On Fiction Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Jan Stinchcomb

On Fiction Wombwell Rainbow Interviews

I am honoured and privileged that the following writers local, national and international have agreed to be interviewed by me. I gave the writers two options: an emailed list of questions or a more fluid interview via messenger.

The usual ground is covered about motivation, daily routines and work ethic, but some surprises too. Some of these poets you may know, others may be new to you. I hope you enjoy the experience as much as I do.


Jan Stinchcomb

is the author of The Blood Trail (Red Bird Chapbooks) and Find the Girl (Main Street Rag). Her stories have appeared in Longleaf Review, FlashBack Fiction, Gravel, Monkeybicycle and matchbook, among other places. She has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net Anthology, was longlisted in the Wigleaf Top 50, and is featured in The Best Small Fictions 2018. Currently living in Southern California with her family, she is a story editor for Paper Darts.

Find her at janstinchcomb.com or on Twitter @janstinchcomb.

To order The Blood Trail:

The Interview

1. When and why did you begin to write flash fiction?

My notes say that back in 2004, when I had a baby and a toddler, I placed 15th in the Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition. There were almost 8,000 entries. I got a nice certificate, but what I really gained was a sense of confidence. I knew I could do a lot with only a few words.

2. Who introduced you to flash fiction?

I knew very short stories existed. I had read them. I remembered a tiny Tolstoy piece called “After the Ball” from when I was a graduate student. And then, when I was writing and trying to publish, I kept seeing contests for pieces with a limit of 1,000 words. I loved the discipline this required and the challenge of establishing a complete psychological dynamic without much description or back story. Finally, I began taking online classes with Kathy Fish, a flash master and one of the best teachers out there. She encourages her students to trust the unconscious and to write without self-editing.

3. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older flash writers?

I wasn’t, and this was perhaps a good thing, as my ignorance kept me from getting too intimidated. I simply wasn’t aware of there being a tradition of flash or micro writers. I somehow didn’t know about Lydia Davis, for instance. For me, fiction was composed of the “traditional” short story (roughly 20 pages) and the novel. I didn’t know about people specializing in flash or using it to structure longer works.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I get the most done early in the morning after my kids have gone off to school but before the whole city is awake and hopping. I love writing early, when everyone else is asleep, both my family members and all the people who live in our building. It’s my personal witching hour.

5. What motivates you to write?

This is my work. I couldn’t get through this life if I didn’t feel I had made something while I was here.

6. What is your work ethic?

I try to write and publish several stories a year, while always aiming to get a longer manuscript picked up. That would be my goal. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t. It’s equally important to be an involved member of the writing community. My work at Paper Darts allows me to facilitate the publication of people whose stories deserve to be heard.

7. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?

Another great question. I grew up on the classics and eventually majored in Comparative Literature. For years and years all I read were 19th-century novels, plays and longer short stories. I am grateful to have had this education but I sometimes feel far from it. Lately it seems that my interest in popular culture and the horror genre guides my work more than the classics ever did. Kafka and Gogol would be the exception. And Chekhov, always.

Of course, the most important and enduring influence, my Bible, would be the fairy tales, all of them, with an emphasis on Grimm and the Russian tales. And “Red Riding Hood” in all her incarnations. I have an entire bookshelf dedicated to fairy tales, and it has travelled with me to every new address.

8. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?

This is a trick question because I could write several pages of adoring lists. I greatly admire Vi Khi Nao for her originality and her reinvention of language. She works in several genres. R.O. Kwon has debuted with a perfect short novel (The Incendiaries) that somehow contains every important thing in the world.

Long-time favorites include Alyssa Nutting and Karen Russell. Lily Hoang. Carmen Maria Machado. I also love the graphic novels of Emil Ferris and Nick Drnaso.

I am a fan of The Best Small Fictions annual anthologies and the Wigleaf Top 50 List, which is available online. I love all my flash friends and admire anybody who is trying to be a writer.

9. Why do you write?

I could not imagine doing anything else. The years before I was writing are a memory of pure agony. I was strangling myself by not taking the risk and doing the work.

10. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”

Brace yourself. That’s the first thing I would say. It’s going to be a long and painful road of rejection and self-doubt. Years and years. The good news is that it’s never too late to start and that all experience is valuable.

You need to find other writers. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to move to New York or Los Angeles, but you do have to find colleagues. You don’t have to get the MFA but it’s probably a good idea to take a few classes. That’s where you meet the people who will be your colleagues. They’ll be in the critique group you set up outside of class. You have to be around other writers because non-writers have NO idea what you’re trying to do or what kind of life you lead or how your mind works. It’s painful and isolating. I know people have strong views about social media, but literary Twitter has been very helpful for me.

My spouse has been incredibly supportive over the years. If you’re around people who don’t understand this endeavour or undermine you, you need to drop them. Today.

11. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.

I recently published (February of 2019) a small chapbook of dark fairy tales, The Blood Trail. I have stories coming out in Synaesthesia and Gargoyle. I am shopping around a hybrid novel that is mostly domestic horror, set in Southern California, where I have been living since 2013.

In the past two days I’ve drafted a new flash piece and a new micro. I can’t really complain. Now I have to wait and see which direction our world will take.


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