October 14, 2014 § 1 Comment
The flash movement has seen new and wonderful genres emerge, from micro-fiction to sudden fiction to flash fiction, from flash essay to flash memoir to flash nonfiction, from six-word memoirs to #cnftweets, and some of the best work, both defining the genres and providing brilliantly imagined examples, has come from Rose Metal Press. This month, they introduce yet another genre, the novella in flash.
With My Very End of the Universe: Five Novellas-in-Flash and a Study of the Form, Rose Metal Press celebrates, names, and defines the novella built of standalone flash pieces. The book includes novellas-in-flash by Tiff Holland, Meg Pokrass, Aaron Teel, Margaret Patton Chapman, and Chris Bower. Each novella-in-flash is accompanied by a craft essay by the author exploring how they came to use the form to tell their stories and how the genre works. Rose Metal Press editors Abigail Beckel and Kathleen Rooney open the collection with a genre-defining introduction.
To further investigate the unique characteristics of the novella-in-flash, the authors of My Very End of the Universe interviewed each other about their work, and Brevity will be running one of these interviews every Tuesday for the next few weeks. Enjoy!
Today, Chris Bower Interviews Tiff Holland:
CB: I read an interesting review of your novella that was written by an Irish writer who had no idea what Central Texas looked like and she thought your stories didn’t really show her. It wasn’t a criticism because she went on to explain that so much of what happens here happens inside the house, inside stores, and a lot of time is spent inside the car, going place to place. How important was the setting of this story for you?
TH: I’m glad the Irish writer wasn’t disappointed that the novella didn’t have more of a Central Texas feel. She’s right in that the stories actually take place in cars, apartments, and stores. Still, there is a lot of Texas in the stories. The buzzards in “Barberton Mafia” both in their number and brazenness, are unlike anything I’ve encountered in other places I’ve lived, and I certainly can’t imagine a spontaneous prayer circle forming around my mother (or anyone else) in most parts of the country, certainly not in my hometown in Ohio. For me, the stories start when Betty takes the stage, when she gets in the car, talking about her pee-hole before she’s all the way in or butchers Shakespeare calling up to the narrator’s second floor bedroom window. So, I believe the stories would have been basically the same regardless of setting. They are set any time, any place within Betty’s gravitational pull.
CB: You write in your essay that Betty could be “difficult, demanding, and shinier than I liked.” Even with a character like Betty, who could have easily slipped into caricature, you are always able to find the humanity in her, even when she is being unpleasant. You also wrote in your essay that the opening story, “Dragon Lady,” was your road map for other Betty stories. Could you tell us more about her creation and evolution?
TH: I had been writing “Betty” poems for years and realized that the character needed to be well defined and consistent if I wanted to possibly publish them in a collection, something I was just starting to consider when I wrote that piece.
As for her creation and evolution, Betty is very much based on my mother and I tried to be objective in “Dragon Lady.” I expected it to be merely a character sketch, but it ended up being a story, containing an arc that I hadn’t really recognized when I started writing. Betty then evolved as my relationship with my mother evolved. I always say that the birth of my daughter brought my mother and me together. However, I believe that writing these stories helped as well. I try to be an “objective observer” in my writing, to the point that I believe it can be a weakness and characters based on me can be as boring as oatmeal. I’ve learned to appreciate a little shine. I no longer balk at it. By the end of her life, my mother and I came to accept each other as we were. We appreciated each other, both our similarities and differences.
CB: I am fascinated with your evolution as a writer, from a poet to a writer of prose that still relies on your “poets eye” and attention to line. Also, in some ways I prefer your use of the word “concentrate” to describe what came to be known as “flash.” Do you feel like you have found a home here in this style and form of writing?
TH: Chris, I’m flattered that you find my evolution interesting. Really, it’s rather boring. I always wrote narrative poems. So, the line between genres was thin. As for “concentrate,” I could add water (words) to almost all of them and turn them into longer stories, novels, but I am partial to the line. I hate the idea of weakening something by adding words. If one hundred or five hundred words get the feeling across, why add more? I have faith my readers can connect the dots. My writing is not intended as instruction manuals but as art. Hopefully, it succeeds on that level. If not, then I’ll work on instruction manuals—I believe the pay is better.
Tiff Holland’s Betty Superman is one of five novellas-in-flash forthcoming in My Very End of the Universe: Five Novellas-in-Flash and a Study of the Form from Rose Metal Press. Betty Superman was also the winner of the Rose Metal Press Fifth Annual Short Short Chapbook Contest in 2011.