Mini-Interview with Kathryn McMahon

Kathryn McMahon author photo 2017 (2)

Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?

The urgency and control. I write longer prose, too, but with flash, I don’t always have to think it out before I write it. I can just sit and capture the idea as it blooms in my brain. Even if it’s a very rough first draft. This means I can go back and start tinkering with it right away while I am still fired up and have a feel for where all the pieces go—especially the emotionally resonant parts. Or if I don’t have the time, I can get enough down to know where to pick up next. I also think writing flash makes me a better fiction writer in general because in a small space I really have to justify all the choices I make.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

The importance of each is story dependent. A plot can be subtle, but powerful if hosted by an appropriate narrator or the characters can be observers we don’t really know who guide us through something epic. I enjoy exploring the spectrum.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

Quick and messy but the kind of mess where I know where everything is. My first drafts are full of bracketed notes to myself with instructions or questions about details. This way I don’t interrupt my writing momentum to check things out, and also don’t lose track of the things I want to say but don’t know how to articulate yet.

What element or part of your “real life” do you think most influences your writing?

I’d have to say interactions with other people. Family and friends, of course, but even conversations in the grocery store parking lot with a stranger asking about my t-shirt have given me fodder. Also, I grew up moving around abroad and returning on and off to the US where I faced culture shock, and then I continued this pattern as an adult. I think I write a lot of fabulism because I am used to encountering things I never expected in places and circumstances that should feel familiar.

If you could recommend one flash story or writer, who/what would it be?

There are so many phenomenal flash writers and so many incredible stories, but one that speaks to me is Jennifer Fliss’s piece in Hobart, “Mail from the Person You Ate.” Its fresh insights made it such a uniquely powerful narrative and I am in awe of how she achieved a balance of resilience and pain in such a small space. Just breathtaking.

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

“You and Then Some” in Necessary Fiction. It’s about 1,100 words, so a little long for some flash fiction readers. I love that story because it marked a changing point for me as a writer. With it, I began embracing my quirks and I think it showcases the odd depths and dark humor that I can reach in my fiction!


Kathryn McMahon is an American writer living abroad with her British wife and dog. Her prose has appeared or is forthcoming in such places as Jellyfish Review, Syntax and Salt, Wyvern Lit, Cease, Cows, (b)OINK, The Baltimore Review, Split Lip, and Necessary Fiction as well as in the women’s food and horror anthology, Sharp & Sugar Tooth: Women Up to No Good (Upper Rubber Boot, 2018). She is a nominee for the 2017 Best of the Net Anthology and a prose reader for The Adroit Journal. More of her writing can be found at On Twitter, she is @katoscope.

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