Interview with K. Alan Leitch, Runner Up in Fall 2018 Flash Fiction Contest

Tuesday, April 09, 2019
Author of YA, Mysteries and Satirical Adventures, K. Alan Leitch writes with lyricism for the fun-loving reader. His novel awards include Textnovel, Serena McDonald Kennedy, The Write Launch and Book Pipeline. Through sixteen short fiction awards, he’s loved soap operas with Writer Advice; lived loudly in Gathering Storm Magazine; written in seven different voices for WOW! Women On Writing; and protected other worlds in Stringybark Stories. His satirical adventure, Crimes of Convenience, has placed in the 2017 International 3-day Novel Contest, and his YA Mystery, Too Much Information, has placed in the top seven of the 2018 International Eyelands awards and in the top ten of the 2017 Book Pipeline Contest, surpassing 1,974 other published and unpublished novels. Visit K. Alan's Blog or tweet-a-gram him @KAlanAuthor

interview by Marcia Peterson

WOW: Congratulations on placing as a runner up in our Fall 2018 Flash Fiction competition. Can you tell us the source of your inspiration when you write in a teenage voice like the one in your story, "Weak as Tissue?"

Keith: I actually get asked about my teenage voices a lot, and not always so politely. Sometimes the question starts with, "What makes you think you can.." Because of my age and (maybe to some extent) my gender, many in the writing profession are surprised. But the answer is surprisingly simple: I'm a teacher.

Having been a teacher for twenty-four years—twenty of those full-time—teenage voices might be the ones that are most familiar to me. I've known literally thousands of teenagers, and I still talk to hundreds every week. The bigger challenge is to write something that's not in a narrative style that they've influenced.

Sometimes a student will voice a problem to me that's completely similar or radically different from a problem I heard ten years ago. When it comes to insecurity over body image, I'm afraid that's timeless. It also knows no racial or cultural barriers, and, let's face it, it lasts more into adulthood than we care to admit. Thus Brooke's conflict in "Weak as Tissue."

#ownvoices are incredibly important, and I completely support the trend. However, there's also something to be said for experience: finding the common ground within a culture to speak through protagonists, and the conflict around it to create narrative tension. I suspect it's the same for a lot of authors... an amalgam of the people who surround them every day are their most likely characters.

WOW: What do you enjoy about flash fiction writing versus the other kinds of writing that you do?

Keith: Well, outside of my blog, I mostly write only short stories (flash or otherwise) and novels. The shorter the story, the more I enjoy my ability to focus on the exact choice of the most lyrical words possible. Flash-writing is much more about exposing my themes than it is about worrying whether I've contradicted some plotting detail in Chapter 2. That creates a whole different writing 'mode.'

WOW: What is your ideal writing environment?

Keith: The inside of Scrooge McDuck's vault. I'm sorry, I really don't know. Sometimes I need some background music or noise, and knowing there's some humanity around me. It's a cliché, but my local Starbucks serves me well on those days. At other times, I need silence, familiarity and the view from my own window. I think the only consistency is that I always need to be confident that I won't be interrupted—not even by my own cripplingly short attention span.

WOW: I'm the same way about not being interrupted. So, what's new? What projects are you working on now?

Keith: That's a timely question. I haven't actually written a new novel for a long time, now, because I've been focusing on finding a home for some of the work that I've polished. I'm still seeking a home for for YA Psychological Mystery Too Much Information, which has placed strongly in two competitions but remains unsigned. Recently, I came close to a deal for my magical YA adventure, Olivia Tames Olympus, so I'm following up on some of those threads: you might see it around soon.

I'm also a big disappointment to the world's greatest editor, Matthew Bird, because I haven't acted on his outstanding feedback on my 3-day novel finalist, Crimes of Convenience. It's a semi-satirical mystery about a convenience store clerk in Provo, Utah, who becomes a suspect when boys from a nearby prep school are poisoned by sealed snacks sold in his store. His desperate investigation leads him to discover cover-ups of abuses by powerful men. A little too familiar these days, I know; it's more fun than it sounds. Editor Matt, who authored writing guide Secrets of Story, is trying to convince me to make it YA, too. Maybe.

Of course, there's also the whole list of short fiction on my blog, including the recently published In Deep by the amazing Clare MacQueen at KYSO Flash.

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

Keith: I'd actually like to share an improvement I need to make myself, and that's about treating subcultures with respect.Too often, I write surrounding characters who are cliché, because they're a gang member or from a poorer class than the protagonist. Naturally, that means they must be violent or grammatically challenged, right?

Well, no, actually. All it necessarily means is that they've had different experiences from the protag. I think if it's worth writing about a particular subculture at all, then it's worth locating that subculture's dignity: starting with a change in the labels. Throw out "Emo" and "Banger," and start again. I blog about this a bit more here.

In the meantime, write some Flash Fiction. Competitions like this one are just the inspiration you need.


For more information about our quarterly Flash Fiction and Creative Nonfiction Essay contests, visit our contest page here.


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