Interview with Kelley Hicken, Spring 2020 Flash Fiction Contest Runner Up

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Kelley Hicken is passionate about sharing engaging and uplifting stories with a hint of the supernatural. She is the author of Under the Foster Freak Tree, a middle-grade novella inspired by her own experience as a foster mom. Kelley resides in Idaho with her husband and their two children. Learn about her latest projects at

Read Kelley's story, "I Decided to Jump Off a Bridge," and then return here to learn more about this talented author and illustrator. 

----------Interview by Renee Roberson
WOW: Congratulations, Kelly, and welcome! "I Decided to Jump Off a Bridge" is such a poignant tale full of "what ifs?" What was the process of creating it like—did any of the characters change or transform as you worked through the revision process?

Kelley: I came up with the idea for this story and wrote a two-sentence prompt that sat in my "flash fiction ideas" file for several years collecting digital dust. Every once in a while, I will grab a random idea out of the folder and complete it. I believe it took less than two hours from start to finish, and I didn't vary from my original idea of who the characters should be. The story was easy to write because I am passionate about the fact that every life has value and purpose. It came from a place of love, which makes all the difference in whether or not my writing "works."

WOW: I love it when a story flows so easily out of a writer and the message behind this one. You are also the author of a middle-grade novella inspired by your experience as a foster mother. What are some books from your childhood that helped guide you through those pre-teen and teen years?

Kelley: This question makes me laugh because the books that meant the most to me as a teen were the books I hesitated to read because I considered them "old lady" stories. My grandma recommended The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck, and it was a life-altering experience, pulling me out of teenage entitlement and forcing me to question women's rights and my value as a girl. A family friend gifted me a stack of books one summer, including Number the Stars by Lois Lowry, and The Diary of Anne Frank. Both of these books fostered sincere gratitude for the freedom and security I had previously taken for granted.
Then, there was Eric by Doris Lund, a book that you only have to read once to feel it's power for the rest of your life. It's a story of a boy with Leukemia as told by his mother. I remember falling in love with Eric, hoping against all hope that he would overcome the disease, and then feeling devastated when he didn't. I hated the book because it hurt my heart in ways I'd never experienced before. Nine years later, I met my future husband, who is a cancer survivor. The scenes from Eric flooded back to me as if I'd just read it. For the first time, I fully recognized the power books have to develop empathy and human connection. It's why I choose to write, even if it is a painful effort at times.

WOW: It sounds like the book "Eric" made its way into your life for a reason! Based on what I've seen on your blog, in addition to being a writer, you are also a talented illustrator. What are some ways you prioritize which projects you are working on and when?

Kelley: My formula for prioritization is quite simple. When I make time for creative endeavors, I ask myself two questions: 
1. Are my kids awake? 
2. Am I stressed out? 
If the answer to either of those questions is yes, I will opt for illustration. Drawing is a stress relief for me, and if interruptions happen, it's not difficult to pick up where I left off. On the other hand, writing takes a significant amount of focus, and I often feel the very emotions I am writing. When I have just plotted the untimely death of a beloved character, and my kids walk in to see me bawling, it doesn't feel like the best mothering moment.

WOW: I can understand that. I'm glad drawing can provide you with such a stress relief in the times you need it. Having written a novella and award-winning flash fiction, which form do you prefer the most and why?

Kelley: In my heart, I want to say I prefer to write novels. I love nothing more than to delve into a fantasy world and create meaning and emotion where there was none before. In practicality, flash fiction is my favorite because it's so much easier to finish a project. I also love the challenge of making someone laugh or cry with the fewest words possible.
WOW: What are you working on now?
Kelley: Besides endless illustration classes? I am currently working on a fantasy novel about a selfish quarry prisoner on the verge of losing her job as the royal tomb engraver. When she develops a dangerous and illegal gift of visions and foresees the unborn prince's murder, she must decide to either hide her gift or risk her own life to save him. 

I am always writing flash fiction pieces, too. I love this contest because I always receive valuable advice from the critiques. Thanks again for a great experience. I feel honored to see my work among such talented writers. 


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