BJI: Could you give us some background on Addresses?
CF: There are some handwritten notes from 2007 for this story — newspaper ads for apartments copied down. I believe I was thinking about decades of addresses in the mind/memory of an older woman.
Early in 2010, literarily depressed, I did triage on all my drafts, story ideas, false starts, notes, etc., and threw out the dead. “Addresses” felt alive.
It now seemed certainly a young woman’s story. I knew that Julie’s marriage would fall apart and the story wouldn’t deal with What She Did Next — that’s all. The rest arrived as I wrote. The various apartments let me make pictures of Julie learning a little of the actual world, not the fantasy taught to most young Western women in the mid-20th century.
Many of the setting’s details — furnishings, clothes, the pill, Expo 67, social/political attitudes, secretaries, the “feel” of Vancouver’s West End in the late 1960s — are from memory. Checking some contemporary newspapers gave me the Small child accepted line.
When “Addresses” was half-done, I saw it had features of a Journey story, so developed that pattern further: call, good mother, wise old man (men, in this case), mentor, sojourns underground, maps, altered consciousness, transformation, treasure.
BJI: One aspect of the story that really resonates with us is that, despite being set in the past, it still feels like a very contemporary story. Was that intentional on your part?
CF: Trying intentionally to make “Addresses” feel contemporary — no, that didn’t occur to me. However, the experiences of the story aren’t particular to any period. Every day people discover they haven’t done what they thought they had, are not who they believed they were, do not know the person closest to them, are capable of unbelievably awful things …
BJI: What role do you personally feel literature takes in social action?
CF: Very important, this. Some politically active people say smugly, “I never read fiction,” as if boasting of never eating fast food. Ignorant, stupid. Literature can lead readers to feel and understand what drives humans, how we are inspired, made courageous, apathetic, corrupt, loving. These are important processes, often far more significant in human affairs than Reason, Logic, and their pals. In this sense, reading literature educates the political self. Plus, it’s intensely pleasurable! Probably why those smug-noses don’t approve.
BJI: What are the advantages of working with short stories? What are the challenges?
CF: I am not a weaver but do see correspondences between weaving and short fiction. Within a tightly confined structure there are primary lines & shapes & colours, and all repeat all the spaces between and among those are filled with threads/words essential for the design. My ideal is a story in which each word’s presence can be justified. Hard to get there, but it’s fun trying. I like to watch the word-count go down down down as all the flab gets peeled away — change of metaphor, oops. At its best, writing short fiction is just that — play, with words. (At its worst it’s awful, but that is not our topic today. . . .) I especially enjoy writing dialogue, trying to make it more and more oblique & full of character/meaning.
Also — anyone who’s written a novel knows the hell of making a plot change in Ch 6 that cascades backwards and forwards down hundreds of pages while the desperate & exhausted writer tries not to drown. Making such a change on p 6 of a story can also lead to rough water, but if the final call is Abandon ship! the loss doesn’t hurt nearly as much. That I guess is the negative advantage of writing short fiction.
BJI: Last question. What excites you most about online/digital storytelling?
CF: My experience with publishing short fiction online is limited — two stories, so far. I’ve appreciated the fast responses from online journals. The cover and blurb parts of appearing in FoundPress were great. Most of all is the sense of connecting with a wider readership, more diverse, as lots of people read online who never read print literary magazines. I’ve been surprised and delighted by the responses to my stories. And it’s good to know that (until the entire electronic universe implodes) my work is up there, still fresh, not shoved away in back issues in library stacks or in cardboard boxes at garage sales.
stories by Cynthia Flood