Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?
First, let me say that I personally don’t tend to make genre distinctions between flash, prose poetry, or micro fiction. For me, these all fall into the same bubbling pot. I wanted to clarify this because I fell in love with this form through Russell Edson’s work, a writer many have called the father of prose poetry. His story, “father father, what have you done?”, is included in Philip Stevick’s Anti-Story anthology under the category of “the minimal story” and, at forty-three words, it is certainly that. As soon as I read this story, something opened up for me. A door. A deluge. I started seeing flash fiction everywhere and was really drawn in by the unique challenge of telling stories in this fashion. Some people think artistic freedom is the key to creativity. But necessity is the mother of invention. In other words, restriction is often the key to truly wild, innovative turns. This makes flash fiction a particularly exciting genre, I think, both as a writer and a reader. You can get away with things in flash that simply aren’t sustainable in longer forms.
What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?
Plot. It’s rare for me to begin with a character and find a story through them. For me, I almost always begin new writing projects by exploring some question or problem, some what if scenario. Stephen King has said that some of his stories were born of things he found funny, and I feel close to this method as well. Jokes often make wonderful roads into stories. Some absurd premise, a bunch of weirdos walk into a bar, and only two of those weirdos walk out. The rest are riding tortoises. Nick Cave talks about just this sort of story-building method in his 20,000 Days on Earth documentary. You start by introducing tension, and if that doesn’t do it, you add more tension, then more, and if that still doesn’t do it for you, kill half the characters. Edson’s method of starting with a truly wild line—but a line that tastes right—and seeing what comes from there, also works well for me. Kelly Link has also shared about this first-line method, about beginning with an obsession, an immediate point of tension. But all these practices always loop back to plot for me: we start with an immediate problem, and the rest is all about facing that problem.
Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?
Quick and messy! I write my rough drafts either long-hand or with my typewriter to keep myself from editing (and thereby slowing way down) as I write. My computer is an editorial and submission tool. My notebooks and my typewriter are where all the spaghetti gets thrown against the wall.
What element or part of your “real life” do you think most influences your writing?
Definitely my husband and our decision to remain childless. Pregnancy horror is big for me. I love writing and reading about it. As for my love, I take parts of our relationship and I warp them, I look for the ugliest possibility and doodle around with that, I take everything that annoys me and dial it up to fury, I take everything that worries me and massage it into terror, I take everything that grosses me out and try to make it a love song. Immediate tension. Hard details. This is where it’s at.
If you could recommend one flash story or writer, who/what would it be?
This is such a tricky question! Honestly, it would really depend on who I was making the recommendation for, there are so many approaches to this nutty genre. For readers who are more into realist fiction, I’d recommend Amy Hempel. For readers interested in where flash is at right now as a genre, I’d recommend Kathy Fish or Lydia Copeland Gwyn. For readers who want something off-the-wall, I’d recommend Edson. For readers who want grit and intensity, I’d recommend xTx. How’s that for dodging a question?
What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?
None. I’m able to write much more honestly and freely if I pretend no one actually reads anything I write.
BIO: K.C. Mead-Brewer lives in Baltimore, Maryland. Her writing appears in Carve Magazine, Hobart, Fiction Southeast, and elsewhere. As a reader, she loves everything weird—surrealism, sci-fi, horror, all the good stuff that shows change is not only possible, but inevitable. She’s currently at work on her debut short story collection Chameleons. For more information, visit kcmeadbrewer.com and follow her @meadwriter.