Our second author from Twisted Tales 2015 to be interviewed is Simon Sylvester.
Simon Sylvester is a writer, teacher and occasional filmmaker. His first novel, The Visitors, was published by Quercus Books in 2014, going on to win the Book Box prize and Guardian Not The Booker prize. Simon lives in Cumbria with the painter Monica Metsers and their daughter Isadora.
The title of your flash fiction.
What was your initial motivation or prompt to write this story?
Myself and a poet friend, BigCharlie Poet, undertake an informal photo challenge every few months, taking it in turns to pick a picture and each write about it, then bounce the two pieces – a poem and a story – off each other. On my last turn, I chose a striking picture of a woman holding a fox cub. Although it sung to me, it took months before the story dropped into my head.
What sort of message of feeling are you hoping you leave your audience with?
I wanted Vixen to be an abstract experience, a combination of voices that built into something witchy, something otherworldly. I’m increasingly interested in the idea of threshold spaces, places that are two things at once. If I’ve done it right, then Vixen looks through both sides of the same door.
What sort of stories do you normally write? (Is this story a break from your norm?) What sorts of lengths ( short story, flash, micro, novellas, novels?)
I used to only write short stories, but now I have the novel bug. It’s long work and can be exhausting, juggling those thousand things, but I love the immersion of building a world and exploring it with characters I come to know – characters that develop with the story, changing as they go. In between novels, there’s time to recover, and that’s where I tend to write most of my flash fiction. After running a marathon, I quite like having a knockabout in the park…
What projects or new story lines do you have coming up in the near future?
In the last few days I’ve finished a new novel, called The Hollows, which is about mud and memories. That’s currently with my agent, and will no doubt need redrafting before we approach a publisher. I’m also printing a second book of flash fiction after the first sold out – I enjoy the design process, building a collection, making a cover, typesetting and so on. When that’s done, I have a dozen flash ideas I’ve meaning to develop for months, and then I’m moving onto my next novel, which will either be about mountains or spices. I don’t yet know which of them comes first.
What encouragement or advice do you have for emerging writers?
Eavesdrop in cafes, listen to how people talk, how they think. Take trains. Keep a notebook. Unplug. Smartphones are vampires for all the time you could be thinking.
What advice or tips do you have for writers who feel they are stuck or have “writers block”?
Step away. Read a book, drink a beer, take a swim. Everything is absolutely fine.
Twisted Tales is an annual flash fiction competition celebrating (Inter)National Flash Fiction Day, published byRaging Aardvark Publications. Judged by a panel of experienced short story writers and editors, submissions over the last four years have been extremely high quality; making the job of the judge a difficult one. Authors are drawn from around the globe and stories ranging from lighthearted tales of childhood memories, to gruesome stories to make the reader shiver.