Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?
I lack stamina, and discipline. And I have a low boredom threshold. Maybe that’s a result of dyslexia (etc & etc.) So, I love reading flash, and I also love writing it. And, of course, I’m an addict: I like to mood alter quickly. Really good flash pieces do that for me. And it’s possible — it doesn’t always happen, but it’s possible — to write a story in one sitting.
Also, I think the very fact that flash is so short has a reader come to a brand new story already primed for the reception of metaphor and suggestion. Somehow, that makes the writing all the more powerful. In this way, I think, flash is closer to poetry than it is to longer short fiction.
What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?
I’m not sure plot ever consciously features in any of my flash fiction. Character is plot, I can’t remember who said that, but it’s true. In any event, I prefer short stories without plot. The flash stories I write aren’t stories that can be told aloud in a bar or over dinner. It’s all about the combination of words. Often there isn’t a story at all; just a slice of life: a cross section.
Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?
I don’t have any set time or routine. A new story usually starts off quick and messy. I write as fast as I can. Then, after a completed first draft, I edit again and again (ad infinitum). It’s a naturally reductive process. So, a 600-word piece will usually end up as a 300-word final draft. I try to do what Robert Olen Butler suggests in his book From Where You Dream; writing from the subconscious (that pre-dream state where all of the answers come), then I let the completed first draft sit and stew for days or even weeks, before doing the edits using the conscious mind.
What element or part of your “real life” do you think most influences your writing?
My addiction, most definitely or more precisely the 20-odd years I lost to it — the hospitalisations, the rehab, the psychiatric appointments, and the therapy.
I mean, I hate the idea of imposed themes in short story collections; that’s for bookshop owners and publishers who want to know where to place your book on a shelf, or how to easily promote it.
There is however a thread in my work: often the underdog and redemption. I owe writing a lot. The very act of writing helped me get sober. And it helps keep me sober.
If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?
I remember reading a Raymond Carver interview in which his early mentor John Gardener advised him to read the stories in the small presses. I would say to any aspiring flash writer, read this year’s BIFFY50. Many of the stories on that list are quality. That’s where you’ll learn craft and technique.
What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?
One particular story does come to mind: The Killing Chair (Spelk https://spelkfiction.com/2017/07/10/the-killing-chair/). A friend of mine, an American professor who teaches inner city kids in Philadelphia used that story in his class. That felt better than winning something.
BIO: Peter Jordan is a short story writer from Belfast. Last year he won the Bare Fiction prize, came second in the Fish and was shortlisted for the Bridport and the Bath. Over 50 of his stories have appeared in literary magazines, journals and anthologies. His debut short story collection Calls to Distant Places can be purchased on Amazon. You will find him on twitter @pm_jordan.