As is the modern way, many writers these days connect through Twitter. UK writer Adam Lock is one such person whose excellent short fiction I’ve come to know from a variety of online journals that use Twitter as their main promotional tool. I was interested to see recently that he was also on the brink of releasing his first book, a novella-in-flash called Dinosaur. It tells the story of Rebecca and Erik, a couple who ‘meet for only a short, albeit life-changing, time’.
I asked Adam about his journey to publication, the challenges of writing about relationships and why flash fiction is enjoying such popularity at the moment.
Adam, your debut novella-in-flash Dinosaur is being published by Ellipsis Zine, best known as an online literary journal. How did that come about?
First of all, thank you so much for this opportunity; I’m overjoyed you asked me.
I had a couple of flash pieces appear on Ellipsis Zine, and through our email exchanges, I discovered that Steve Campbell (chief and commander of Ellipsis Zine), like me, hails from the West Midlands. I then met Steve at [UK flash fiction writer] Stephanie Hutton’s book launch of the brilliant Three Sisters of Stone. We talked about Ellipsis and flash fiction, and I told Steve about an idea I had for a novella-in-flash. Steve was kind enough to offer to read it for me. It took a while for me to complete a draft of Dinosaur, and although it wasn’t exactly the idea I’d outlined, he agreed to look at it anyway.
After reading Dinosaur, Steve asked if he could publish it. I thought about this for around a second and then sent him a message with far too many exclamation marks. Steve and Ellipsis Zine have been wonderful for flash fiction, and I am thrilled to be working with him.
So how would you define a novella-in-flash?
I think the novella-in-flash is an exciting form, and I was drawn to it from the very first time I came across it. I think it is still evolving as a form, but essentially, a novella-in-flash is a collection of flash fiction pieces that intertwine to create a larger narrative. Each flash fiction piece should work in its own right as a story, but then should also contribute to a wider narrative arc of the overall novella. This is challenging, but rewarding when it’s done successfully.
Flash fiction seems to have become increasingly popular in recent years, perhaps because of our ever-shortening attention spans. What draws you to the micro form?
I have a theory that flash fiction is becoming more popular because of phones and mobile devices. Flash fiction is perfect for the small screen and perfect for reading in catches of time. I love reading novels and short stories too, but these require more structured time. I can read a piece of flash fiction in a few minutes and then ruminate on it afterwards. I think flash fiction has synced with our way of life and the way in which we consume stories. Not only this, but the micro form is all about reaching the heart of story, of pinpointing the conflict. I love trying to find this moment in micro/flash fiction.
Do you solely write flash or do you also venture towards short story, poetry etc?
I also write short stories. I love the short story form and want to write more of them. I’m in the mode currently, though, of cutting everything so it ends up as flash fiction. It’s definitely a tough habit to break once you start.
If there’s one thing I notice about your work, it’s that you write about sex — a lot! Do you ever find it uncomfortable to write about? And do you have any self-imposed boundaries or do you go where the words take you?
Now I’m blushing. You found me out. Enough with the sex already! 🙂
It’s not something I do intentionally from the beginning; I think it’s because I find myself drawn to writing about relationships. Looking at my favourite novels, short stories, and flash, I think most of them focus on this theme too. Sex fascinates me, in that most people have sex, and yet not many people really talk about it. It’s taboo to talk about sex, and I, like everyone else, adhere to the rules. But literature is about getting to the heart of what it means to be human, and a big part of being human in a relationship is sex.
Sometimes I feel uncomfortable when I first publish a story that mentions sex. But I hope the reader sees that what I am trying to do is gesture to a universal feeling or emotion. As far as boundaries go, I’d say I write about sex more than show it in action. I draw the line here because it is impossible to write about the act of sex itself without it being icky, or humorous.
For anyone new to flash fiction, which writers/stories would you recommend reading? And any novellas-in-flash?
Go to my blog page and look through the ‘Favourite Shorts’ blog posts. Here you will find links to the most recent pieces of flash and short fiction I’ve really enjoyed.
I love anything that [Australian writer] Melissa Goode writes and publishes. Her stories are usually centred on fractured relationships, or moments in a relationship she views as important. Here are two stories you should read: ‘Good night’ on Pithead Chapel, and ‘Lambs’ on Synaesthesia magazine.
Books would include Alligators at Night by Meg Pokrass, Bath Flash Fiction Collections, 1, 2 & 3, and Ellipsis Zine Flash Collection 1-5. The Neverlands by Damhnait Monaghan is also a wonderful collection.
For a novella-in-flash, I’ve enjoyed Michael Loveday’s Three Men on the Edge. The way it moves through three different sections works brilliantly. The character of Denholm in the first section is vivid and draws you in from the first story. The second section has some wonderful description of pastoral settings that conjures a real and evocative sense of place.
Three Sisters of Stone by Stephanie Hutton is another wonderful example of how stories can intertwine through time, collected into an overarching story.
Published in one collection by Ad Hoc Fiction are three wonderful examples of novella-in-flash: How to Make a Window Snake by Charmaine Wilkerson, A Safer Way to Fall by Joanna Campbell, and Things I Dream About When I’m Not Sleeping by Ingrid Jendrzejewski.
Top five books, please
Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy; The Rainbow by DH Lawrence; A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway; To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf and Money by Martin Amis.
Where do you write best?
I’m not too fussy about where I write these days. For me it’s more about when. I get up at 5am to write for two hours and aim to get my writing done for the day. I love this time of day because of the peace and quiet it provides.
You are very generous in sharing other writers’ work on your blog [I’m one of the people who has benefited from Adam’s weekly ‘Favourite Shorts’ blog posts, where he analyses particular flashes that have caught his eye]. Have you read anything recently that’s changed the way you approach your own writing? And what for you makes for an outstanding piece of flash fiction?
All of the flash pieces that appear on my ‘Favourite Shorts,’ blog have made me think differently about the way I write. Flash fiction is a malleable form that is shifting all the time. But one issue I have with shorter fiction and the amount now being written, and published, is that it feels transitory. My aim with my blog is to highlight particular pieces that I feel are special, and to help them gain a little extra time in the sun. As for what makes for an outstanding piece of flash fiction, I’d begin with three things:
- A powerful image. For me, writing is about seeing — and outstanding flash fiction does this so well. I want flash fiction to make me see an image: something particular and concrete.
- Change. Story is about change. This might be in the characters or the reader, but without this idea of something changing from the first word to the last, there is no story.
- Craft. With flash fiction as much as any other form, I feel it is imperative the writer disappears and the reader is left alone with the story itself. If there are basic errors, or showy language, or quirky structures, the reader can be pulled out of the story. This for me is what craft is: the disappearance of the writer.
What’s next for you?
I am working on a collection of my flash fiction and short stories that I hope to share with everyone in the near future. This is an exciting project that I’m now turning my attention towards.
And one final question, perhaps the most important of all, Kindle or physical book?
Physical book, please. I recently subscribed to Kindle Unlimited for a free month. It gave me a nose bleed. I was borrowing books and reading the first page, then choosing another. I couldn’t handle the choice. No, I need to commit to a paperback and take my time reading it. Plus, they smell so good.
Adam Lock lives in the UK and is the author of the novella-in-flash Dinosaur, published by Ellipsis Zine. He’s had over 50 short stories and pieces of flash fiction published in a number of online and print publications. You can find more of his stories and his blog at adamlock.net.