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

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

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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

Book Release: My Brother Was a Kangaroo and Other Stories

llow res ebook

The time has come to release my debut short story collection, My Brother Was a KangarooThis has been a few years in the making, with many of the stories having been published in literary journals and magazines. Some have won prizes and three are forthcoming in paperback anthologies with Kingston University Press, Unthank Books and Flash Flood Journal. The collection is available in paperback and as an ebook.

Here is a taster….

‘The stories will resonate with you long after finishing’ Avril Joy, Costa Short Story Award winner 

From a boy searching for his parents in a North African souk to the marketplaces of India; from the hospital bed of a writer who has inexplicably lost his memory to a small girl who gives stones to a man on a park bench; and from Freud’s couch in Vienna to the mythical sirens, this collection will stir your senses and take you on a journey around the globe. It explores the intricacies of human nature and the complex ways in which people respond to pressure, change and loss. 

‘F.C. Malby is one of those writers who makes you sit up and pay attention. She’s a natural storyteller, a gifted wordsmith, and fearless in taking her imagination to the dark side when the story requires it.’Dan Coxon, fiction editor, Litro Magazine 

‘Malby’s writing is restrained, understated and elegant. Her shorter fiction pieces are stunning, creating a sense of beauty and poignancy in just a few hundred words.’Maureen Scott, CEO, Ether Books 

‘Deeply moving and attuned to the subtleties of human relationships, F.C. Malby’s stories make us realise we’re only one step away from a completely different world.’ Ashley Stokes, editorial director and short fiction editor, Unthank Books 

I hope you enjoy the stories and I look forward to hearing from you. Do share this with friends and fellow short story lovers.

Short Story News

After a break from blogging, I’m back with some short story news. After 8 years in Vienna, Austria, I am now back in the UK and a collection of my short stories is due to be released soon as an anthology. I’m really excited about the collection, which includes many stories published in literary magazines, and several anthologies as stand alone stories.

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The other news is that my story, Lines in the Sand, will be published by Unthank Books in Unthology 8 in November. My work will be published alongside some wonderful writers, so I am thrilled to be a part of this publication.

litro anthology

And one of my stories has gone into this wonderful collection, Hearing Voices, which will soon be published by Kingston University Press. It includes work by Pulitzer Prize winner, Anthony Doerr and is an exciting mix of stories from locations as far flung as Ithaca, Nairobi and the surface of the moon!

Thank you for all of your comments and interest in the blog.

Interview with Author and 1000words Editor, Natalie Bowers

100words

I met Natalie when my short fiction piece, North Norfolk Coast, was published online in 1000words at the beginning of July. 1000words publishes flash-fiction of up to 1000 words in length, written in response to an image. I have been impressed with the site and the quality of the work for a while. Natalie’s response to my submission was really professional and friendly, and I have enjoyed reading some of her own fiction (more on her work at the end of the post). I was thrilled when she agreed to an interview, so thank you for joining us, Natalie, and for answering some questions that I think authors often ask, or want to ask.

When and how did 1000words begin, and what inspired you to start gathering flash fiction?

1000words began in 2012 as part of the first National Flash-Fiction Day. I’d just finished an online flash-fiction course with Calum Kerr, the brains behind NFFD, who’d said he was looking for people to organise events, online and off. I’ve always had a secret desire to run my own fiction magazine, so this seemed the perfect opportunity to start one. I also love photography, so what better way was there to blend my two main interests and fulfill an ambition than by starting 1000words?

 What is flash fiction, for those who are new to the form, and how is it unique?

There are as many definitions of flash-fiction as there are people writing it, but for me, flash-fiction is simply a very short story. Although at 1000words we accept stories of up to 1000 words in length, I actually prefer reading and writing stories no longer than 500 words. When it comes to flash-fiction I like to be punched in the gut. I like flash-fiction to be short, sharp and to take my breath away.

 The idea of using an image prompt from the Pinterest page is very creative. How do you decide which images to use?

I go with my instincts. If I see an image and find myself immediately making up a story, I pin the image. I’ve pinned quite a few of my own photos on our Pinterest boards too, as I always have a camera on me and am constantly on the lookout for story ideas.

pinterest 1000

There is a wonderful range of stories on the site. How do you chose what will be published, and what are you looking for in a piece of fiction?

Again, I go with my instincts. If the opening few lines grab me, I know I’m likely to enjoy the whole piece and will most likely publish it. What I’m really looking for is a consistent narrative voice. It doesn’t have to be a confident voice, but I need to feel as if the narrator is a real person and believes in the story they’re telling. I’m also looking for something special: a surprising simile, a poignant observation, a subverted cliché, an old story told in a new way, or a new story told in an old way. It’s hard to define, but I know it when I see it.

Is there anything that will automatically send work to the rejection pile, and are there any submission tips you can share? 

There’s nothing that will automatically send work to the rejection pile. If I decline to publish a story, it’s usually due to a combination of factors such as an inconsistent narrative voice, unnatural sounding dialogue, cliché imagery or plot or over-explaining (not leaving enough to the reader’s imagination). If a story has a lot of grammatical mistakes and doesn’t look as if it’s been proofread properly then I’ll probably turn it down, as it’ll be too much work to prepare it for publication. One of the biggest turn-offs for me, though, are stories with a twist ending where the twist hasn’t been sufficiently foreshadowed or where it’s been so obviously sign-posted that I’ve guessed it before the end. It’s a difficult balancing act, and one I struggle with myself.

Tell us a little about yourself and your own writing?

I’ve always written stories in my head, if not on paper. I remember writing and illustrating a book for my little brother when I was about ten. It was a complete rip-off of the children’s TV series Jamie and His Magic Torch, but I put my heart and soul into it! In my early teens, I graduated to Star Wars fanfiction, but I didn’t write much at all in my late teens and twenties, I was too busy with school, university, work and then babies – I did science A-levels, a degree in Biochemisty, a PGCE in secondary science education, taught for a few years and then gave it all up to raise two lovely children. I’d had depression and anxiety after the birth of my daughter in 2005, and the doctor advised me to find something with which to occupy my brain. Writing seemed like a good idea, so in 2007, after a bit of dabbling, I took The Open University’s Start Writing Fiction Course, and I haven’t really looked back since. I’ve written quite a few short stories, but flash-fiction is where I feel most at home and I’m pleased to say that I’ve had a fair few pieces published here and there. Right now, I’m working on a collection of summer-themed flash-fictions and in September (if I get enough punters) I’ll be teaching my first ever writing course in the adult education department of my local secondary school. Bit scary!

Are there any short fiction authors who are a particular inspiration? 

Loads! I have a ‘Recommended Reading’ page on my website where I list lots of my favourite authors and stories, but if I had to name just a few, they’d be: Calum Kerr, Nik Perring, Kevlin Henney, Shirley Golden, Cathy Lennon, Lorrie Heartshorn, Angela Readman, Kurt Vonnegut, Raymond Carver, Elmore Leonard, Annie Proulx and Kate Atkinson. These are the people whose work I rush to read. (That was more than just a few, wasn’t it?!)

Friends of 1000words are flashandzoom, Paragraph Planet and Stories with Pictures. Can you tell us a bit about each of them?

flashandzoom is a photography and poetry project run photographer Jaime Hill and a writing pal of mine, Zoe Mitchell. The aim of the project is to provide a fresh perspective to photography and poetry, and to create art that reaches people on a number of levels. It’s been a bit quiet of late, but what they’ve produced in the past has been beautiful.

Paragraph Planet publishes a 75-word paragraph (fiction and non-fiction) EVERY SINGLE DAY of the year, which is an amazing feat. You can also read author interviews and there’s a sister site called ‘Writing Workout’ where writers can do all sorts of writing exercises. I’ve had a couple of pieces published on Paragraph Planet and intend to send more soon.

Stories and Pictures is a site that brings writers and artists together in collaboration. It’s chock-full of beautiful stories accompanied by beautiful pictures. Some of the stories have been inspired by pictures, and some of the pictures have been inspired by stories. I’ve had a story and a photo published there too.

  natalie 2 Natalie Bowers, along with Heather Stanley, is the editor and publisher of 1000words online flash fiction magazine. She lives in Hampshire with her husband, two children and a growing collection of ukuleles. Natalie has a degree in Biochemisty, a PGCE in secondary science education, and has taught Science and A-Level Biology. Her short stories have appeared in print and her flash-fiction has been published in various online journals. You can find a list of her publications on her blog, and she is a fellow Ether Books author. You can follow 1000words on Facebook and Twitter.