Interview with Sarah Angleton: 3rd Place in 2015 Summer Flash Fiction Contest

Tuesday, January 26, 2016
A writer at heart, Sarah Angleton decided to shift gears after receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in zoology and went on to earn her MA in Literature through the Creative Writing Program at the University of Missouri. Her first novel was recently accepted for publication by High Hill Press and her short and flash fiction has appeared in several anthologies and in the literary journal Goldman Review as well as the online magazines 100 Word Story and Red Fez. Sarah lives in St. Charles County, Missouri where she writes historical fiction and blogs as the Practical Historian at

If you haven't done so already, check out Sarah's award-winning story "The Greatest of Ease" then return here for a chat with the author.

WOW: Congratulations on placing 3rd in the Summer 2015 Flash Fiction Contest! What was the inspiration for your short story, or what prompted you to write this particular story?

Sarah: I remember going to a circus when I was young and watching the tightrope walkers and the trapeze artists performing their amazing feats. I watched, mesmerized, but also terrified that I might witness a devastating accident. When the ringmaster announced that the safety net would be removed for the final act, I felt sick and turned away. I couldn’t watch. To me it was a singular terrible moment in time.

I think what I love particularly about flash fiction is the challenge of stripping away so many of the details longer stories allow us to explore, and focusing instead on just that one moment which defines all others. I couldn’t imagine a more defining moment for a character than the instant between life and death, between the power of decision and the powerlessness of having no choice.

As a child I looked away from the trapeze because I was scared that the performers would fail. Now, of course, I have a better sense of the years of training, the endless practice, and the muscle memory that makes it unlikely for tragedy to occur. But I might still look away because the moment when an individual is flying through the air, preparing for, and trusting in the catch, strikes me as intensely personal.

I really liked the idea of exploring that moment with a character, and in this case, a character with mixed feelings about the coming catch, and about the endless practice, and about the body she has worked so hard to train for this very feat, but that has ultimately failed her. When we meet her, Charlotte’s story is already ending, beyond her ability to control it. As the viewing audience cheers Charlotte’s triumphant victory over certain death, the reading audience, like Charlotte, knows of its imminent inevitability.

WOW: Amazing insight into your story and your thought process behind it. Thank you for sharing that with us. In addition to this story, we want to congratulate you on the acceptance of your first novel! That’s quite a feat! Can you tell us about the novel?

Sarah: Thank you! The novel is a work of historical fiction set in 19th century New York State. Ada Moses is a diviner known for her uncanny ability to uncover hidden items. One night she receives a visit from a Mormon apostate, seeking help in tracing the path of a mysterious manuscript, one with the potential to unravel the foundation of his former faith. Ada immediately understands that while grasping for clues, the man has inadvertently stumbled into that which he seeks, both the manuscript and the woman who has long safeguarded its secrets.

Unsure of how to proceed, Ada sends him away and soon learns that he has become the victim of a grisly ritualistic murder. Fearing for her life, Ada seeks an audience with the one man to whom the manuscript may rightfully belong, and in doing so, faces the demons of her own past, the danger of maintaining the secrets of the prophets, and the devastation of unshakable belief.

WOW: Fantastic – sounds like it has the flavor of suspense and excitement! What do you enjoy most and/or the least about writing?

Sarah: I am not fond of the drafting process. That first terrible rough draft, when the goal is just to get the story told, is by far the worst part for me. It’s always difficult to turn down the volume on the internal editor, the one that wants to agonize over sentence structures and word choices or whether the main character is eating period appropriate breakfast foods, when what she should be worried about is whether or not the main character murdered her husband.

I suppose it stands to reason then that my favorite part of writing is revision. I love to grapple with language until a sentence begins to sing on the page.

WOW: I’m with you there – drafting is the most agonizing part for me, too, for all the reasons you stated. But revision, I think, is where the writer’s craft shines. What are you reading right now, and why did you choose to read it?

Sarah: I’m finally getting around to The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, a truly wonderful novel that I’d been hearing about for years. I am the mother of two enthusiastic middle grade readers who love to share their favorite books, so I am also reading the delightful Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein. And because I am a history enthusiast, I have recently picked up Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates, a nonfiction work by Brian Kilmeade, which is proving to be an accessible and fascinating read.

WOW: Great choices! I always find it delightful to dip into the middle-grade and YA market for reading pleasure. If you could give other creative writers one piece of advice, what would it be and why?

Sarah: Read everything and read with purpose. I find the best way to improve my craft is to read what others have done and are doing, both inside and outside my genre. I recommend reading both the great and the not so great, because every work can inform your own in some way. Perhaps you will admire the way a particular author chose to juggle concurrent scenes or how he managed to create sympathy for a fairly despicable character. Or maybe the way she approached a challenging love scene felt unconvincing to you as a reader. Regardless of whether you admire or dislike the work, you’ll have learned something that can prove valuable during your own writing process.

WOW: Wonderful advice! Thanks so much for your thoughtful responses. Happy writing!

Interviewed by: Anne Greenawalt


Margo Dill said...

Congrats, Sarah!

Donna Volkenannt said...

Wonderful interview. Congratulations, Sarah. I love your story!

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