Interview with Rachel Slack, Winter 2019 Flash Fiction Runner Up

Tuesday, July 09, 2019
Rachel’s Bio:

Since having her work published as a young adult, Rachel Slack has focused on honing her affinity for storytelling, alongside furthering her education and building her career. An avid adventurer, she draws inspiration from the rich and varied cultures experienced whilst on her travels. Her current work includes a collection of short stories which paint a snapshot of women’s realities from different walks of life.

Rachel lives with her husband in London, England, and writes (what she hopes is) compelling and creative copy for a leading entertainment company. When she isn’t writing, you’ll find her crafting, cooking, in the company of cats, or planning her next holiday.

If you haven’t read “The Long Road,” click over and enjoy this flash story. Then come back here to learn how Rachel works.

WOW: What inspired you to write “The Long Road”?

Rachel: Women have come so far, yet still have more to overcome. Some of the statistics I found when researching women's progression from 1950 to present day shocked me, but at the same time I was motivated by those who have helped changed the world, no matter how small their role. This led me to create something that celebrated women's successes and highlighted current challenges.

I've always admired my Nanna, who served in the Women's Royal Canadian Naval Service during the Second World War, so I wanted to create a tribute to her. Wrens, as they became known, ran the domestic side of naval bases, which was where she would meet my Grandad, a British submariner, and marry him after only a few weeks. This was the start of an adventure which would lead her far away from her hometown and family. She's always been a role model for me, as has my Mum, as they both took charge of their own lives, no matter what was thrown at them, and even if it didn't feel like they were in control at the time.

WOW: In “The Long Road,” you tell three separate stories that share common threads. Can you explain to our readers how you worked in the elements that weave these stories together?

Rachel: The shared experience for each of the characters is pushing the boundaries and wanting more from what would be considered the gender norm. The women that helped pave the way to where we are today met many a stumbling block on their journey. Due to this and the other themes and metaphors used, it made sense that literal shoes would carry the story.

Also, without being too materialistic, what we wear in different situations often reveals a lot about the occasion. We sometimes attach memories or emotions to particular items of clothing, so I felt it would be quite believable for a very well made pair of shoes to be passed down as they were considered lucky, even if the character of Jo was sceptical.

WOW: How did “The Long Road” change during the rewrite process?

Rachel: The middle section, where we meet Jo, changed the most. She is the furthest from my personality and the strongest voice, mainly because of her frustration. Getting the balance right was tricky as I wanted her to be strong yet still vulnerable due to her situation. There was also no personal experience or relationship that I could draw on for her, so making sure her character was realistic and properly developed took a fair few drafts.

WOW: It was well worth the work because you definitely pulled it off. What advice do you have for writers who are new to flash fiction?

Rachel: Start with an experience or feeling you're familiar with then let your imagination run wild. Use it as a springboard and launch yourself into a completely different story.

Don't try to add too much resolution either. I never said whether Beatrix lived happily ever after, Jo got her mortgage or Andrea was any good at her new job. It's more about leaving the story at a natural break and letting the reader fill in some of the blanks.

The first draft doesn't need to be anywhere close to perfect either – just start writing. I often remove and reinvent entire scenes if they're not moving the story along effectively or adding much value.

WOW: What project are you working on right now? How does it fit into your long-term writing goals?

Rachel: I'm writing a collection of short stories featuring women from all walks of life, both past and present.

Flash fiction competitions are really good at inspiring me to write regularly and I like to add criticism to my entry so I have a reliable source of feedback. Not placing in the top ten would never make me abandon a story or feel that it had been a waste of time. I'd just know that it could probably do with more time, attention and development. I also feel more relaxed about picking topics outside my comfort zone due to the limited word count, which is helping me grow as a writer.

WOW: Thank you for your encouraging words for your fellow writers and also for sharing your process with us. Hopefully some of our readers will have the courage to try to fill your shoes!

Interviewed by Sue Bradford Edwards


Myna said...

I just read "The Long Road." Nicely done! Thanks for sharing this.

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