Interview with Fran Haley: Summer 2011 Flash Fiction Contest Runner-Up

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Fran Haley is an educator with a lifelong passion for reading and writing. She loves symbolism and experimenting with different genres and voice. She’s lived in a turn-of-the century house built by a sea captain, the basis for the setting of “Beacon,” and a house that was once a morgue. As for her current home, Fran’s husband and two sons keep it overflowing with laughter. She would like readers to know that her eastern North Carolina roots run deep and that nothing in the world compares to the taste of a scuppernong grape.

Please take a moment to enjoy Fran’s winning story, "Beacon", and return here for an interview.

WOW: Hi Fran, congratulations on placing in the WOW! Summer 2011 Flash Fiction Contest!

I believe I read that you are a teacher—tell us a little about that.

Fran: I am a literacy coach and teacher. I love designing and implementing instructional practices which boost students’ enjoyment of reading and writing. I particularly enjoy arts-integrated literacy activities and projects, as these provide students with multiple means of “knowing” and experiencing.

WOW: When did you first know you wanted to write?

Fran: I was six years old when I tried writing my first story. I’m not sure what my inspiration was; I just knew it was something I wanted to do. My teachers from elementary school onward seemed to enjoy my writing and encouraged me to keep at it. I’ve never lost the sense of surprise that my writing should connect so powerfully to others. The greatest encourager of all was my paternal grandmother. When someone believes in you so deeply, you strive to be worthy.

WOW: That’s a lovely sentiment; I’m sure your grandmother would be very proud of you.

Tell us about the inspiration for Beacon; how did you decide to include six year old Lily and a caulbearer?

Fran: As a young wife, I lived on the Eastern Shore of Virginia in a house built by a sea captain in the early 1900’s. Legend has it that his wife died in that house. I never learned the particulars but often imagined the scene of that young wife’s demise. Lily is based on my maternal grandmother, who, as a little girl, assisted her midwife mother in rural North Carolina. I combined the elements and set the story a little further back in time for the historical, slightly gothic feel. I was researching cauls for some forgotten, unconnected reason. When I realized that cauls were believed to protect people from drowning, and therefore highly prized by sailors, I knew I had my story! I also believe in the ultimate power of love: Rebekah willed her captain to come home against the odds, and the baby will protect her father.

WOW: It all came together very nicely; I can see these characters reappearing in other short stories or expanding “Beacon” into a larger tale.

This has been a good year for you. You received an honorable mention in the Lorian Hemingway Short Story Contest and now runner-up in our WOW! Flash Fiction contest. What are your thoughts on writing competitions?

Fran: I am enjoying the competitions, as they are pushing me to finish pieces I’ve long wanted to write! They’ve also been the best exercise I’ve ever had in condensing. I’ll write a story, which is often twice as long as the word count will allow, and then I have pare it back as far as I can without losing the hoped-for impact. I’m also savoring the wonderful work of other writers in the competitions.

WOW: What is your writing routine?

Fran: Random, I confess. I have to work harder to carve out a real routine.

WOW: You mentioned that nothing compares to the taste of a scuppernong grape. Describe the experience for those of us unfamiliar with scuppernongs.

Fran: First of all, don’t let the unassuming appearance deceive you! Scuppernongs are a little larger and more spherical than other grapes. The skin is blotchy golden-green, remarkably thick. Just pop the whole thing into your mouth, split it open with your tongue … oh! The burst of richness is almost breathtaking. Embryonic wine, a touch of dying summer, a whisper of sweet things to come, something of all Christmases and bit of Heaven is encased in that homely little orb. I meant it when I said no other taste on Earth compares! I assert that ambrosia, the food of the gods, was actually scuppernongs.

WOW: Ooh, lovely! Thank you for that meditative moment.

What are your writing goals for 2012?

Fran: I have completed several new pieces, some fiction, some memoir, and am interested to see what becomes of these (they’ve gone to various competitions). I’ll continue writing short pieces for the lovely sense of closure! I also have a longer work I need to return to; I’d like to make significant progress on it in 2012.

WOW: It sounds like 2012 will be a productive year!

Thank you for the lively interview. We wish you the best in all your writing endeavors and hope to see you again in the WOW! Flash Fiction contests.

Interview by Robyn Chausse


Ali B said...

Thank you for your interview on Fran Haley. Beacon sounds like my kind of book. I'll add it to my ever growing queue.

Ali B.

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