Interview with flash fiction writer: Samantha Memi

Today’s interview is with writer Samantha Memi whose book Kate Moss & Other Heroines has recently appeared in a Kindle Edition.
A few words about Samantha: She teaches drama and writes flash fiction and plays. Samantha started writing stories at university but gave it up in order to travel and work in Spain, Portugal and Costa Rica. She got back into writing a couple of years ago when a friend told her about online magazines. She is married with a daughter and lives in London.

SARETT: You’ve written a good deal of flash fiction. What appeals to you about the super-short story?
MEMI: I have a short attention span. Flash fiction suits me. The first things I wrote were 5 or 10 minute plays. Later at university I wrote very short stories. It's a form that comes naturally to me, although I wish I could write longer works.

SARETT: Do you think flash is a form that the “general” reader can embrace? Or is a “writer’s” form?
MEMI: A lot of writers use flash fiction to experiment before writing the obligatory novel. I'm not sure that’s helpful. Just because you can write a 1000 words doesn’t mean you can translate that success into 90,00 words. 
A problem for readers is the expectation of what a ‘book’ should be. Elizabeth Ellen’s wonderful Before You She Was a Pit Bull isn’t a reader’s idea of a book because it is only a few stapled sheets, while Fast Machine better fits expectations. 
I'm not sure a full sized collection of stories is the best medium for flash. I think flash is a form better suited to a chapbook. I suppose story collections will go the same way as CDs. Readers will be able to download the whole collection or just one or two stories. Maybe this has already happened.

SARETT: What do you think is the key to successful flash? Do you think it’s different from writing a, say, 3000 words story from a technical POV?
MEMI: I've never been able to write much longer than 1000 words so I'm not the best person to ask. But the key is brevity. Brevity in sentence structure, leaving out back-story, starting the story in the middle of the action, and not bothering about lengthy descriptions of characters.

SARETT: You and I both enjoy writing humor (hooray!)  Shaw said that dying is easy, comedy is hard.  What’s your perspective?
MEMI: How did Shaw know that dying is easy? Had he tried? I suppose it would be if you were walking along a street and a 10 year old communications satellite hurtled to earth, hit you on the head and pushed you 10 feet into the ground. But it would be hard if you were tied up by pirates, thrown into the ocean, and a turtle came along and let you breathe the air trapped underneath him. Then you would start thinking, There’s hope, I’ll survive. And when the turtle gets fed up with your reeling and writhing and swims away, all your hopes are dashed. That would be hard.
I’ve found that some stories come out funny, and others serious. Recently I’ve been trying to write stories that deal with contemporary social issues. But I find these stories difficult to write; I’m aware that I may slide into moralizing.

SARETT: Speaking of humor, I am not a fan of short fiction where the humor hinges on the last line, like a joke.  Your take?
MEMI: I agree. They are elongated jokes. A joke should be just a few lines;
  Who invented wire?
  Two Scotsmen fighting over a penny.
But a comedy story has to have comedy inherent within the characters and situations. For me comedy writing stems from finding the foibles in your characters and accentuating them. Marina Lewycka is one of my favorite contemporary comedy writers. She is funny because she gets under the skin of her characters. Also Frances Leftkowitz and Jessica Treat, who are not usually seen as comedy writers but give comic traits to their characters. I'm not fond of writing that doesn’t have an aspect of humor.

SARETT: What’s your take on the new “tweet” fiction?  Are we getting, like, too short?  
MEMI: It's an abomination, and if I ever become President of the World I will have the practice banned.

SARETT: I find the 1000 word limit on flash to be arbitrary and sometimes too constraining -- 1200 seems short enough.  Do you find yourself bumping up against word count?  
MEMI: The story is what is important, not how many words it contains. I'm sure if computers couldn’t count there would be no concern over the number of words because no one would bother to count. I blame computers. If I were President… oh, I've said that.

SARETT: I’m always trying to discover new interesting flash writers.  Do you have suggestions for our readers?   
MEMI:I like writers who have the strength to pursue their own vision, who make a story uniquely their own, and refuse to follow the restrictions of tradition.
  • Janice D. Soderling. Her story, Swish, Swish has the opening line: ‘A woman sweeping the floor is gathering up the crumbs of her life in a jumble of years.’ Isn’t that a wonderful image? So many of her stories are mini-masterpieces.
  • Julie Koh. She had a film made of one of her shorts (Colin the Dog's Fabulous Midnight Adventure and Another Story) My favorite: Friendsville: …she took to playing social tennis in a dress that covered her only as far as her liver, or perhaps, when stretched, her small intestine.’ I love that. It takes you out of your expectation as a reader.
  • Rohini Gupta. That Look In His Eyes is my favorite story this year.  
  • Mira-Martin Parker. She has won the 2013 Five Quarterly First Annual E-Chapbook Competitioncompetition for The Carpet Merchant’s Daughter.
SARETT: Tell us about other projects that you’re working on.
MEMI: At the moment I'm deep in hell trying to put together stories for chapbooks. Submitting a story to a magazine is bad enough but sorting out ten that fit together is the devil’s torture. My inclination is to include my favorite stories, but they take longer to get published than the stories I don’t like so much, so I have to include stories I am not very fond of. Then I have to put them in order, then I have to proofread, and by the time I've done the deadline has passed.
I'm also translating stories by Linda BerrĂ³n and Giovanna Benedetti, a more heavenly task.

Thank you Carla for inviting me to this interview. It was fun.

Samantha’s website: 
Follow her on Facebook and Twitter @SamanthaMemi

Kate Moss & Other Heroines is available for Kindle from Hammer and Anvil Press

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