Mini-Interview with Ken Elkes

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

I dabbled with writing for a good few years, producing some rank poetry, a sitcom pilot that didn’t get commissioned for a series, and a few published short stories that had a cheesy aroma about them. But pressures of full-time work, a lack of confidence and a fat dollop of imposter syndrome stopped me committing to writing. Then I found an online course based around producing flash. I liked the discipline, the production, the way I could fit it into my life. I liked the way the form’s close attention to language nurtures my poetic tendencies while it also feeds my urge to tell a story. I like the way the form defies simple explanation and still feels outside the mainstream. Necessity and intrigue – that’s why I write flash.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

Neither. It’s voice. And by voice I mean a composite of elements (such as tone, diction and syntax, point of view, authorial style etc) that produces distinctiveness within a story.
I write flash when the voice of the piece comes to me. It’s the thing that keeps me afloat during the story. It’s what gives me a sense of how and where to come ashore.
If I have to choose from the given options, then character. In flash you can get away without much plot, but a character has to change in some way, or as Rust Hills points out in his book on the short story, there has to be movement. There’s where the sweet stuff is for me – when I don’t merely find out what has happened, but when I found out what has happened to a character.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

The writing stage is, for me, a bit like ‘awkward young man sex’. There’s a lot of anticipation before some very frenetic and messy activity, a bit of ungainly flailing and a sudden, swift end. Sometimes a little lie down is needed afterwards.
The editing stage is a bit more grown up. Although I’ve produced prize winning work in half an hour (which has required no more editing than a wash of the face and a comb of the hair) most times it’s taken several drafts and repeated editing to get a piece right. At the far end of the scale is the flash that has to marinate in its own juices for a couple of years before the story reaches the right level of tenderness.

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

Well, for a start, there’s everything. From the dog with ears dyed blue at the tips that I saw in a park two days ago to the smell of the final letter my first girlfriend wrote. From the sound of my father eating a bowl of cool raspberries a few days before he died to the splashy way the stars show themselves at night in a desert. What I’m saying, in an overly florid way, is that the most influential factor in my writing is an openness to experience and observation, and the ability to recognise potential writing material when it is dredged up from memory or when it presents itself in the moment. These are the waves I ride on in my writerly lifejacket.

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

Today it is the following. Tomorrow it will probably be very different.

My Jockey by Lucia Berlin

Little Things by Raymond Carver

Mother by Grace Paley

Bs by Eley Williams

Reunion by John Cheever

Roll and Curl by Ingrid Jendrewski

Girl by Jamaica Kincaid

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

I never planned to write a flash fiction collection, so I’m pretty happy that the previously published pieces in All That Is Between Us will get a fresh airing, while the new material I wrote for the collection will find some readers. Obviously, I hope for as wide an audience as possible, and that the collection gets more recognition. But I also know that’s tricky, as flash fiction collections aren’t exactly crammed into every bookshop window. So I tread that fine line between being humble and grateful for the readers that I have found, and a grumpy neediness for more.

Bio: K.M. Elkes lives and works in the West Country, UK. His flash fiction collection All That Is Between Us was published by Ad Hoc Fiction in 2019. He has won or been placed in a number of international writing competitions, including the Manchester Fiction Prize, Fish Publishing Prize, Bath Flash Fiction Award, Aesthetica Creative Writing Award and the Bath Short Story Award. His short fiction has been published in more than 30 print anthologies in the UK and internationally, as well as literary magazines such as The Lonely Crowd, Unthology, Mechanic’s Institute Review, Short Fiction Journal and Structo. He is a short story tutor for Comma Press and has led workshops at the UK Flash Fiction Festival and for National Flash Fiction Day. His work has featured on BBC radio and on school and college curricula in the USA, India and Hong Kong.

All That Is Between Us is available to buy worldwide in paperback or e-book from Ad Hoc Fiction via this link: https://bookshop.adhocfiction.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=65&products_id=192

Accolades and Reviews for All That Is Between Us

“Truthful, revelatory, and beautifully written, All That Is Between Us is a collection you’ll want to read and re-read.”
~ Kathy Fish, author of Wild Life: Collected Works

“K.M. Elkes writes like a fallen angel, making the ordinary divine…This is breath-taking flash fiction at its finest.” 
~ Angela Readman, author of Something Like Breathing

“Whoever you are, whatever you like to read, you need these stories in your life.”
~ Tania Hershman, author of Some Of Us Glow More Than Others

“These insightful and disarmingly honest stories shimmer with quirky brilliance.” 
~ Meg Pokrass, author of Alligators At Night 

Brings a Cheever-esque emotional punch to his stories, married to a sweet, left-of-field insight that is all his own…a masterclass in the heart-jolting satisfaction of great flash fiction.”
~ Nuala O’Connor, author of Joyride to Jupiter

“This was a highly enjoyable collection of flash, a collection often grounded in the everyday but that transcends the everyday in the way of all great fiction.”

~ review from Sabotage Reviews

“Crackles with all the complexities of human relationships, narrative blazes, if you like, that may be tiny in size but vast on matters of the heart. Stories crafted with an emotional wisdom that scythes.
~ review in Storgy Magazine

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