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Tuesday, April 20, 2010


Catherine E. Jones: 2009 Fall Flash Fiction Runner-Up

The Muffin is happy to interview Catherine E. Jones who had a winning flash fiction story, "Peace Still and Blue" in the Fall 2009 WOW! contest. Here's a little information about Catherine: She has been creating stories ever since the first time she put pen to paper, and in 2005 made the cover of Downstate Stories with her short story, "Witches Wand." She lives in a small house made colorful and noisy by three awesome children and the love of her life. She makes her living as a firefighter/EMT and feels truly blessed not only to be employed in her chosen field but to have enough time left over to pursue her writing career. Currently, she is polishing her first novel and harboring high hopes!

WOW: Catherine, thanks for talking with The Muffin readers today about your writing and flash fiction contest win. What gave you the idea for your winning story, "Peace Still and Blue?"

The idea for "Still and Blue" actually came about after a call I had been on; and while the characters are wholly fictional, the bare bones of the story were based in fact. Mostly, what we do in the EMS field brings us a lot of happiness; but occasionally, there will be a bad day that stays with you for a long time. The incongruity of that scene, with a little child present when his parent overdosed--during the holiday season!--just nagged at the back of my mind until it finally morphed into a story.

WOW: It is easy to see why that kind of scene would stay with you. I like how you said it nagged at the back of your mind until it turned into a story. I think many writers have similar experiences with story ideas. What are the themes you wanted to explore in this story?

Catherine: The most obvious theme in my story was, of course, one of death and sorrow; but I like to think that I salvaged it a little by peopling it with some really wonderful characters. The cop and the paramedic have played this scene on more than one occasion, but they still take the time to hold the little girl. The kiss at the end, and the desire to show the toddler the Christmas lights, impart--I hope--a strong message of hope and a belief in the basic goodness that we all have within us.

WOW: Great explanation, and I think your ending does just what you wanted it to. Your beginning and your ending match--almost like a circle story. Is this a common tactic you use in your short story writing?

Catherine: I like a circle story effect because it just ties the whole story together so neatly. It isn’t always possible to utilize that tool; but when it is, I find it effective.

WOW: Obviously, it worked great for this story! You have a busy life--you are a mom, a wife, and a firefighter/EMT. How do you find time to write and work on your novel? Do you have a set schedule?

Catherine: In my life, I have found that writing time has to just be squeezed in wherever I can fit it! I would love to have a schedule set in stone that allowed me the same time, every day, to write. At least, I think I would. Actually, I can’t imagine that! At any rate, writing time for me does occasionally fit in with my job schedule since there is a lot of down time at both of the stations where I work. Down time belongs to us and we are free--within reason!--to do what we like. I am in love with my lap top--I always have it with me! Another good time to write is in the middle of the night since I am a horrible, horrible insomniac; but as a rule, I usually have to revamp that work the next day. Writing in your sleep is not always good!

WOW: So true, although some of the best brainstorming is done in our sleep! What can you tell us about your novel? Are you exploring some of the same themes you do in your flash fiction?

Catherine: Oh, my novel! I can go on forever… Actually the protagonists in "Still and Blue" came flesh and blood from my novel. I struggle a lot with short stories; and one tool that I like to use to help myself is to work with characters that already exist in my mind. So John and Nic have been real and complete in my mind for a very long time. I do explore a lot of the same themes as I did in flash fiction probably because these are themes that I see a lot. I think it's fun to point out that life is not always as it appears to be on the surface; the good guys hardly ever wear the white hat. So, my good guys occasionally drink too much or use atrocious language, and they’re not always all that strong--they have horrific nightmares. And my bad guys are people you could fall in love with; but I do feel that life is really that way. At any rate, I am done with my novel! It is called Sowing Blind Faith, and I am querying agents like a mad woman!

WOW: Good luck in your agent search! So, let's wrap it up with one last question related to the contest. Why do you like to enter contests?

Catherine: I think contests are invaluable just for the impact of impartial feedback. Until you get your feet wet, everything you write is read by somebody who loves you and doesn’t want to hurt your feelings. A contest gives you chance to have your work read by someone who is not quite so invested in your personal happiness.

WOW: Thanks, Catherine, for sharing some insight into your writing world. Good luck to you with all your future writing projects and dreams!

interview conducted by Margo L. Dill,

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