Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Author Interview: Francis H. Powell

1. You have published several short stories, including an entire anthology. What do you think people expect when they hear the phrase “short story,” and how does that perception affect the way you write?

For me a short story needs to have a powerful introductory first sentence and the first paragraph has to ignite the reader’s interest. A short story writer has to establish strong characters, immediately.  An idea for a short story can develop very quickly. I wonder if people rather think of a short story, as the younger, lesser sibling to a novel. Maybe some people think you graduate from short stories into novels. I wonder if short stories are a little devalued. You can pack so much into a short story, create a singular strong mood, which pervades throughout the story.  Some of my stories are almost out of the limits of “short stories” they can be quite long, in some cases and have a lot of depth.
Sometimes short stories can appear like written “doodles” leaving you wanting more, as if they are incomplete, preludes to longer works.  Hopefully my stories don’t have this effect.

2. You have written a prolific number of works, twenty-two of them showcased in your book, The Flight of Destiny. How much unpublished work do you have lying around, and how did you determine which to put in the collection?

Quite a lot.  I suppose you have to think about having variety in an anthology, but at the same time some kind of continuity and themes that run through the stories.  You have to determine which stories are the strongest, will have the biggest impact. Maybe I have about another three book’s worth of short stories. Sometimes I go back to stories and revamp them.

3. How long have you been writing, and what is one opinion about the craft you’ve had changed over your career?

I moved to a remote village in Austria. It was not far from Vienna, but a very oppressive and strange environment. I thought I should try writing a book. I launched into it… nothing came of it. I do many creative activities, painting as well as writing music. Writing lay dormant, put to one side. Then later, living in Paris at this point in time, via an advert, I made contact with a man called Alan Clark, who had a literary magazine called Rat Mort (dead rat).  I submitted four short stories for this magazine. Encouraged by Alan, I began to write more and more short stories, and developed a style… I guess if I compare these stories to earlier efforts at writing… there has been a huge development…I am sure my early attempts were imaginative but raw. I don’t know if it is a new aspect, due to the importance of the social media, but I never knew (up to April) that a writer also had to be a book promoter and spend hours on social media, trying to get a book noticed.
4. What are your biggest concerns about the current literary world?

Too many E.L. James clones.

5. What trends, tactics, styles, or genres would you like to see become popular in modern writing?

A fusion of well-produced written books with brilliant illustrations. I come from an arts background. My book has twenty-two illustrations.

6. What trends would you like to see disappear?

Any trends that appear tasteless, writers out to make a quick buck, with titillating factory produced stories, and a steamy cover with naked figures strewn with bondage writhing together in a tight clench.  

7. Where do you find yourself getting stuck most often—planning? Beginning, middle, or end?

With my style of writing, I am always moving the story along to the end, thinking about the where the direction of the story is going.  As I said before the first sentence is paramount, for example my story “Bugeyes” begins with… Bug-eyes was due a life of toil. “Seed” begins with Captain Spender’s wife was ovulating. “Cast from Hell” begins with There it was: I was to be banished from hell. The ends have to have a dramatic twist, with events leading up to this.

8. If you could hire someone to do any of the writing work for you, what jobs would you assign to them?

A proof-reader with sharp eyes, to thoroughly scan each story.

9. Tell us a little about The Flight of Destiny:

Flight of destiny is a collection of short stories about misfortune. They are characterized by unexpected final twists that come at the end of each tale. They are dark and surreal and quirky tales, set around the world, at different time periods. They show a world in which anything can happen. It is hard to determine reality and what is going on a disturbed mind. People's conceptions about morality are turned upside down. A good person can be transformed by an unexpected event into a bad person and then back again to their former state. The high and mighty often deliver flawed arguments, those considered wicked make good representations of themselves. Revenge is often a subject explored.

10. How fast do you tend to write? How long is your editing process?

I think this can really depend. The editing took a long time, because I live in France and the editors in the U.S. I use British English, the publishers wanted American English. My stories are often very “British” in character.  There was quite a lot of negotiating. I think I have a very clear notion of what my stories should be like. At the same time I am sure my writing developed because of the editing process.

11. You are originally from England, but currently live in Paris. Do you write stories in French? How does living in Paris affect your career?

I wouldn’t say in a big dramatic way.  I have a few stories in which Paris features, there’s a Parisian waiter who preys on vulnerable women tourists. There is a Parisian writing community, who I gradually hope to make contact with. I recently did a writer’s event, a “writer’s panel” in which I presented my book along with two other writers. I am going to do a reading in November and maybe some events before.  Maybe if I was living in London, things might be easier.

12. If you met people like your characters, would you get along?

Maybe, a lot of my characters are outsiders and for long periods in my life, I have felt like an outsider. I also have a lot of despicable characters in my story, the hunting, shooting fishing aristocracy, who I portray in a negative light and would surely not get along with…

13. What feeling or thoughts do you want your readers to be left with after finishing one of your stories?

I would hope that they have been entertained, right up to the final sentence.  I hope they appreciate the wit and humour. I hope some of the characters in my story stick in their minds. As the title of the book, Flight of Destiny, suggests I hope they will have been taken on an unusual journey.

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