Today, I am featuring author Elizabeth Montague whose story “Albatross” is included in the anthology “A Flash of Words,” alongside my own brand-new story, “The Californian”
What was the inspiration for your story?
Inspiration for my story came from two sources. The first was a prompt given to me by a colleague at work. I asked him to give me three words and he provided me with banana, melon, albatross. That seemed to lend itself straight away to comedy so I decided to challenge myself by writing a story that was tragic rather than funny. I always look for music to inspire my work and when thinking of songs that made me sad the song Another Man’s Cause by The Levellers came to mind. Combining the spirit of the song with the words slowly became Albatross as it is today.
What do you think is the key to writing a compelling flash story?
You have to grab the reader in the first sentence. With such a story if the reader is not invested early on then it will be an unsatisfying conclusion if they reach the end without having truly been gripped by the story.
Was this the first time you wrote a flash fiction story?
I’ve written a lot of flash fiction before Albatross. I started very much in the world of fan fiction where 100 word drabble challenges were common. As I became serious about writing my own material I found them to be a great form of writing practice, helping me make my writing tight and as a way to get the annoying little stories that were in my head down on paper.
Apart from writing, what do you do for fun?
I’m an avid reader and enjoy reading the works produced by the authors I meet through my work as well as challenging myself to read a wide range of available fiction. I’m love theatre and am lucky enough to work in one so I get to experience all different styles without having to travel far.
What is your writing space like?
I’m a really messy writer and my work space is situated on my sofa in my living room. My ideal writing session involves no one else being home, cushions piled up behind me, local radio station on and a nice candle burning. I have my laptop on a stand on my lap and notebooks, sheets of paper and anything else I’ve scribbled ideas on spread out on the seat beside me. I’ve tried having a more formal space but it didn’t work so it’s back to me on my couch with a candle.
Did your story turn out the way you planned, or were there some surprises along the way?
It originally started out being set in the First World War but, bleak as that scenario was, I wanted it to be bleaker so I set it in a future where humankind is still fighting only this time they don’t know how or why, they’ve just been fighting for so long that it is what they do.
How long did it take to write your story?
It took several weeks to get the story right. The bare bones of it I wrote in one sitting but it took several rewrites and trips to my lovely supportive writers’ group to get it ready to send in. I think I worked harder on Albatross than I have done on much longer pieces.
Do you think writing flash fiction is a challenge with the word restriction?
It’s definitely a challenge but a great one that I think every writer should undertake. You have such a small amount of space but you still have to fill it with plot, character and emotion. I could easily spend the length of a flash fiction piece just setting up a scene so to write an entire story really focusses your mind and skills.
If you were on death row, what would you want your last meal to be?
I’d definitely have to start with my Nan’s salmon mousse, so brilliantly 1970s but I have so many fond memories of it. For the main section, definitely my Mum’s roast dinner with Beef with French mustard, garlic and rosemary roast potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, peas and proper thick beef gravy. Dessert would be a chocolate brownie sundae with whipped cream and sprinkles. Preferably all would be provided with some form of getaway gear, possibly stashed inside the Yorkshire pudding.
What is a quote that you find inspirational/motivates you to write?
The quote I have always carried with me since the first day I heard it comes from the musical Rent, ‘the opposite of war isn’t peace, it’s creation.’ Whilst I know the world will never be a perfect place I hope that in my little corner I can create works that make people try to find a common ground with their neighbour so we can all be a bit kinder to one another.
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