Entries tagged with “INTERVIEWS”.

by Jessi Cole Jackson

Steven L. Peck

Steven L. Peck is a university biology professor and teaches classes on ecology, evolution, and the consciousness of the human mind. He has published over 50 scientific articles. Creative works include three novels with mainstream publishers, including  A Short Stay in Hell and the magical realism novel The Scholar of Moab, published by Torrey House Press and named AML’s best novel of 2011 and a Montaigne Medal Finalist (national award given for most thought-provoking book).  He has been published in Abyss & Apex, Analog (Fact Article), Daily Science Fiction, Journal of Unlikely EntomologyNature Futures, Pedestal Magazine, Perihelion, and many others.


Jessi Cole Jackson:  Could you talk a little bit about the inspiration behind “Tales from Pleasant Grove”? 

Pleasant Grove is the small town in central Utah where I live, and it is so ordinary as to be rather unexciting sometimes. I began to imagine short vignettes about a much stranger city. I wanted a Pleasant Grove that was weirder and more exciting. I started writing these down, and soon I had an entire collection of Pleasant Grove stories that portrayed a world where anything could happen. I tried to keep the small town feel, but mixed it with far more magic and adventure.


Jessi Cole Jackson:  What is your typical writing process look like? How do you come up with your ideas? Do you have any rituals or superstitions attached to your writing sessions? 

That’s a great question. I usually try to write at night at a given time, but I have to admit I’m not very consistent. Sometimes, though, especially when I’m really excited about a story, it takes over my life and I can’t put it down. Usually, so much that I’ll lay awake at night running through the story in my head. Several times this has produced new characters or even new plot lines.


Jessi Cole Jackson:  I love the details of your story. They are specific and telling, making each moment feel real and immediate. At the same time, your protagonist is an everyman who could stand in for any one of us. Do you think most people would swap out their fears, or be like Hal, comfortable with the devil(s) they know?

Steven L. Peck: I think I’d be more the Hal type. I like the devils I know. And there is a slight streak of superstition that runs through me whenever there is a change, for example when I have to change seats on an airplane there’s always this discomfort that I’m not where I was supposed to be. I don’t take it too seriously (I’m a scientist after all), but it’s still there putting a little pressure on something that really is silly to worry about.


Jessi Cole Jackson:  Is there a fear you would get rid of? Which jar would you choose to take its place? 

Steven L. Peck:  I wish I could lose the fear of pickpockets. I travel a lot, and I have this irrational fear I’ll get pickpocketed. I never have been, but I’m always on the lookout. It’s completely crazy. It’s almost as if I think pickpockets are magical beings that can get through any defense and that I’m helpless to their tricks. I’d take a jar with some fear I was absolutely sure that I was never going to run into, like a fear of deep sea angel fish that live so far down in the ocean depths that my chances of ever running into one are almost non-existent! (But as the story shows, these things have a way of backfiring).


Jessi Cole Jackson:  The voice of your protagonist is very distinct. Did you work on cultivating his voice or did it come to you? Do you do anything to ‘find’ your characters? 

Steven L. Peck:  It seems to me that it’s almost as if my characters find me. They just appear whole-cloth as if we meet by accident. One of my novels (The Scholar of Moab) was about an ordinary kid working in the mountains for a geology company. I didn’t expect it, but one day in my mind’s eye a conjoined-twin cowboy road up and started talking to my main character. It changed the entire book, and I never saw it coming. Characters are like that when I write. They seem to exist almost independently of me and I am only a kind of medium that encourages their visit from another world.


Jessi Cole Jackson:  I’m always interested in what people do when they’re not writing. You’re a scientist, philosopher, and professor, correct? Where’s the intersection between those passions and fiction for you? 

Steven L. Peck:  It seems funny to say, but in being a scientist and a philosopher of science I’ve found that my imagination the most critical talent I have. I’ve always loved discovering things, and I’ve found that the real art of good science is the ability to ask the right questions. The hard part of science is looking at the world and trying to discover what’s the next question to ask. Answering them is usually the easier part. Find good questions and discoveries follow. I think it is the same in fiction. Asking questions of our characters and settings are what set up the magic that follows. Trying to see what motivates them and what situations will best draw out the question you are exploring in your fiction, I think are the hardest parts of all. I honestly believe that my being a fiction writer and a scientist really play on the same strength.


Jessi Cole Jackson:  What projects are you currently working on? Could you point readers to other stories of yours, either forthcoming or published? 

 Steven L. Peck:  A lot of my previously published short fiction can be found on my website, including my Daily Science Fiction short story and myNature Futures story, including a number of others. In addition to the collection of Pleasant Grove stories I’m working on (and my hope to find a publisher soon!), I have a book of short stories coming out later this summer, called Wandering Realities, published by Zarahemla Press, which I’m very excited about. It’s about one half speculative fiction and half literary fiction. My most popular book is A Short Stay in Hell and a volume of short stories set in the Hell of this novel is going to be published soon as well (with one by me, too!). It’s got some best selling horror writers contributing (I’d name them but contracts have not been finalized—watch my website for news). The book also is going to be made into a full-length feature film by David Spaltro (Director of the just released horror film, In the Dark) and filming starts at the end of this year. I’ve also got a couple of novels I’m putting the final touches on and hope to start shopping them soon. One is a follow-up to my book, The Scholar of Moab, called Gilda Trillim: The Shepherdess of Rats, and the other a young adult fantasy called, The Airships of Gumpta.



Jessi Cole Jackson lives and works in New Jersey, though she’s not from there. By day she builds costumes for a Tony Award-winning theatre. By night she writes stories, questionable poetry and lots of abandoned outlines. When she’s not working she enjoys cooking, reading, and exploring local farms. You can read more about her sometimes exciting (but mostly just normal) life at jessicolejackson.com.

by Gay Degani

Caroline Hall, Winner of String-of-Ten 6Caroline Hall, this year’s String-of-Ten Six First Place Winner with her story, “Snowman Suicide,” was raised by English majors during the Nintendo generation. Now a teacher-on-hiatus, she has attended ten schools and worked at seven. She is a compulsive hiker and a New Englander who says “wicked awesome” and used the same window fan until it caught fire.  She writes short stories and flash fiction.

[NOTE: The story appears today at Every Day Fiction.]

Gay Degani: I’d love to know what your first reaction was to the list of words: LITTER-ENTRANCE-SAFE-SPIRITUAL -SPOTLIGHT-BOOKMARK-CATASTROPHE-RAZOR-FAULTY-ULTIMATE and the aphorism: “I prefer the errors of enthusiasm to the indifference of wisdom,” from Anatole France.  How did you approach the prompt?

Caroline Hall: My immediate response was that a number of the words on the list–razor, faulty, ultimate, and catastrophe—seemed to cluster together naturally.  To my mind, they grew organically from the concepts of depression and suicide.  I also knew I wanted to use the word “spiritual” because I love it!

When I looked at the list, the word “razor” practically glowed. A few years ago, I had surgery for a bizarre and not-so-threatening cancer.  After I was declared “fine,” I got strangely depressed.  I spent a lot of time in doctors’ and therapists’ waiting rooms that year.  I wrote a poem about waiting rooms and the endless string of medical appointments.  In the poem, I described patients with eyes like pills and mouths like razor blades.  Forty or fifty drafts later, the poem still didn’t work.  But when I saw the word “razor” on the list of words for the String-of-10 competition, I knew the setting and mood of “Snowman Suicide” instantly.  I was glad to get the chance to resuscitate the image and pleased that the story was much better than the original poem.

For me, writing “Snowman Suicide” was about balancing passive and active.  As a patient, you spend a great deal of time passively waiting, and I wanted to capture that feeling.  But I’ve also met a lot of people who fight back against their illnesses and circumstances with spunk and humor.  I wanted to make sure that some of their creativity, intelligence, and strength appeared in the story.

GD: You mentioned your goals for this story included balancing passive and active, so what other elements do you keep in mind when you are working on a piece of writing?  Characters you’ve touched on, what about structure and theme?  What do you handle these?

CH: My successful stories usually begin with an object—in this case, a snowman.  Characters start out being me and evolve as they interact with the object.  They develop slowly, which makes for some embarrassing drafts.  But getting to know and—sometimes— slowly fall in love with my characters is a joy.  Sometimes, it surprises me which characters I fall in love with and how big an impact they have on my life. Workshops and readers are helpful for clarifying the conflict in stories, for finding spots that don’t make sense or feel true.

I studied English and am a closet Classics geek, and my tendency was—and still is—to write Latinate or Victorian-style prose.  My first stories were designed to be analyzed rather than read. Finally, I realized that I could have a vital message, but that didn’t matter if readers needed a pot of coffee to survive the first paragraph.

As a result, I work hard at paring stories down to their cores.  I started writing flash fiction by accident; flash fit the funny clumps of time I squirreled away for writing better than longer stories did.   It was a happy accident.  Forcing myself to adhere to strict word limits has made my sentences stronger and leaner.

GD: You mention “paring down.”  I’m wondering what you look for when you edit your work.  What are your go-to moves?

CH: I spent a few years writing terrible poetry, so my main rule is “if it sounds the way your poetry sounded, it needs to go!” I love alliteration and repetition, but I have to make sure they don’t hijack the story or become distracting.  I’ll turn clauses into phrases.  In early drafts, I tend to stack adjectives and details.  I’ll have three or four when I need one.  In the first paragraph, my snowman initially went through five different diagnoses; three was enough.

GD: As I said in my interview with Jim Harrington, what drew me to this story, was a lot of things: “The title, the first line, the humor, the surprise, its clarity. ‘Snowman Suicide,’ who wouldn’t want to read that story?”  All this makes me want to read more of your work.  Can you tell me where to find other stories of yours and what you are working on now?

CH: “Snowman Suicide” is my first published work.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Earlier, I mentioned that my friends from the mental health community—if you can call it that—inspire me constantly with their intelligence, wit, candor, and kindness.  I am proud, grateful, and honored to know them and to have a chance to represent them in this story.  I hope I’ve done them justice.


gay 2Gay Degani has published fiction on-line and in print including her short collection, Pomegranate Stories. She is founder of EDF’s Flash Fiction Chronicles, a staff editor at Smokelong Quarterly, and blogs at Words in Place. She’s had three stories nominated for Pushcart consideration and won the 11th Annual Glass Woman Prize. Her linked-story novella is part of Pure Slush’s 2014- A Year in Stories anthology and her her serialized novel, What Came Before, is currently online at Every Day Novels.

by Susan TepperDavid Atkinson

Susan TepperBones Buried in the Dirt is a dark title for a book about childhood.  What is behind this title?

David S. Atkinson:  When I first conceived of the book, I’d been thinking of the kind of moments that occur in childhood and only get partially absorbed into the mind. Something that occurs that never entirely gets forgotten and instead pops up into active memory from time to time, over which identity gets sort of draped, in a piecemeal way defining who a person becomes. I thought of those memories as bones, partially digested bits of consciousness that still have some shape and form in the mind but are only artifact portions of the original pivotal experience. In that way, the shaping memories like that are a kind of bones buried in a kind of dirt, the brain. So really, it isn’t as dark a title as it might seem.

S.T.  Could you give us a more specific example?

D.S.A.  When I was around 7 or 8, an old family friend had given me a toy for Christmas. It was a toy car that you stuck a plastic gear strip into and removed to cause the car to go. However, though I’d wanted the toy, it was the off- brand version. Before I’d thought what I was saying, I said: “Oh, it’s the cheap one.” It was a reflex, but instantly I knew what I’d done. The family friend just laughed, but my parents were horrified. So was I. Everyone else forgot immediately, but I never did. Even thirty years later my brain will bring that back up to me, perhaps to shame me in some strange way, particularly in instances where there is a call for gratitude. It is this remnant floating around in my consciousness, having an odd influence on who I am as an adult.

S.T.  Who we are as adults often feels like a heavy burden to most, I would expect.  Do you think your particular reaction at this event shaped you going forward?  Or do you think we’ve already been shaped by the time we reach our 7th birthday—  the way some sociologists have suggested?

D.S.A.  Certainly. I think I’ve tried to be a much more grateful person, more sensitive to what other people are going to feel based on my behavior, because I remember this so often. I think what happens in early childhood certainly has a big impact on who we are as adults, but I don’t think that process ever stops. I think childhood experiences just seem to have more magnitude in their influence because there was so little that went before it to be able to compare it to and because there isn’t as much perspective. I never bought the idea, though, that we don’t keep changing even after childhood.

S.T.  Your’s is an optimistic way of looking at life.  Nice.  You wrote a story in this collection called Boys Chase Girls.  Was it fun to write from that place of youthful innocence and desire?  And did it feel in any way dangerous?

David Atkinson bookD.S.A.  In the story Boys Chase Girls, the main character Peter first encounters the character Joy when he finds out she helped destroy the fort Peter built. At first he tries to catch her at school so he can get revenge, but eventually it turns into more of a game for him, where he’s just trying to make her think he’s trying to get her— in order to make her afraid. Then, when a bigger kid steps in to stop Peter, he ends up deciding to be friends with Joy instead. Really, it’s kind of a young romance sort of thing, how boys hit girls because they don’t understand what they are feeling and don’t know what to do about it. It’s simpler than an adult romantic scenario, but also more complicated at the same time because the characters really don’t understand why they are doing what they are doing.

It was a fun one to write, but it did concern me. Even though Peter (as usual) is trying his best and still usually comes out worse than the other characters, he’s not really being a nice guy in this one. Also, he is kind of mercenary in how quickly he trades in his revenge for the game, and then for a girl as a friend. Beyond that, this kind of kid mistaken aggression romance is hard to get exactly right, and this sort of thing just seems like a shallow adult parody if not done exactly right. Of course, I also worried that people might find it creepy that an adult was interested enough in child romance to write about it.

S.T.  Creepy?  Not at all.  When a writer tackles a subject (childhood or whatever), it’s that writer’s responsibility to tell the hard truth, as he or she understands that truth.  And I totally agree with you about shallow adult parody.  I’ve seen that in some books and it just screams false.  In your book Bones Buried in the Dirt the characters who speak on the page were to me as children.  That’s what made the book interesting.  It was that glimpse back into the wonderful-scary time when we wanted to do everything but had limited control over what we could actually do.  I think you mastered it in this book, David.

You can see more of David’s work at http://davidsatkinsonwriting.com and http://bonesburiedinthedirt.com/

Susan Tepper is the author of four published books. Her current titles include The Merrill Diaries and From the Umberplatzen (Wilderness House Press, 2012) – a quirky love story set in Germany and told in linked-flash. Tepper has received nine Pushcart nominations, and one for the Pulitzer Prize for her novel What May Have Been (with Gary Percesepe) published by Cervena Barva Press in 2010. Tepper created the Monday Chat Interview series at Fictionaut, and the reading series FIZZ at KGB Bar in NYC. Her work appears in hundreds of print and online venues. www.susantepper.com

by Karen NelsonKaren Nelson Outdoor

I love September because I can go all month singing Green Day’s “Wake Me Up When September Ends“.   (The 9/11 Tribute video is gripping.)  If you slept through any of Flash Fiction Chronicles’ great articles on the writing craft, here’s a recap – and wake up!

We had some pointed advice from Jim Harrington to help us refine our writing through Word Choice (be specific!) and using Inciting Incident and Character Arc to add dimension.  Jim takes apart some sample writing to really examine the nuts and bolts of a piece, and I think you’ll find more than a few ideas for improving your work.

Ever revisit a favorite book and find it, somehow, lacking?  You’re not alone.  In “Writing Ruined My Reading” Sara Crysl Akhtar shares her struggles with Asimov, but finds a redeeming genre that will surprise you.

Beth Lee-Browning gets us digging into our journals and discovering our own potential with “If You Build It, They Will Come“.  Her highlights are worth another look.  (Go ahead, I’ve already clicked on them 4 times… )

•    Savor life – live with humor, joy, and passion.  Use feelings as fuel for creativity and creation.
•    Make something of yourself – do something, be something, make something.  Be who you are and continue to strive to become who you were meant to be.  Don’t be afraid to try, don’t be afraid to fail, and don’t be afraid to succeed.
•    Accept yourself – be yourself, trust yourself, be childlike, own and understand your relationships, be aware and follow your instincts, be accountable, and last but not least, be kind to yourself.
•    Have faith – ask for and accept help, be teachable, life is spiritual, art is spiritual and it is healing. Follow your dreams and treat them as real.
•    We commune through art – when we create from the heart and not from the ego we experience a clarity of purpose and feelings of joy.


For people who like writing, authors sure love to talk!  And FFC has visited with some of the best in the business.  Check out these conversations with industry professionals, and gain insight on the world of publishing…

UNCOV/RD: Susan O’Neill – author of Don’t Mean Nothing

Roxanne Gay – Tiny Hardcore Press

Sumanth Prabhaker – Madras Press

Milo James Fowler – EDF’s Top Author for August


Success for one is success for all, and FFC loves to celebrate our colleagues’ success!  Our own Bonnie ZoBell burst into 2013 with her collection of stories The Whack-Job Girls (Monkey Puzzle Press).

“Respect. This is the bedrock of all the stories in Bonnie Zobell’s “Whack-Job Girls.” Her characters demand it, regardless of their situation, social standing and ethos. In fact, ZoBell’s characters come across as people who would sooner hit the reader with a hammer than be pitied.” – Rumjhum K. Biswas

Linda Simone-Wastila shares her thoughts on why Elliot Sanders’ Distance was one of the finest short stories she read this year.  Take a moment as she walks you through the author’s expert use of voice, tension, detail, and theme.

Circle Straight Back by Noel Sloboda just went on my must-read list… if only for the intriguing idea of selling secrets in an online auction.  Don’t miss Andree Robinson-Neal’s fascinating commentary on this unusual book.

Of course, when submitting your flash piece for publication, you want it to look its best.  EveryDayFiction offers these insider tips that will get you that much closer to sharing your work.

The month wound up with a little fun, in Top 10 Reasons to Write Flash Fiction.  Our staff collected their favorites, but we’re still hearing from you on your best – or craziest – reasons to write flash.  Leave yours in the comment section – we’d love to hear it!  And now that September has ended, get ready for a fabulous Fall at Flash Fiction Chronicles!


Karen Nelson is a writer and teacher in Southwest Missouri, specializing in educational and nonfiction works. She is a staff writer for Flash Fiction Chronicles, Curriculum Coordinator for Goldminds Publishing, author of four books and numerous stories and articles, and serves on the boards of various writing and literacy organizations.  When staring at a computer screen gets to be too much, Karen wanders outside to her chickens, rabbits, and miniature horse, who are always good for gaining perspective.



by Aliza Greenblatt

Ian Florida left St. Louis for the greener fields of Northern Missouri where he studied History and Philosophy at Truman State University. He still lives there in a small white house at the edge of town where city streets meet pasture and farmland with his fiancé, their two cats and a living mountain of books that seems to take up every room in the house. When not writing or reading science fiction and fantasy he manages a market research team and in his spare time pretends to be a wood worker and outdoorsman.  His story The Only Gifts We Give was the top story for July at Every Day Fiction.

Aliza Greenblatt:  This is your second story at EDF. How long have you been writing fiction and what made you want to tell stories? Do you primarily write flash fiction, or do you like writing stories of various lengths?

Ian Florida:  I started out writing and illustrating “comic books” about a crime fighting, boy robot, when I was seven or eight years old. Ever since then I’ve had the good fortune of being surrounded by family and friends who encourage me to write and be creative. My family is full of musicians and song writers, artists and story tellers so I see it as my own contribution to a family tradition.

As far as my publishing credits go, all of my work so far has been short form, but I have just started the second round of editing on my second novel. It’s a fantasy epic set in modern day Chicago, a city sanctuary for all the Old Gods of religions past and a few present, who are quite unhappy with the state of moral decay in modern America and quite pleased with their decision to do something about it.

As for which I like better, sometimes I have so many different stories I want to write it’s easy to get sidetracked, which makes focusing on just ONE project a Herculean ordeal. But both are rewarding in their own way.

AB:  Can you tell me a little about your writing process?

IF:  My stories are mainly divined via consulting a Ouija board while ritually burning a lock of Ernest Hemmingway’s beard. But when the spirits slumber I fall back on a big list of characters, personalities, inventions, plots, and locations and I generally start by pulling a couple items from the menu and meshing them together. I find that both processes work best between the hours of 3:00 and 6:00 AM.

Reading is also a big part of my process, I read anything and everything. You never know where you’re going to find a great catalyst for a story that isn’t going quite right. My background is in history and that really informs my writing as old history tomes are bursting at the spine with stories and people waiting to be remixed, retold and reborn.

This particular story was a little bit outside my ordinary process. I had some recent events dredge up old memories of sitting by my little sister while she was in the ICU . She was six and I remember my parents standing over her little body, tubes and wires everywhere. This story just flowed out of those old memories.

AB:   You captured the wonderment of a child and the sadness of a parent very well in this story and there were lots tough emotions, as well as a sense of beauty packed into this piece. What were some of the challenges in writing this story? What were some of your favorite bits?

IF:  Knowing the difference between what’s important and what can be cut is always the hardest part for me. I tend to write too much and edit too little and so paring the story down is always my biggest challenge. For this story the challenge was trying to prevent the emotional punch being softened  and slowed down with too much description and imagery. Flash fiction is especially fickle in that regard, you have so few words and every single sentence has to carry so much weight that there’s no time for needless things, no matter how much you love them and want to keep them wrapped up nice and warm in your story.

My favorite part about writing this story is being able to come back to it two months after I’ve put it down, rereading it, and still having it invoke the emotions I wanted it to invoke. I knew  I found a story that was important to me when I could read it six, seven, eight times and still have it punch me in the gut.

AB: The narrator’s identity was not revealed right away to the reader. I initially thought that this was a husband-wife relationship at first, but realized my mistake as the story progressed. Why did you choose to tell this story in second person?

IF:  I tried writing the story in first person before anything else, but it didn’t come off sounding very genuine. I could tell right off it needed to change. Second person gave it the power and flow I was aiming for, it turned it almost into a speech or a soliloquy.

Sometimes when you’re confronted with challenges that seem impossible, that are just too hard, that wear you down, mind, body, and soul you have to take a deep breath and remind yourself what you’re doing and why. You take a look at the people you love and remember how important they are to you and that no matter what happens you’ll do anything you can to make their lives just a little bit easier, and then you get back down to work. This story was that man’s second wind.

AB: The power of memories and imagination is a main theme in the story.  But your narrator implies that experience comes at the price of hope, so instead he tells his daughter stories. Why did he pick planets for the basis of his stories verses traditional stories like fairytales? Why were they things neither of them could reach?

IF:  I don’t think he believes in fairy tales anymore and he really needs to tell a story that he and his daughter can both believe in. The story is just as much for the teller as for the listener, maybe more so. Also, I don’t think he tells her fairy tales because happily or unhappily those kinds of stories end and he doesn’t want his story to end yet. He’s too afraid of how it might turn out. The worlds up there are fresh canvas, he can build a story from scratch, he can decide when, how and if it ends.

AB:  What other projects are you working on now? Are there other stories of yours, either upcoming or published, that you can point readers to?

 IF: Aside from cleaning up my second novel I’m working on a children’s book about a long haired wild child and his attempt to stop a sun sized, world eating, monster. Sad to say my illustration hasn’t really progressed too far past that eight year old self but luckily I have a very talented friend that have been gracious enough to put up with me for several projects. You can find links to my published work as well as a whole host of unpublished material at my website www.ianflorida.com

AB:  Thank you very much for taking the time to chat with us. Best of luck with all your writing endeavors. 

IF:  Thank you for taking the time to interview me and big thanks to all the staff and readers at Every Day Fiction!


Aliza profile-pic-2

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 @AtGreen