Dying Young and Daniel Isn’t Talking. Widely translated, and published worldwide, Marti is a core tutor on the Master’s programme in creative writing at the University of Oxford. Her upcoming novel, Dragonfly Girl, will be published in February 2021 by Katherine Tegen Books/Harper Collins.
interview by Marcia Peterson
WOW: Congratulations on your top ten win in our Winter 2020 Flash Fiction competition! What inspired you to enter the contest?
Marti: Every so often, I write short pieces in order to keep my fiction sharp. Writing with a word limit means you are paring down your work to the barest minimum you can without compromising on character development. It's a great practice even if its done purely to hone skills. However, when I wrote Fourth Of July I knew I had a piece that was more than practice. It has a voice and urgency to it that was worthy of developing further. I saw the opportunity of a competition as a nice framework to get me motivated to revise it into a publishable piece.
WOW: Can you tell us what encouraged the idea behind your story, “Fourth of July?” I liked how it’s written in the implied second person voice, without the “you” pronoun stated.
Marti: Second person is perhaps the most point of view with the most immediacy in fiction. It makes that silent request of the reader: imagine this. Imagine yourself in this. If you use second person you are challenging yourself as a writer to provide that imaginary experience at a high level. Otherwise, your demand to the reader will not only be resisted but possibly resented. In Fourth of July I provide an experience that I hope the reader will respond to with, "Yes, I'll come with you on this one. Definitely."
WOW: What do you enjoy about flash fiction writing versus the other kinds of writing that you do?
Marti: When flash works, there's no more satisfying feeling to me. It's a complete thing with few, if any, real flaws to it. A novel is a different animal. I will always find things in it that are too long or overwrought or even embarrassing. I'm talking about published work now. But with flash, I rarely find anything in it that I regret. It's so short, so succinct, that either the whole thing works or the whole thing doesn't.
WOW: You have a new novel, Dragonfly Girl, coming out early next year. What has your novel writing journey been like with this book?
Marti: Dragonfly Girl is a YA action novel that came to me, in part, in a dream. I've never had anything like that happen and I had to go with it. The first eighty pages just took me with them. I hardly had to work at all. After that, I had to push a little up through the middle. There is a sequel in progress and there was always going to be a sequel. The story is more than a single volume and I've known that from the start. I've never written YA and I've never written a novel knowing there would be a sequel, so it's all very new to me.
WOW: Sounds interesting! Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Marti. Before you go, do you have any tips for our readers who may be thinking about entering writing contests?
Marti: Don't worry about whether you win or not. Love the process of writing and use contests as an opportunity to meet deadlines, get feedback, share in the writing community and enjoy your work. Two rules for writing I go by are: 1) Sit in the chair 2) Take chances. Think of writing contests as another reason to do both. And good luck!
For more information about our quarterly Flash Fiction and Creative Nonfiction Essay contests, visit our contest page here.