Fantastic Ladies

This month’s issue of Flash Fiction Online features four very talented women and four very stellar fantasy/science fiction stories.

Three of the authors have published at least one other story in Flash Fiction Online.

You can find their bios with lists of their FFO stories here:

Samantha Murray “Duck, Duck, Duck”

Rebecca Birch “Eyes of Wood, Heart of Stone”

Maria Haskins “The Ghost in Angelica’s Room”

Our FFO Newbie is UK author, Helen French. We think you’ll love her story, “Dragon Meat,” and we think you might find her fascinating, too, because I decided to interview her for this month’s introduction.

Interview with Helen French:

QUESTION: Tell us 5 intriguing things about yourself.

ANSWER: 1) I sneeze a LOT (being allergic to dust, pollen, fur and feather, and probably many things I don’t know about).
2) My idea of a great night is sitting down with a glass of wine and crying at some really good television (Call the Midwife anyone? I challenge you NOT to cry at it). I’m partial to a spot of book-weeping too, of course.
3) I briefly worked for Harlequin’s UK office and discovered Maria V Snyder in the slush pile with her manuscript Poison Study. She went on to be a NYT bestseller and I’m still thrilled when I see her books on shelves.
4) My main new year’s resolution every year is ‘be nicer’, which doesn’t come naturally to me (in fact I think I’m slightly suspicious of genuinely nice people). It’s so easy to slip into thinking the worst of others. It’s also easy to brighten someone’s day with small kindnesses that don’t cost anything. I lean toward dark and twisty, but I think ‘nice’ is a healthy goal.
5) My husband and I took a holiday to Vancouver in the days before we had kids primarily so we could find all the locations of various geeky TV shows that we love (Battlestar Galactica, Supernatural, etc). Worth every penny.

QUESTION: What’s your day job? How did you come to choose that as a career?

ANSWER: My career has followed a rather winding path. I started off in book-selling, then book publishing, spending a couple of years at Harlequin Mills & Boon (long before it got swallowed up), where I read a lot of slush (a fantastic experience). But when I had to move house due to changing circumstances I ended up in magazine publishing, being a sub-editor for a number of years. Eventually, I moved over into ‘digital’. Now I build websites and other digital products. While I sometimes miss the more bookish start of my career, I have a lot more mental energy for creative writing these days.

QUESTION: How do your surroundings–the people, places, culture around you–influence your stories?

ANSWER: I grew up in the northwest of England, in a coastal town with amazing sand dunes and pinewoods, next to the sea. I’m often drawn back to it for my fiction. If not the physical location itself, that feeling of openness and big expanses of sky. Since then I’ve lived in Bath, London and Hertfordshire and each place has made its own imprint on my heart. Take London – I studied in London and it’s where I first made a home with my husband. It’s bustling and creative, with dark alleyways and gorgeous vistas. I’ve lived North and South (anyone from the UK can tell you about the so-called ‘divide’ between the two) and I can tell you that, vowel sounds aside, the people are pretty much the same all over.

QUESTION: Which author would you say is your greatest exemplar as far as your development as a writer, and why?

ANSWER: It may sound rather cliched now, but my answer has always been Ursula Le Guin. The Earthsea series and The Lathe of Heaven will stay with me forever. I discovered her fantasy first – Ged stood out amongst a sea of would-be mages – and came to her science fiction much later, but enjoy both hugely. Le Guin makes you think and care, which is much harder than it sounds. I aspire to do both one day! Her material on writing itself has been tremendously useful on a personal level too. She is missed.

QUESTION: Tell me about the genesis of “Dragon Meat.”

ANSWER: I wanted to write a dragon story, if only to tick it off a sort of bucket list, and I started with the idea that my character would be someone who didn’t even like dragons all that much. It began with her voice, and she took over. Normally I’m much more of a planner, but I let the voice lead this time. !

Thank you, Helen!

And Happy Reading to you all!