steve Campbell and has the support of an editorial board of international flash fiction writers and published authors. View their biographies here: Editorial Board.

Steve Campbell has work published in places such as Spelk, Fictive Dream, MoonPark Review, Molotov Cocktail and Flashback Fiction. He is Managing Editor of Ellipsis Zine and trying to write a novel. You can follow him via twitter @standondog and his website, standondog.com.

Short story publications

Stories published in online journals

Short stories are the heartbeat of many writers. I intersperse writing short stories with writing and editing novels. My second novel is now complete and edited. Below is a list of my recent publications and some links to other stories I have enjoyed reading.

Is He?, Mojave Heart Journal, February 2019

Lavender, Synaeresis Issue 5, January 2019

You Listen to the Sound of Gulls, EllipsisZine, December 2018

Your House is too Small, Spillwords, November 2018

Classic Short Stories for Fiction Writers

writersedit.com

Stories I Have Enjoyed Reading in Recent Publications

I Eat the Flowers on Your Grave by Barbara Lovric, Anti-Heroin Chic

Bullseye by Meg Pogkrass, Fictive Dream

Sanctus Spiritus, 1512 by Sarah Arantza Amador, Cheap Pop Lit

Against the Grain by Tara Isabel Zambrano, Wigleaf

The Mightiest Mammal, Singing by Kate Finegan, Pigeonholes

Senna by Steve Campbell, FlashBack Fiction

Screaming Story by Deve Murphy, Jellyfish Review

In November 2017 by S.L. Bailey, SmokeLong Quarterly

And if you’d like to read more….

Best Microfiction List

  • Sarah Arantza Amador, “Sanctus Spiritus, 1512” (Cheap Pop)
  • Anita Arlov, “He She It They” (National Flash Fiction Day NZ)
  • Jessica Barksdale, “Knock Knock” (Matchbook)
  • Roberta Beary, “Swimming in Circles” (KYSO Flash)
  • Matt Bell, “The Hungerer” (Wigleaf)
  • Dick Bentley, “Health Care” (Serving House Journal)
  • Gregory Brown, “Birdhouse” (PRISM International)
  • Cavin Bryce, “Fragments of Evolution” (Cheap Pop)
  • Tetman Callis, “Candlelight and Flowers” (NY Tyrant)
  • Mike Chin, “Training” (Passages North)
  • Myfanwy Collins, “Euthanasia” (Jellyfish Review)
  • Tim Craig, “Northern Lights” (Bath Flash Fiction Award)
  • Tommy Dean, “You’ve Stopped” (Pithead Chapel)
  • Olga Dermott Bond, “Mr Rochester and I” (Bath Flash Fiction v3)
  • Leonora Desar, “Fire, Ocean” (TSS)
  • Leonora Desar, “My Father’s Girlfriend” (Matchbook Lit)
  • Leonora Desar, “The Monkey” (Reflex Fiction)
  • Will Finlayson, “The Strip Club” (Southampton Review)
  • Valerie Fox, “Even the Christmas Tree was Nicer That Year” (Across the Margins)
  • Sarah Freligh, “Any Body” (Cincinatti Review)
  • Frances Gapper, “Plum Jam” (Flashback Fiction)
  • Jo Gatford, “Things Left And Found By The Side Of The Road” (Bath Flash Fiction Award)
  • Christopher Gaumer, “He Died We Left Him Til Morning” (The Citron Review)
  • Beth Gilstrap, “Becky” (Pithead Chapel)
  • Beth Gilstrap, “Bone Words” (Longleaf Review)
  • Melissa Goode, “Empire of Light” (Gone Lawn)
  • Melissa Goode, “I Wanna Be Adored ” (Cheap Pop)
  • Melissa Goode, “Tonight, We Are Awake” (Wigleaf)
  • Anita Goveas, “Frau Roentgen’s Left Hand” (Flashback Fiction)
  • Anita Goveas, “Let’s Sing All the Swear Words We Know ” (Lost Balloons)
  • Tina May Hall, “The Extinction Museum: Exhibit #28 (incandescent bulb, unlit)The Collagist” (The Collagist)
  • Toni Halleen, “Not the Whole Story” (Wigleaf)
  • Steven John, “A Brief History of Time in Our House” (Ad Hoc Fiction)
  • Peter Krumbach, “11.37” (The Adroit Journal)
  • Meghan Lamb, “Missing” (Passages North)
  • Raven Leilani, “Kanekalon” (Split Lip)
  • Page Leland, “Self Portrait with Early December” (Former Cactus)
  • Robert Lopez, “A Warm Motherly Look” (Wigleaf)
  • Paul Luikart, “Breathless” (Brilliant Flash Fiction)
  • Fiona Mackintosh, “Siren” (Bath Flash Fiction Award)
  • Fiona Mackintosh, “The Chemistry of Living Things” (Fish Publishing)
  • Lutivini Majanja, “Am Inheritance” (Flash Frontier)
  • Prosper Makara, “Lessons from my Mother” (Afreada– Africa’s Literary Magazine)
  • Dan Malakoff, “Loop-the-Loop” (Wigleaf)
  • Michael Martone, “Boom” (Always Crashing)
  • Michael Martone, “Klaus Weber, Curb House Numberer” (The Collagist)
  • Kathleen McGookey, “You Can Find Joy in Doing Laundry” (KYSO)
  • Adam McOmber, “A Roman Road” (Atticus Review)
  • Heather McQuillan, “A post-traumatic god” (Menicus)
  • KC Mead-Brewer, “It’s Shaped like a Grin, They Say” (Cheap Pop)
  • Jose Enrique Medina, “Niňos de La Tierra” (Burnside Review)
  • Tracy Lynne Oliver, “This Weekend” (Fanzine)
  • Dominica Phetteplace, “After the Flood Waters Came” (Wigleaf)
  • Meghan Phillips, “Abstinence Only” (Passages North)
  • Megan Phillips, “Final Girl Slumber Party” (Barrelhouse)
  • Kristen Ploetz, “LifeColor Indoor Latex Paints® — Whites and Reds (R)” (JMWW)
  • Claire Polders, “Breathlessness” (Moonpark Review)
  • Dina Relles, “And Sometimes We Meet” (Matchbook)
  • Belinda Rimmer, “Domestic” (Anti-Heroin Chic)
  • Nicole Rivas, “Crumbs” (The Cincinnati Review)
  • Becky Robison, “Baby Dolls” (Pank)
  • Brad Rose, “Desert Motel” (Pithead Chapel)
  • Sarah Salway, “Not Sorry” (Cincinnati Review)
  • Kim Samsin, “World’s Finest” (Matchbook)
  • Noa Sivan, “The End of the World” (Synaesthesia Magazine)
  • Rachel Smith, “What I Now Know” (Flash Frontier)
  • Rachel Smith, “Glossectomy” (Menicus)
  • Joe Squance, “The Seeds of Things” (Cease, Cows)
  • Elizabeth Stix, “Tsunami” (Southampton Review)
  • Paul Strohm, “Masculinities” (West Marin Review)
  • Xenia Taiga, “Princesses” (Synaesthesia Magazine)
  • Kaj Tanaka, “The Hair Child” (Bending Genres)
  • Sharon Telfer, “My Father Comforts Me in the Form of Birds” (Reflex Fiction Magazine)
  • Jamie Thunder, “The Central Line Has Severe Delays” (Spelk)
  • Cathy Ulrich, “The Delicate Art of Ikebana” (Barren Magazine)
  • TM Upchurch, “There Will Be No Lace” (Flashback Fiction)
  • Zach VandeZande, “Making an Illegal U Turn on 15th near Union” (Monkeybicycle)
  • Elisabeth Ingram Wallace, “Satin Nightwear for Women Irregular” (Bath Flash Fiction Award)
  • Clare Weze, “Helping” (Reflex Fiction)
  • Charmaine Wilkerson, “The Laundry Room Comes First” (Fiction Southeast)
  • Benjamin Woodard, “Half Tank” (Atticus Review)
  • Luke Wortley, “Reverse Field Trip” (Longleaf)
  • Tara Isabel Zambrano, “Feeding Time” (Okay Donkey)
  • Tara Isabel Zambrano, “New Old” (The Southampton Review)
  • Tara Isabel Zambrano, “Snowstorm” (Atticus Review)
  • C Pam Zhang, “Braindrain” (Paper Darts)

microfiction.com

Short Story Highly Commended in TSS Publishing Competition

Screen Shot 2018-10-22 at 19.43.15

I’m thrilled to share the news that my story, I Wonder about the Gun, has won HIGHLY COMMENDED in The Short Story microfiction competition by TSS Publishing, home to the Cambridge Short Story Prize. Squeals of delight this end. I discovered when I received congratulations from fellow authors on Twitter.

The story hasn’t been published on the site but you can read it by signing up to the mailing list.

Below is the Judge’s Report:

In other news, there is a fabulous new Literary Magazine, Barren Magazine, which has just published it’s third issue. The stories are deep, rich, often painful. In Vain, by Aaron Housholder, Editor’s pic in Essays, is one of the single most powerful stories I have ever read.

Screen Shot 2018-10-22 at 21.38.46

Author Interview with Anthony Black

Today I interview author, A. Joseph Black, from Carnlough, Ireland. His short stories and flash fictions have been published online in literary magazines and in print anthologies. His story, Just Thinking, is in Schooldays, a collection of poetry and flash fiction from Paper Swans Press, which was shortlisted for the 2016 Saboteur Award for Best Anthology. His long short stories By the Lake and Nora have been published as chapbooks in Australia. He has recently been Shortlisted for the Bath Flash Fiction Award 2017.

  1. What drew you to writing short stories and do you have any key inspirations?

I should probably declare straight away that I’m not a person who feels they have to write, that they’ll die if they don’t, that they just don’t make sense when they’re not writing. I would use the analogy of snooker, rather improbably. You like watching snooker on the TV, so you ring a friend and begin to play for an hour every week at the local snooker hall. You enjoy it as an observer at first, then you decide that you might enjoy actually trying it yourself. And that’s the basis on which I started writing. Late in life relatively speaking, at 44, I just thought, “I should have a go at this myself”. There are writers I love, obviously, but I’m quite undiscerning in what I read, as I think many readers are. I just like good stories well told. I mostly buy books in second hand shops, where immediately there’s a “found” aspect to it – you haven’t gone there to buy a specific book – and as the reader I love the different dynamic that creates. The last four books I bought were by Katherine Mansfield, Michael McLaverty, Raymond Chandler and Nick Hornby, all second hand. Does that tell us anything? I’m not sure it does.

2. Do you plan your stories or do they evolve as you begin to write?

After my long short story first piece, I continued by starting to write microfictions and flashes, as low as 100 words. With a piece that short, you can’t have character development or a narrative arc. Most often the “idea” is a single point of light – a noise, a phrase, an image – and you just place that in a sympathetic, complementary environment, like setting a jewel. I could have some of those written, revised, edited and pretty much finished in my head before I ever put a word down on paper. Of course, that only worked with very short pieces.

By the time my stories had reached 4,000 words and beyond, like Nora and By The Lake, I found I was planning as a necessity. I find it much more time-inefficient to not plan, and I have to really fight for my writing time, so for me it’s “well begun is half done.” And now I’ve come to enjoy planning and plotting. And it doesn’t mean, in my case at least, that the story can’t still surprise you, change materially, veer off, as you’re drafting it. They absolutely still do that, and it’s a big part of the fun of writing for me. But I do now find it prudent to provide myself with an outline superstructure when I start.

3. Is there any advice you can share with new writers who might be thinking of sending their work to literary journals or competitions?

Just get the really obvious stuff right: familiarise yourself with the type of material they publish, respect the submission guidelines, and never submit anything until you’re absolutely certain you can’t improve it any further. Impending competition/submission deadlines can make for some poor decisions about the quality of your work, in my experience. Also remember that if you’re not generating copious amounts of material then you need to manage your subbing carefully, noting response turnaround times etc. You don’t want your work tied up for months in a competition or with a lit mag. Even just waiting until right on the deadline before submitting mitigates this. You can simultaneously submit of course but do you really want that plate-spinning exercise to manage along with everything else?

And be realistic, for your sanity’s sake: there’s no reason not to shoot for the stars, just as long as you’re not then plunged into despair when your second ever finished piece is rejected by The New Yorker or doesn’t win the Commonwealth Short Story Prize.

4. Your writing is very descriptive. Do you picture the scene as you write or draw from your own experiences?

I like to picture it, to feel it, smell it, listen – and I want the reader to do all that as well. Again, it’s a function of the type of books and stories I myself enjoy reading. I love good descriptive writing. And it’s kind of frowned on a little now, I feel. Looked down upon almost. Like it’s telling, not showing. And yet if you read Daphne du Maurier, who I think is fantastic, she describes things endlessly: natural landscapes, physical appearances, even the weather. But the story’s barrelling along and you’re right there as the reader, in among the sights and sounds, and it’s exhilarating. If I can even get close to providing that sort of immersive experience for my reader I’d be delighted.

Some contemporary fiction leaves me a little cold, if I’m entirely honest. Too often it feels like an exercise in demonstrating how clever or erudite the writer is, with little or no consideration for the reader’s experience. Much of is actually too intellectual and abstract for my taste. And the lack of defined endings! I suppose I’m steeped in a very orthodox Irish storytelling tradition, but when I read a 5000 word short story which just stops – doesn’t end, or conclude, it just runs off – I find that so infuriating. Like I’ve been robbed of the time I spent reading it, however well written it was. As a reader I  want a well-defined, narratively satisfying ending, and I suppose that orthodoxy is apparent in my own stories.

5. How much does the writing scene in Northern Ireland influence your work and are you connected with other writers or groups?

Haha, I would never be a part of any scene that would have me as a member! There is some tremendous writing happening in NI presently and a thriving litmag scene with The Tangerine recently launching, and The Incubator, who were first to publish one of my stories, and first to give me the opportunity to read my work in public, which I love doing. Staring your listener in the eye is a blast because most of the time we’re closeted away in our writing space.

So I do know a few of the writers and editors like Michael Nolan, Kelly Creighton, Ruth McKee from readings, and I interact a lot with other NI writers on Twitter. As well as reading them, of course (six months after their book has come out and I can find a copy in a second hand shop). But I don’t think I’m much of a “scene” person. I can’t do the rounds of book launches and what have you – I have a full time job and five children all pulling on my time before I even get to my writing time, much less “scene time!”

There is definitely something in the air with NI writing at the moment though. I don’t know if anyone has ever satisfactorily defined “a scene” but I’d guess that’s what it is.

7. You mentioned beginning to write later in life. How did it all begin and what have you learned along the way?

It really was most unremarkable. Having enjoyed reading all my life, I just wanted to see if I could actually write. About six years ago I searched online for a writing prompt and found one that said “write a story in which the two main characters do something illegal and something immoral, but the reader retains sympathy for them.” And I wrote my first story, “An Encounter” (the title being a nod to Joyce, which is of course mandatory for all Irish writers or they revoke your citizenship). I realise now that was probably the worst/hardest prompt I could have found, but I wrote the story, learnt a lot in the process and – crucially – I enjoyed it. So I decided to write another one.

I do think I approach writing differently now than I would have in my 20s. For example, I don’t really set myself goals – there are things I wanted to achieve and did, such as having a story in translation in a foreign litmag, getting into a print anthology, my own name on the front of a book. But I’m not on a mission. I don’t have that iconoclastic zeal of youth. I don’t feel I need to kick over the statues, unseat the establishment and reinvent the novel. I just want to produce writing that people enjoy, that takes them away from their everyday life for the brief time that they’re reading my story.

8. What are you planning at the moment?

I didn’t write a word for almost 18 months last year and this, then I fell off the wagon in the summer when I wrote a short flash purely for my own pleasure. Immediately upon finishing it I saw that the Bath Flash Fiction Award closed at midnight so I submitted it (I’d never sent them anything before, but then I hadn’t had serendipity on my side before either) and it was shortlisted and will appear in the print anthology later this year. I suppose that reminded me of how fun and interesting and rewarding writing can be.

So with my fast broken, I’ve since finished the first draft of the short story I was working on when I downed pens last year (yes, I actually gave up writing right in the middle of a story, although the specific story wasn’t the problem, it just all felt like it had become a bit of a drag). I’ve now planned out a much longer piece, straying into novel-length territory, set in 1950s New York City. It’s inspired by three Edward Hopper paintings. I always look at the people in Hopper’s paintings and wonder what their story is –  What are they thinking? Are they waiting on someone? Who? And then I thought, “Well, why not take some of them and give them that story?” So that’s what I’ve done: the main figures in Hopper’s paintings Nighthawks, NY Movie and Gas are now Eddie, Marion and Victor, my three central characters. It has kind of a “noir” vibe, and it involves a crime, but beyond that I’m not really sure how it will look or sound if it ever emerges. But that’s the fun of writing.

And for me, writing should be fun. Writers who complain about how hard it is to write are the worst! If it isn’t fun, then you probably need to do it differently, or stop doing it altogether. I mean, it’s not heavy lifting and you’re inside out of the weather almost all of the time.

You can visit him at www.ajosephblack.com or join him on Twitter at @a_joseph_black.