Mini-Interview with Jennifer Todhunter

Todhunter - author pic

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

I love the economy of writing in flash. How stories are whittled down until every word counts. How you can leave someone gobsmacked in such short shrift. There isn’t much to hide behind with flash, you’ve got to get in, get out. It’s like being gut punched in the best way possible. I feel like that sting creates a connection between the writer and the reader and the characters. A connection that lingers a long time.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

Character. Man, I love a good character. There is something everlasting about someone you can’t shake loose. Flash is so honest and intense when done well, and that’s why it hits as heavy as it does. What’s going on in the background of a piece of flash is always secondary for me; the way the character is dealing with it is in the forefront. I try to emulate that in my writing. I want to make those connections.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

 I find it difficult to start a story until I have what I consider to be the perfect first line for it. I spend a lot of time agonizing over first lines and I’ve written a lot of first lines that never amount to anything. But once I’ve got a good one, it’s quick and messy from that point forward. Everything sort of spills out once that first line is uncorked.

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

Death and loss and remembrance, and how these things coexist in a seemingly “real life” life. What I mean is, real life is one thing, and a thing that changes depending on decisions and circumstance, but death and loss and remembrance follow you forever, and these are the things I feel most influence my writing. These are the things I can’t shake.

If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?

There are so many people fighting the good fight when it comes to flash right now, so many different forms and approaches and concepts. It is exciting to see where the genre is going, where people are taking it with their own creativity. I love checking out the short fiction nomination lists every year and catching a subsect of what’s been churned out, and it always floors me.

That said, I am always and forever down with some good old complicated heartache, and stories that have recently slain me include, “All I Have Left” by Dina Relles, “All the Love Songs Are Really About Broken Hearts” by Cathy Ulrich, and “Left Behind” by Kaj Tanaka.

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

I’m really proud of “Nualla to the Nth Degree” which Lost Balloon published earlier this year. It’s about blown-glass girls and the never-ending search for perfection. It’s part fairy tale, part mathematics, part weird—it was deeply satisfying to write because these things are sort of my makeup, too.

BIO: Jennifer Todhunter’s stories have appeared in SmokeLong Quarterly, Necessary Fiction, Jellyfish Review, and elsewhere. She is the Editor-in-Chief of Pidgeonholes. Find her at www.foxbane.ca or @JenTod_.

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