Mon 29 Apr 2013
by Aliza Greenblatt
Flash Fiction Chronicles interviewed Michelle Ann King about Every Day Fiction’s Top Story for March, “Not the Pizza Girl“ a story about deliveries, demons, and a race against time.
Aliza Greenblatt: According to your biography, you’ve had many different careers – insurance claims handler, tarot reader, and makeup artist – before becoming a full time writer. What made you want to pursue writing professionally? Do experiences from past careers often find their way into your stories?
Michelle Ann King: Writing is something I’ve done for fun all my life–one of my very earliest memories is of making up stories about my favourite toy, a space-faring poodle called Charlotte. In recent years, the internet created a whole new market for short stories, and the revolution in e-books made self-publishing a viable option–so when I was made redundant from my last office job it seemed like a serendipitous opportunity to make a hobby into something more.
I think all writers use their past experiences in one way or another–to a large extent, ‘write what you know’ is less advice than inevitability. Certainly, I can immediately think of two of my stories that feature tarot card readers and claims handlers.
AG: Was there any particular prompt or inspiration for Not the Pizza Girl? Did you have any specific goals when writing this story?
MK: Tying in with the answer above, when I was a make-up artist I would often drive miles to see a client who would totally have forgotten about the appointment by the time I got there–so a lot of Lisa’s frustration is pure autobiography. The idea was inspired by reading two stories in quick succession that both featured pizza boys, and I started thinking about what else people might want to be delivered quickly.
AG: Can you tell me a little about your writing process?
MK: A lot of my ideas are sparked by other stories–something I read jumps out at me, and takes me in a new direction. I usually rough out a basic outline using a version of the Blake Snyder Beat Sheet (http://www.blakesnyder.com/tools/) and then write the story in the kind of ‘cycle draft’ that Dean Wesley Smith uses: run at it until you hit a wall, cycle up and re-read until it prompts you forward again, then repeat until done. Dean Wesley Smith’s whole blog is fascinating reading, especially the ‘Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing’ series: http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/
I also try hard to follow the advice of Heinlein’s Rules and Ray Bradbury: write, finish, submit, write more. The Write1Sub1 community (http://www.write1sub1.com/) helps massively with this. It’s a wonderful, friendly and supportive group that I’d recommend to all short fiction writers.
AG: What are some of the challenges of writing stories that are both flash and genre (science fiction/fantasy/crime)? What, if anything, is simpler? Were there any particular challenges with this story being both fantasy and humorous?
MK: I love flash, because it’s so versatile. You can tell a novel-length story through hints and implications, do slice-of-life (which is always fascinating with a speculative spin) or tell the intimate, detailed story of single minute. With crime, you can put high focus on intense moments or mindsets that would get too much in a longer story. Humour is always tricky, because it’s so subjective. The best you can ever do is write something that amuses you and hope for the best. In a way, I think fantasy can make it a little easier, because the juxtaposition of something mundane, that everybody can relate to, with something unexpected or weird, can be funny in itself. A lot of the humour in Not the Pizza Girl comes from Lisa’s very pragmatic, jaded attitude towards what to us seems like an extraordinary situation.
AG: There is an interesting duality of the tension in this story. One part of it is Lisa’s race against time, which is her primary concern. The second is the slow dread the reader experiences as we realize that Lisa is standing on the porch of a house that has terrible things going on within. And the occupants do not seem…stable. It made me wonder, what sort of training (if any) does a delivery girl like Lisa need for her job? Is it a common occupation or is “Eddie’s Ethereal Emporium” a niche business?
The ‘ticking clock’ aspect was one of the first elements of the story, and the rest built around it. I love the idea of ‘emergency magical supplies,’ and I see this as a world where magic is real but new–leading to a lot of people ending up with emergencies. I think Eddie spotted a need and stepped in to fill it–the equivalent of the first plumber to offer a 24 hour on-call service. I envisage this as a family business, with Lisa as a highly-trained magical expert who gets press-ganged into taking over whatever job currently needs doing.
AG: What other projects are you working on now? Are there other stories of yours, either upcoming or published, that you can point readers to?
MK: I think there are definitely more stories to be told about Lisa’s world, and it’s something I want to explore further. For now, my latest story, a dark fantasy called ‘Never Leave Me,’ will be published at Daily Science Fiction (http://dailysciencefiction.com/ ) on Monday 22nd April. (And if anyone would like to see a breakdown of how this story was structured with the Blake Snyder Beat Sheet, I’ll be guest posting shortly at Dianna L Gunn’s blog, http://diannaswritingden.com/ ) I also have a horror story in the upcoming issue of The Journal of Unlikely Entomology–where I share a ToC with Cat Rambo, which is a huge thrill!
The first two volumes in my Transient Tales series of short stories are now available, plus a collection of crime flash. Details can be found at my website, http://transientcactus.co.uk/
AG: Thank you very much for taking the time to chat with us. Best of luck with all your writing endeavors.
Aliza T. Greenblatt works in a firmly non-writing field when the sun is up and writes under a desk lamp at night. Fueled by a sheer love of books and a tyrannical imagination, she writes the stories that appear over her morning coffee and won’t leave her alone until they are put down on paper. She writes, raves, and blogs at http://atgreenblatt.com. and on Twitter @AtGreenblatt