Every now and then, I get the pleasure of sharing the page here on Virtual Napkins with a guest author. Today is one of those special days, so be on your best behavior! Taylor Eaton is the founder of the micro-fiction blog Little Write Lies, as well as the co-founder of The Sprint Shack, a website that offers advice and encouragement for writers in all genres and at all stages of the writing process. I met Taylor a while ago via the interwebs. Even though the specifics escape me currently, I’m sure we stumbled across each other in the Twitterverse while we were running writing sprints or some other equally as nerdy-sounding but awesome thing.
So let’s not waste any more time.
Shane: Hey Taylor! Welcome and thanks for stopping by Virtual Napkins!
Taylor: Hi Shane, my pleasure! I’ve been a fan of Virtual Napkins for a while now.
Shane: Thank you very much for that. It seems like it’s been a busy year for you. You’re churning out new material all of the time for your blog, Little Write Lies, and you’re writing for The Sprint Shack. I even heard you talking on Blog Talk Radio at one point. In spite of all of that, though, you still found some time to stop by. So thanks for finding a few minutes to chat with me about your work.
Taylor: You’re right; it has been a busy year! Wow! Just reading that list of things I’ve done recently has tired me out. I’m more than happy to chat with you – it’s good for me to step back from the writing for a while. Uhm…and I guess to step back from Twitter too.
Shane: So you’re here promoting your new collection of micro-fiction, The Suicide of the Moon. So why don’t we start with the genre? Micro-fiction–what is it?
Taylor: Micro-fiction (also known as flash fiction) is generally thought to be a story that falls somewhere under 1,000 words. It’s an interesting type of storytelling to play around with because you don’t have all the space you would have in a novel to give to descriptions or character/plot development. But despite the lack of length, you still have to find a way to tell a complete story without leaving the reader feeling robbed. For some writers, this sort of storytelling comes easily, and for others it sounds like a nightmare.
Shane: I’ve experimented with flash fiction before, and like you said, it can be challenging. Have you ever run up against people who may not quite understand what it is? Or maybe people who think it’s an “easy” form because of its length or lack thereof?
Taylor: For the most part, other writers that I speak to are aware of how difficult it can be to write something so short. Where I meet the most doubt about the validity of flash fiction comes from readers who have never encountered the short genre. While most people seem to love the idea of short short fiction (and who wouldn’t in this culture where time is precious?) that can be read in one sitting, they often think it might be easy to write. But any writing – be it long or short – takes practice to write well.
Shane: I was actually just thinking about how we are living in the ADD generation. Our attention spans are so much shorter now than ever before. Flash fiction seems to be a nice way to feed those shorter attention spans.
Taylor: I agree. Plus, writing flash fiction gives me little space to get bored with a particular story since I only spend a couple days working on each one 🙂
Shane: I guess that would be one of the things you like about the form–it allows flexibility in your focus. What else draws you to micro-fiction?
Taylor: Oh wow…so many things. Personally, I like the challenge of telling a complete story in so few words. I like being succinct and moving the story along quickly. Also, I really enjoy delving into some of the darker sides of life. I’m a generally happy, bubbly person, so it shocks my family and friends when they read some of my darker stories, but I like to explore what makes people unique – and often I think that’s the messed up parts and sad or difficult experiences we’ve encountered. Micro-fiction is great because it allows me to explore emotionally heavy material, but in short spurts. That way, neither me or the reader gets too depressed (I hope!). Also, I can jump from one genre to another as I work on different stories!
Shane: How did you first discover flash fiction? Had you been reading short short stories?
Taylor: I hadn’t really been reading many short stories when I started writing flash fiction. Nearly two years ago I started writing little stories for fun. They were only a page or so long. I didn’t know there was a name or genre for that length, but when I started doing some internet searches on “super short stories,” I discovered flash fiction. Knowing it was a legitimately recognized length in the literary world encouraged me to keep writing it.
Shane: Who are some of the writers that have mastered the form? Who do you look to as exemplars?
Taylor: Honestly, most of the flash fiction writers I read are my peers (other bloggers just starting out on this flash fiction path). But I’ve always enjoyed the short fiction works of well-known writers like Donald Barthelme and Edgar Allen Poe.
Shane: I love Barthelme! I would also suggest Hemingway’s story called, appropriately, “A Very Short Story.” It’s great!
Taylor: Oh, oh! I’ve read that one too! Also good.
Shane: Now, as we’ve already said, the collection you’ve just released is called The Suicide of the Moon. That’s a strong title. It really pops to me. Can you talk a little about where that title comes from?
Taylor: Of course! Well…I can try. The title, “The Suicide of the Moon,” comes from a piece within the collection by the same name. But to be honest, I don’t really know where that came from originally. I was writing stories about the moon for a couple months – it just seemed to be a source of constant inspiration for me. And then when I had about eight or so of these moon stories, I thought I should put them all together in a collection. But I needed a name, and “The Suicide of the Moon” just popped into my head. The story titled “The Suicide of the Moon” was actually named “Melting Moon” for a long time, but I didn’t feel it accurately reflected the emotion of the story – or of the collection.
Shane: I’ve read some of the stories in The Suicide of the Moon, and I’ve noticed elements of the surreal (people dipping their hands into the dust of the moon’s surface, etc.). What do you think it is about the shorter form that lends itself to these elements of surrealism?
Taylor: I think that it’s easier to get people to stick with a shorter story that may be a little surreal since they only have to experience it for a short time. I imagine that a novel written in such a style might be a bit too dense to process. In this shorter form, it’s almost like prose poetry.
Shane: Now, I want to talk a little bit about publication. You have gone the self-publishing, ebook route. Did you consider more traditional publication at any stage? Or did you know from the start of the project that this would be a personal effort?
Taylor: You know, I considered traditional publishing a few years ago when I started really taking my writing seriously. BUT in the last year or so, I’ve read up a lot on self-publishing and realized it would be the best option for me – especially for my flash fiction. The likelihood of any agent or publisher picking up a nontraditional type of writing (such as flash fiction) from an unknown author is zero to none. Also, I have a phenomenal audience of readers from my Little Write Lies site and I wanted “The Suicide of the Moon” to be available to them for an affordable price (which is achievable when it’s published as an ebook) – not marked up for a traditional publisher’s gains.
Shane: After having gone through the process now, what would you say are the perks to self-publishing?
Taylor: With self-publishing, I get complete control over how my book looks, how it is marketed, AND I get paid for it far quicker. I got to decide on the final cover design and when/how the book would be launched. Ultimately, I have complete control. And I like that.
Shane: Would you do it again?
Taylor: Most definitely! The publishing landscape is changing and I think that self-publishing (if done right) is becoming more respected. And potentially more profitable.
Shane: Why don’t we talk about the other things you have going on? What’s going on over at The Sprint Shack these days?
Taylor: We’re busy as always at Sprint Shack! With Camp NaNoWriMo in full swing, we’re hosting word sprints on our Twitter account and churning out articles to aid writers in reaching their word count goals!
Shane: I’m a big fan of the Shack. I try to go to #TalesAndTea every Saturday. Unfortunately, though, I think that’s going to just about do it for us, Taylor. Where can people find you and your work?
Taylor: You can find some of my flash fiction for free at www.littlewritelies.com. I also blog non-fiction articles for writers at www.sprintshack.wordpress.com. PLUS The Suicide of the Moon is now available on Amazon and Kobo (Nook is coming soon!). If you want to chat with me, find me at www.twitter.com/tayloreaton.
Shane: Awesome. Again, Taylor, thank you so much for chatting with me for a bit. You’ll have to swing through again, and we will hash out some more of this micro-fiction stuff. I know we’ve just scratched the surface on the form and all of the possibilities it lends itself to. Needless to say, you’re always welcome here for a conversation about craft and form.
Taylor: Of course! Thank you so much for having me! I always love talking about writing, flash fiction, and…well…just talking in general 🙂 I can’t wait to come back for more great discussion!
I want to urge everyone to pick up this collection of stories. I’ve only just started reading it, and I will tell you that Taylor is well on her way to mastering this very tricky form. The ebook will be $0.99 for a while longer before it goes up to a whopping $2.99. Pick it up for yourself. Support indie authors. Support art.
Until next time,