Mini-Interview with Nuala O’Connor

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

I’ve always been obsessed with small things, tiny well-made objects, aswell as prose and poetry in its teeniest forms. I love concision, precision and neatness – I was a fan of Ivor Cutler and Emily Dickinson and other sharp, economical writers in my teens and that love just grew and grew. I write novels, but flash and short stories are my true loves.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

Character. I pretty much hate plot, but I also admire plotty work (well, some of it). I’m disinterested in plot as a concept. I like the ‘what-happens’ to grow out of my characters’ personalities and I don’t know what’ll happen until I’m there with them. I really don’t enjoy thinking about plot or having convos about it, it makes me feel a bit sick.

But characters are fascinating, the way people are. I love the fucked-up, glorious madness of people – the weird things that motivate us, our vast differences, the odd/nasty/sweet ways people can be. I want my characters to be flexible the way most of us are, for them not to sound one note, but to be nuanced and unpredictable.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

Quick and precise. I’m twenty plus years writing seriously. I can swiftly get done what I need to get done. I edit as I go. I edit more afterwards. But I’m in a perpetual hurry (that’s my nature), so I tend to be very Carveresque in my method: I ‘get in, get out, don’t linger, go on’.

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

My endless self-analysis, my endless dissecting of other people’s personalities. Or if you mean more materially, my obsession with things/objects – I collect a lot of different stuff (e.g. ceramics, vintage jewellery, blue glass, paperweights, seaglass, miniature figures, dolls etc.). Objects tend to be important in my writing – they can be catalysts, or symbolic/sacred to my characters. Also travel and history.

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

Inevitably this means I’ll leave people out and I’m sorry about that. But, off the top of my head, I’m a fan of these innovative and wonderful flash writers: Tania Hershman, Sandra Jensen, Meg Pokrass, Lydia Davis, Robert Olen Butler, Lucia Berlin, Sharon Telfer, Frances Gapper, Ken Elkes, Adam Trodd, Jude Higgins, Fiona Mackintosh, Damhnait Monaghan, Tracey Slaughter.

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

What a question! It’s not natural for (Irish) writers to blow their own trumpets, it is, in fact, forbidden. But, as you asked, I’m fond of my flash ‘Yellow’ that appeared first in Cease, Cows, in 2014, for its trans credentials and its look at fertility issues.

BIO: Nuala O’Connor lives in Co. Galway, Ireland. In 2019 she won the James Joyce Quarterly competition to write the missing story from Dubliners, ‘Ulysses’. Her fourth novel, Becoming Belle, was recently published to critical acclaim in the US, Ireland and the UK. Her forthcoming novel is about Nora Barnacle, wife and muse to James Joyce. Nuala is editor at flash e-zine

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