Interview With Flash Fiction Runner Up: Diana Manley
Check out Diana's story here, then come back and enjoy our chat.
Diana Manley’s life-long passions have been writing and art. She studied both while raising her four sons and eventually began writing for local newspapers. When her youngest son entered high school, she started her career as an interior designer. During this time, she also wrote design articles for the Chicago Sun-Times. Now retired, she happily devotes most of her time to writing fiction and painting, as, unhappily, her four grandchildren live out of state.
Her story, Checkmate, was published in the 2010 Desert Sleuths Anthology. Last year she won third prize in the Oregon Colony Writers Competition.
In September, Diana will join the Abri Creative Writing Workshop in the South of France where she will finish the third draft of her mystery novel, Murder in San Miguel.
WOW: Welcome to The Muffin, Diana. Congratulations on placing in WOW’s 2013 Spring Flash Fiction Contest! Please introduce yourself to WOW! readers and give us a bit of your background.
DIANA: Art and writing have always been my passions. Art was easy, but writing never-ever. The late Tom Clancy said that writing was beastly hard work which one would just as soon not do. Total agreement there, Tom. So why do I keep at it? Because when you get it right, it's so rewarding.
I majored in English/Journalism, amassing 135 credits at four colleges in four different states—but never obtaining a degree. My early role was the dutiful wife, assisting my husband in his climb up the corporate ladder and raising our four sons.
WOW: Wow! Thank you for sharing a snippet of your life with us. And I have to say, raising four boys is no small task. Good for you! Now, I understand you have already had some publishing luck. Did you want to talk a bit about how you got started in writing? What are your favorite areas/genres, if any?
I started writing for a local newspaper when my sons were in grade school. I've always been nosy so it gave me a legitimate reason for asking questions. I loved it! After my marriage ended, I worked as an interior designer and wrote design articles for the Chicago Sun-Times.
Mysteries are my drug of choice. I wrote my first one (currently residing in the bottom left drawer of my desk) about an interior designer/child advocate who witnessed a murder.
I flirted with short fiction off and on, finally getting serious about it a few years ago. My story, "Checkmate", appeared in the Desert Sleuths Sisters in Crime Anthology, How Not to Survive a Vacation. Last year I placed third in the Oregon Writers Colony Contest. And I was a runner up in the WOW 2013 Spring Fiction Contest.
WOW: You are certainly off to a great start. I really enjoyed your short story, The Favorite. One of my favorite POV’s to write/read is in the older generation, which is why I probably liked your piece so much. Tell us about your story and what it’s like for you to write in that perspective.
DIANA: The impetus for "The Favorite" began when my 99-year-old aunt was whisked off to a retirement community. There was no choice. She lived alone and had fallen three times that week. She was not happy.
What would I do in that situation? Easy. The decision would have to be mine. However, that's not an uncommon need. More conflict was required, so I revved it up by adding sibling rivalry (I have eight siblings) and a hint of madness.
First person is my go-to POV because of its immediacy and because it's easier to submerge myself in the story.
WOW: Eight siblings? I guess you’re a bit of an expert in sibling relationships and rivalry. Haha! Give us the lowdown about your writing routine. Do you have any projects coming up?
DIANA: Getting started is the hard part. Once I've silenced the demons lurking in my subconscious, I'm good for several hours. If the writing is really going well, I'll be at it until midnight.
Currently I am working on the final edit (I hope) of a mystery involving a designer who was forced to take a job in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. I knew my novel had big problems but had no idea how to fix them, in spite of reading every book/article on writing, passing it through critique groups and forcing it on friends and relatives. Last month I took a writing workshop with Lucy Wadham, an English writer, at the Gardoussel Writing Retreat in the South of France. What a great experience! She zoned in on the major problems and offered concrete suggestions. It needs a lot of rewriting, but the end is in sight.
WOW: How inspiring! Can you share any pearls of wisdom you have about writing a successful flash fiction short story?
DIANA: "The Favorite" was my first attempt at flash fiction. Hemmingway wrote a story in six words. How hard could it be? I never start anything unless I have this sense of omnipotence, short lived as it always is. Since the contest deadline was only two weeks away, I decided to cut my 1500 story, "The Favorite", in half. My reporting background helped. Still editing was harder than I imagined. My beginning and ending were critical, so I kept them and focused on the middle of the story. First I "killed my darlings", those lovely but unnecessary sentences where I was being writerly. Next I attacked the scenes. How many scenes does it take to get a point across? Only one if it's strong enough. I was getting closer—101words to go. Another three edits of pruning adjectives, adverbs and interesting but unnecessary details and I was done. Whew.
Flash fiction teaches you that every word must earn its place in your story. That's my take-away pearl. Thank you, WOW!
WOW: Fantastic, pearl, Diana. Thank you for joining us and good luck with your future writing projects! We’ll be watching out for your published work.