Q & A with Annette Edwards-Hill, author of ‘With One Eye On The Cows’

The image of the cow on the Bath Flash Fiction anthology, Volume 4 is very popular and we love the title of the micro by Annette Edwards-Hill that inspired it.You will see on the gallery of pictures included on another post, that the book has been travelling all around the world to the contributors. Annette lives in New Zealand and it took a while to get there over Christmas but we are glad she's received it now and that her 'cattle' dog approves. You can find her story on the last page of the book, which is available from the Ad Hoc Fiction online bookshop, facing a black and white version of the cover image. Here in this Q & A with Jude, she tells us more about the story, the title and her writing.

  • Your story 'With One Eye On The Cows' inspired the cover image and gave us the title for our fourth Bath Flash Fiction Anthology. Thank you very much for this. Can you tell us how the story came into being?
    Thank you! Most of my stories have some element taken from my childhood or more recent years, and ‘With One Eye on the Cows’ is no different. When I was young, a family friend who lived on a lifestyle block, lost his sight in one eye after a fencing accident. That friend never had cows, just a couple of sheep. I turned that memory into a tale about a farmer who sings to his cows but the singing means he is distracted when he should be more careful.
  • It’s a great title with a double meaning because of the farmer's eye actually being injured. Did it take long to come up with it?
    The title came later. I had a draft of the story that was fairly close to the final version and had been mulling the title over. I think I must have been processing this subconsciously because the title just popped into my head.
  • ‘Bears in Yosemite’ is your other story in the anthology, and I like how so much in this story, like the other one, happens off the page. The bears are absent in the story apart from a dark smudge in the distance at the end. Do you often use animals as metaphors in your work?
    That’s an interesting question because I don’t think I ever set out consciously to use animals as metaphors, but my writing is very intuitive, and I often don’t set out with a plan. So sometimes an animal is part of the story and then ends up conveying something about the main character and their predicament. I have used animals in a couple of other stories, a story about a child waiting for her parents to come back from a long trip down the river in a raft features a dog who also hangs around waiting, and the break up of a relationship that featured some very symbolic stingrays!
  • We cheekily left it as a surprise that we were using your title for the cover. What was it like when you saw the picture on Twitter?
    A big shock in a good way! I saw the tweet as I was going to bed and I was far too excited to sleep after that. I’ve entered the competition a couple of times and having a story in the anthology was one of my writing dreams, so seeing my title on the cover just blew me away.
  • I think you have been successful in several other flash contests lately. Can we read these pieces somewhere?
    I was longlisted in the London Independent Story Prize twice last year (longlistings seemed to happen for me in twos last year). Both of these stories featured metaphorical animals – a dead turkey and caterpillars!
    I’ve also had pieces in Spelk, the New Zealand journal Flash Frontier, Reflex, Fictive Dream, Gravel and others in 2019
  • What do you like about writing flash fiction? And what got you started?
    I love the subtlety of the form, like you noted in an earlier question so much can happen off the page and I think that’s due to the length. I like leaving things unsaid and leaving the reader to draw their own conclusions. I think there is a fine balance between too much subtlety and not enough and sometimes I struggle to find that balance. I discovered flash when I was bemoaning my lack of time and love of writing to a Career Advisor. She told me about flash and recommended I try submitting to Flash Frontier. My first piece was accepted, I kept writing and eventually started submitting to international publications – including the Bath Flash Fiction Competition.
  • Any other writing projects on the go at the moment?
    Just a whole lot of ideas for new flashes and a couple of rough drafts – which I have made very little progress on, plus a few short stories on the go. I’ve had a busy few months with starting a new job just before Christmas and ongoing house renovations. I am hoping I can get back to a more productive writing routine this side of February.
  • Your top tip for creating a memorable title?
    For me, the story comes first then the title. I have the story then I have the problem of finding a title that represents the story and draws the reader in. I think giving it time makes a big difference, I’ll often resolve problems with titles if I stop working on the story and wait. This doesn’t always work and some of my stories have had very unexciting titles that describe an obvious element of the story.
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