Flash Fiction Chronicles: My first question is, what the heck are you doing to your beautiful daughter?
John Towler: That’s Sara. We’re reenacting the Kronos myth.
FFC: Okay. We’ll just move on. Your story, Gypsy Flour, took second place in the String-of-10 Microfiction Contest. Obviously the prompt words gave you some inspiration, but what happened after that? What other inspiration came? Tell us a little about your process.
JT: “Gypsy Flour” had its origins in something my wife told me about the Gypsies in her home country of Kosovo. She said they would beg at the local market or door to door and people would give them flour, which they’d mix together: barley, white, rye, rice, wheat, self rising and not…all of it in one bag. Not if they were so haphazard with other blocks in the food pyramid, but this particular mishmash struck a humble romantic chord with me. A flash was born.
FFC: You actually were inspired to write three stories. Tell us about the other two, where they came from, and maybe even which one you think is the best and why.
JT: I’m usually about ten years behind the latest “cool” trend. For example, I am just now discovering the joy of Crocs. A few months ago I ran across all these great Chuck Norris jokes. My personal favorite: When Bruce Banner gets mad, he turns into the Hulk. When the Hulk gets mad, he turns into Chuck Norris. So Chuck Norris jokes were the inspiration for story one, “Chuck’s Family Vacation.” Fun to write, probably lame to read.
The other entry, “After Hours” was actually my favorite just because I like an edgy story and if there’s an unexpected twist at the end, all the better. Sadly my IRL work was probably the inspiration for that scenario. I am an AKA certified professional stalker. Wait, strike that. I’m actually a police officer and I get to deal with creeps like the one in the story on a regular basis.
FFC: What do you think is the key to writing microfiction?
JT: An electromagnetic shrink ray. Honey, I shrunk the story.
FFC: You are sooooo funny! What other lengths do you go to in your writing? Is your usual focus on short-short or do you also write to 4000 words or even novels? And why.
JT: Sadly, I try inflict myself on the reading public with stories of just about every length, but so far the damage has been limited to short stories and flash fiction. Unless there is a specific word count, when I start writing a story I keep going until it’s done. I have two finished novels, both which will likely never see the light of day. Just as a young girl or boy goes through that “awkward stage”, so it is with writers. To fix them up would be a Sisyphean task. Sad, because I thought they were pretty good at the time I wrote them.
FFC: What’s next for you? A collection? A novel? What are your goals?
JT: I was forced to participate in one of those ridiculous “Seventeen Habits of Influencing Friends and Feeling Good” seminars a couple years ago. The GuruMeister was going around the room asking everyone to finish the sentence: “I want to be … ” When he got to me, I said “I want to be quoted.” I tossed it out as a joke, and as a counterpoint to some of the speeches everyone else felt compelled to give, but in retrospect I think it neatly sums up my goals. I want to write stories so memorable that narrative and dialog are quoted. Heck, I’d be happy if someone quoted the forward, assuming there was one.
I’m writing a science fiction novel right now but I will go off and work on a short story, flash, or contest when the mood strikes. I find it beneficial to take a little break between projects, then revisit the work. You find all sorts of problems you missed on the first dozen read-throughs that make you want to throw in the quill and stop wasting perfectly good ink. If you use ink.
FFC: Thanks, John, for making me laugh and every one else, I’m sure. Anything else you’d like to add?
JT: Thanks for hosting this contest and offering the fun prizes. I am looking forward to reading your book, Pomegranate. I understand that afterwards you can toss it in a juicer to create a refreshing beverage or use it to make a dipping sauce for shrimp. Yum!
J.C. Towler spins tales of mystery, suspense, science fiction and is particularly fond the deep, penetrating horror tale. The Outer Banks of North Carolina is home which is odd considering he’s afraid of the ocean and doesn’t eat fish.