Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?
I’ve been writing it for so long, it’s hard to remember why I started but I write it now because it’s so addictive. There’s always a publication call out or a competition with an interesting theme (I’m a sucker for themes). The flash community is brilliant too if I stopped writing flash I’d feel like an outsider looking in. That’s happened a little bit recently as I’ve stepped back to work on different projects so I keep a few flashes going all the time, to keep my hand in.
I wouldn’t say I enjoy the challenge of a smaller word count, with me it’s often that my work naturally ends at a few hundred words anyway. This is great for flash but proving to be a real problem as I try and get my short story collection off the ground!
What’s your writerly life jacket: character or plot?
Oh, definitely plot. I never think in terms of character when I’m starting a story or even when I’m really into writing it. I feel that’s a big no-no for writers but I think it suits my style. My stories tend to hinge on the odd thing that is happening rather than the people in them. I think that’s what makes my work different from other flash writers, but also what makes it sometimes less popular or less successful? I can’t really do deep and meaningful characters and beautiful, lyrical writing, but I’m okay with that. There’s space for every type of writing.
Writing style: quick and messy or slow and precise?
For flash, quick and messy, but that’s only because I have been writing flash for eons. I can tell pretty quickly if a piece is going to be good or not, something about the ease with which the original idea gets onto the paper. These days I often go from idea to submission within a few hours. Again that’s a big no-no, isn’t it? But I’m a rebel! My Comma Press course tutor, Lara Williams, told us ‘write until it’s reflex’ and that’s what has happened with me and flash. I wouldn’t recommend that method to someone just starting out.
However, for anything other than flash (e.g. short stories) it is slow and precise with tons of research, planning and editing. I mean to be fair, maybe my flash would be better if I treated it that way too! Maybe I should slow down and try it…
What element or part of your ‘real life’ do you think most influences your writing?
The fact that I’m funny, ha. There is a lot of humour in my work, sometimes it’s dark, often it’s wry but it’s nearly always there. I grew up in Merseyside, where you have to be funny, it’s like a requirement for living there. You have quips with everyone from the bus driver to the milkman to your teachers and of course with your family so you learn quickly to think of a good comeback. One of my proudest writing moments was when a tutor told me I’m ‘often funny’ so now whenever I make my husband (a Southerner) laugh I raise an eyebrow and say ‘Well, I am often funny.’
I wish there was more acceptance of humour in fiction but there’s a bit of snobbishness around it I think. I would like to start a funny flash mag when I have the time. But also, this humour works for me because then when I write something serious or painful, which I occasionally do, it seems to blow people away a lot more as they weren’t expecting it.
If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who / what would it be?
Handily I have a folder for just such an occasion as this!
Final Girl Slumber Party by Meghan Phillips is always top of my list. I don’t know her, but I feel we must have had a similar upbringing in terms of cultural references as whenever I read one of her flashes I find myself saying ‘Yes! That’s exactly what it’s like!’ Also, she writes about themes that really interest me, adolescence, sex, girls, pop culture, feminism.
When Stranded on an Iceberg by Tino Prinzi. This maybe strays into prose poetry rather than flash but it’s simple and beautiful and powerful.
I Can’t Explain Anything Anymore by Mary Lynn Reed because I love diner set stories and it has such a strong voice.
Magenta by Molly Gutman because it’s like nothing else I’ve ever read. So dark and intriguing with a touch of the magical.
The Amazing Sleepless Boy by Lynn Mundell is brilliant and brutal.
What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?
Well, my story Girls Who Got Taken was well received when it was published by Former Cactus but I wasn’t as known in the flash scene then so I’m not sure a lot of people read it. I developed this as a longer short story on my Comma Press course with a very different ending but the feedback wasn’t great (she turned into snow at the end – I loved it, but it’s not for everyone!) so I slashed it to 1000 words and actually I think it works a lot better like this as it’s such a tight, claustrophobic story. It’s quite a different type of story from my usual and it’s one of my favourites. I hope people enjoy it!
BIO: Gaynor Jones is a freelance writer based in Manchester, U.K. She specialise in short fiction and was the recipient of the Mairtín Crawford Short Story Award 2018. She organises the Story For Daniel Flash Fiction Competition to raise awareness of blood stem cell donation and childhood cancer support. She is currently working on her debut short story collection and will release her first book of flash fiction, Business As Usual, in January 2019.