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Tuesday, June 06, 2017

 

Meet Flash Fiction First Place Winner, Emmanuelle de Maupassant

Emmanuelle de Maupassant has written several novellas, and short fiction works, including her Cautionary Tales, inspired by Slavonic folklore, researched during her years living in former Soviet states. Her time in Central Asia and Eastern Europe, as well as in West Africa, led to travel themed pieces (including features in The Times, columns in various monthly travel magazines, and work for the Dorling Kindersley Eyewitness series).

She currently lives with her husband (maker of fruit cake) and haggis-pudding terrier (connoisseur of squeaky toys and bacon treats), in South America.

Find her on Facebook and Goodreads and at www.emmanuelledemaupassant.com.

interview by Marcia Peterson

WOW: Congratulations on your first place win in our Winter 2017 Flash Fiction competition! What inspired you to enter the contest?

Emmanuelle: This is the first contest I've entered, so I was speechless to receive news of having won. I entered on a whim... thinking that it would be useful to receive feedback on my writing style.

WOW: How exciting to do so well on your first contest try! Can you tell us what encouraged the idea behind your story, Echoes?

Emmanuelle: I'd long wanted to write a story against the backdrop of a polar landscape. The story contrasts the intimate spaces of the body, mind and memory with the vast field so the Arctic, and of the sky. That huge openness is so eerie; it seems the perfect setting for a story of the uncanny, in which the place itself becomes a presence.

My tale explores the nature of memory, and the constructs of reality. What is real for us, when our memory and yearning transcend the corporeal, space and time? How does the mind endure tribulation and despair? We all have memories like that: ones which are too traumatic to process properly. The story tells of how one person's mind copes with such trauma.

WOW: What key elements do you think make a great piece of flash fiction?

Emmanuelle: I love the flash fiction form. It's an entire story condensed, and becomes so much more powerful as a result. No unnecessary dialogue or descriptions. You have to decide what will be most impactful. It's surprising how much you can say in a small volume of words. Meanwhile, let the reader to fill in the backstory; let them make the story theirs, in having to apply their imagination.

I think 'flash' also gives you license to be more experimental with structure, combining poetry and prose. Readers are tolerant of this in 'flash' form where they wouldn't be in a longer work. And, at the end of the day, you're writing to capture your reader's attention. That's the most thrilling part of writing, for me: imagining the reader at the other end. I want to play with emotions, provoke a response. This seems so much easier to do in 'flash' form, where you can be a daredevil.

So, my advice is to take risks and give your reader something surprising: in style and content. Dazzle them.

WOW: You refer to your husband as “maker of fruit cake,” so I’m thinking he must be pretty good at it. Are those enjoyed year round in South America? Do you also like to bake or cook?

Emmanuelle: I love to cook, making every meal 'from scratch'. We don't have a lot of processed or 'ready' foods in the shops where we live, so you need to be inventive. I find it difficult to eat food from boxes now; I notice that there's little flavour, or that they're too salty.

My husband is the grand master of fruit cake making. It makes him feel powerful, I think, to create something which requires strength to stir!

Fruit cakes are very popular here, but especially around Christmas-time, with lots of rum added.

WOW: Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Emmanuelle. Before you go, can you share a favorite writing tip or piece of advice?

Emmanuelle: We never stop learning. I consider myself to be a novice writer. Like a magpie, I collect what sparkles from the books I read: a turn of phrase, the use of a metaphor. We can learn so much from what we read. It's important to be open and let your mind go where it wants to. It will tell you what it wants to write. Many of my ideas come in dreams and, when I'm in the thick of writing, everything takes on a life of its own: the plot, characters, setting - everything.

I'd also say that it's essential for a writer to have trusted readers, who'll give you honest feedback. Be ready to listen to them; that's a skill in itself. I'm fortunate in having an amazing developmental editor, Adrea Kore. Her creative consultancy is incredible. It makes all the difference to my work. She encourages me to be daring.

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Check out our contest page for details about our next flash fiction contest!

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1 Comments:

Blogger Angela said...

Wow, Em, I didn't know this is the first contest you've entered! You should definitely explore more contests--there are so many great ones out there, including our current Summer contest. ;)

I love how the setting in Echoes is so vivid and such a strong part of your story, and learning the idea behind your story is inspiring. That you are exploring the nature of memory and reality--such an important topic for writers. Especially trauma, and the ways we cope with it. I can see this as part of a longer novel or a set of connected stories exploring your theme, which is super strong.

Thank you for sharing your resources, too! If you have a link for Adrea, please share it in your comments. I agree, if you can find trusted readers it's such a blessing! Thanks for the interview. :)

9:28 PM  

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