Today’s interview is with writer Cathryn Grant. I discovered her through the very entertaining FLASH FICTION FOR THE COCKTAIL HOUR but she’s written many other books, all available online.
A few words about Cathryn: My first love is writing fiction, but during the day I work in high tech. Being around all those characters stirs my imagination to whisper what if, so even though I work more hours than I’d like, my job is probably a good thing. I play golf on public (meaning easy!) courses, and read fiction every free minute I can. Luckily my husband likes to read a lot too, and our cats like to watch us read. Seriously. They sit in the middle of the living room floor and stare at us all evening.
SARETT: You’ve written a good deal of flash fiction. What attracts you to the super-short form?
GRANT: I like the challenge of building characters, plot, and a satisfying ending in a thousand words. I like trimming all the extraneous information until I’ve captured a moment in time. I started writing flash fiction to play around, to write stories without thinking much about editing or planning. I like diving in and seeing where my the story goes.
SARETT: What do you think is the key to a successful flash mystery/horror story? Do you think it’s different from writing a, say, 3000 words story from a technical POV?
GRANT: The key is a fast start and a twist that’s well-foreshadowed. A really good twist can be hard to pull off, I sure don’t do it every time. But I’ve read lots of flash fiction with mild twists that are still satisfying. It’s different from longer stories because characters have to be defined in a sentence or two, and further revealed through just a few words of dialog and brief action. That’s also true of short stories, but there’s no room for any sidetracks in flash fiction.
SARETT: You’ve “branded” your fiction as “suburban noir. What’s the essence of suburban noir (and how did you come up with that great term?)
GRANT: The essence of Suburban Noir is that characters have more dark than light in their personalities. The stories also center around or lead to a crime. Not all my flash fiction has an overt crime, but I think crime includes crimes of omission or crimes of morality, even if those acts wouldn’t send the perpetrator to prison.
The idea of Suburban Noir was suggested to me at a mystery writer’s conference where the attendees were invited to read aloud the opening pages of our current novel. The staff quickly realized there was no dead body up front and no investigator in my book. In other words, my fiction couldn’t be categorized as “mystery”. During a brainstorming workshop on how to describe my work, the term “Suburban Noir” was tossed into the ring and it resonated with me. When I read up on the themes of Noir fiction I was sure it was a good fit.
SARETT: You’ve written full-length “Suburban Noir” novels as well as shorts. Are you more at home writing short fiction versus long or is it the other way around?
GRANT: The shorter the form, the briefer the moment in time it captures. So to me, the only difference between flash fiction, a short story, a novella, or a novel is the length of time I spend peering into my characters’ lives, and the depth of personality that’s revealed.
SARETT: Some of your stories (e.g., Sitting With the Dead, Superior) blend dark humor with horror, which, I think, is a tricky balance. Do you worry about readers not “getting it”?
GRANT: I don’t worry about that for flash. I write it for fun, to play around. When readers respond, that’s great, but if they don’t, I’m okay because each one is an experiment. And I don’t do a lot of re-writing and polishing with my flash fiction. That’s why I make them free on my website, and as much as the online stores allow, the ebooks are also free.
SARETT: Many of the greatest writers have dabbled in ghost stories. We know that readers love ghosts -- but what is it about ghost stories that appeals to writers?
GRANT: Ghost stories appeal to me because some of the themes I’m interested in are the fear of death and spiritual beliefs – ghosts open the door to that world.
SARETT: Do you have a favorite among your books, or are they all favorite children?
GRANT: The book I’m writing is always my favorite! The current novel is titled Getting Ahead. It’s about a woman who desperately wants to climb the corporate ladder, but her reaction to a sinister man she meets on her morning run threatens to destroy everything she’s worked for.
SARETT: I’m always trying to discover new interesting short fiction writers. Do you have any suggestions for our readers?
GRANT: Laura Kasischke has recently released a short fiction collection – If A Stranger Approaches You. Four stories were chilling and well-written. Others were surreal, somewhat unnerving, and a few perplexing and very open ended. Every collection has some that I love.
Among older collections:
--Eleven by Patricia Highsmith
--Piranha to Scurfy by Ruth Rendell.
--Those writers are also among my favorite novelists, along with Joyce Carol Oates, Gillian Flynn, and Megan Abbott.
SARETT: Any new projects that you’d like readers to know about?
GRANT: I recently published The Hallelujah Horror Show about a suburban man who becomes obsessed with a woman from the Pentecostal church.
Thanks for the interview. I enjoyed our virtual conversation!
Cathryn’s websites can be found here: CathrynGrant.com You can follow her on facebook.com/CathrynGrant, twitter.com/cathryngrant and goodreads.com/CathrynGrant.Find more of her book here: