Interview with Tracy Maxwell, Summer 2017 Flash Fiction Runner Up

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Today we are talking with Tracy Maxwell, one of the runner's up in the Summer 2017 Flash Fiction contest. If you haven't had the chance, make sure you check out her fascinating story, "Mazes" and then come back by and read her interview below.

Tracy’s Bio:

Tracy Maxwell is a lover of all things short-form—especially her children. Her poetry and short fiction have been published and prized in anthology and competition, and she recently won Best International Script in the 2017 Tas Gothic Short Screenplay Challenge. As an Addy-winning advertising creative, Tracy’s also written commercials you’ve probably fast-forwarded through. Attempting to extend her word counts, she’s hard at work coaxing a wicked beast of a novel from her stubborn brain, while also tinkering with her first hour-long drama.

WOW: Thank you for taking the time to chat with us and congrats on your story! What was the inspiration behind, "Mazes"? Did it start with an image, a sentence, an idea, research...or?

Tracy: It stems in part from a longstanding aversion to writing romance. I don’t read the genre much, and haven’t found romantic relationships all that compelling in the fiction and content I enjoy. The idea started percolating when I remembered an interview with David Byrne of the Talking Heads I’d read years ago, where he expressed similar sentiments about love songs. His attempt to challenge himself resulted in “Na├»ve Melody,” one of my very favorite tracks. It’s a romantic song, yes, but it feels almost like a love song for aliens. It was that idea of ‘love songs for aliens’ – along with getting out of my comfort zone – that really sparked “Mazes.”

WOW: I love that you challenged yourself to write in a genre you aren't comfortable in. And I love how Carmen uses her mazes to communicate with the great beyond and the supernatural elements you've included in the story. Does science fiction (or elements of it) always influence your writing? If so, how?

Tracy: Though my favorite author is well known primarily in the genre, I never thought I’d write as much sci-fi as I do! The future and supernatural worlds are freeing landscapes where rules are malleable, which is always helpful and exciting. They’re also great places to plumb how and why people change along with external advances or forces. I also write quite a bit of magical realism, which is really not where I ever thought I’d be.

WOW: Being a science fiction fan myself, I completely agree about the freeing nature of the genre! And congratulations on winning the Tas Gothic Short Screenplay Challenge! Short fiction seems to be your go to writing outlet. Why do you choose short fiction to tell your stories?

Tracy: Thank you so much! I just love the short form. I come from a copywriting background. In advertising, you have to make a tremendous impact in such a tightly defined space. I’ve spent 20 years telling stories in seven words, or 60 seconds, or sometimes in just a name. I think my background affords me a useful toolkit for short fiction, though it’s still always a challenge.

WOW:  That is so true! The need to be brief in short form marketing translates well into short form fiction! So, do you have any advice for new writers wanting to write short fiction? What is the most important thing you can tell them? What mistakes should they avoid making?

Tracy: Know your beats. Those essential moments that propel your story from beginning to end are so important to understand before you start pressing keys, because you need to tell a complete story and don’t have the luxury of word count to make your way there leisurely.

WOW: Those propellers that drive the story forward are so important to know in a short story! So, you mentioned dealing with insomniac thoughts. Can you share some tips on ways to keep track of your ideas, and any tips for insomniacs (or writers simply kept awake by their stories)?

Tracy: Oh, I wish I had the magic sleep juju. No tips there, but I’d love some if you hear any! My brain is always crackling, so I often keep an email draft open on my phone while it charges on my nightstand. With a swipe and a tap I can record the idea, and before I drift off I email the draft to myself. Most of the time.

WOW: Keeping your phone handy to record the idea helps so much! And how did your story change from initial draft to finished form?

The tone changed as I stripped out the extraneous. It was not intentional, but ended up serving the story well.

WOW: Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us and for your fantastic story.

Make sure you find Tracy over at Twitter @SeaMomster for sporadic progress updates, random insomniac thoughts, and hashtag shenanigans.


Angela Mackintosh said...

Excellent interview, ladies!

Tracy, as you know, "Mazes" is one of my favorite flash stories! That's so interesting it was inspired by a David Byrne interview and song. I love that song!

I also keep my cell by my bed and email myself ideas in the middle of the night. Sometimes I use the Google Docs app where I have an "ideas" document where I list random ideas. It's very long and when I open it up I frequently don't remember writing some of them since they happen in the middle of the night. :)

Cheers to 2018 and your writing! Good luck with your novel and hour-long drama and all your other writing projects!

Tracy said...

Thank you, Angela! Your support means everything. Always such a wonderful experience here.

Have a fantastic 2018!

Renee Roberson said...

Loved your story, Tracy!

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