We think Restore to Factory Settings the title from a micro by UK writer, J A Keogh, is a great headline for the fifth Bath Flash Fiction Award Anthology. Here, he writes more about the story and about writing flash, which he’s had much success at, after only writing in this form for a year. He was hooked when he read last year’s anthology, With One Eye On The Cows. and it’s particularly gratifying that one of our anthologies inspired him. A goal of BFFA has always been to encourage writers to read and write flash fiction. His story is the last one of the 136 fictions in the anthology, which you can buy from adhocfiction.com and from Amazon in different countries in both paperback and ebook formats.
As the anthology cover picture has the rusty background, I suggested authors might take a picture of the book with something rusty. Justin’s found a great image of a rusty couple in a boat. We thought they might be the couple in his story, who, he says below, have ‘a mutual addiction to impermanence’.
Q & A
- You didn’t know that we were going to use your story title for the anthology. But when he read it, John at Ad Hoc Fiction had an immediate idea for a cover design and we also thought the title suggested such a lot about the world at this time and would encompass themes within the anthology. Thank you very much for the inspiration. Can you tell us how the story, which we like very much, and the title evolved?
I borrowed the story title from the command prompt that you have to follow if your electrical device has become irrational and just won’t listen. This prompt erases all the personal data, information and memory. It resets the device back to the beginning.
The story developed from an idea of two characters who had made a conscious decision to reset their lives every six months: erase the memory of people they had met, and the places that they had lived.
I was curious to explore a relationship that was based on a mutual addiction to impermanence; a constant uprooting, cutting all ties and starting again. I do catch myself wondering where they are now.
Obviously, when I wrote the story, I was completely unaware of what would become a dark juxtaposition between the characters’ obsession with movement, and the extent that physical movement has been restricted during the global pandemic.
- Have you ever restored anything to factory settings yourself?
Yes, towards the end of last year I became genuinely worried that my phone was haunted. I would begin typing a text and suddenly the phone would decide to type all these random letters for about thirty seconds. After considering an exorcism, I took it to the local phone shop who advised me to restore it to factory settings. No priest required, thankfully.
- You have another story in the anthology — ‘Bread of Heaven’. This title, in my mind also works well because it emphasizes the ironic tone of the piece, which is about a major coal-mining disaster. Was that what you were aiming to achieve?
Yes, I wanted to have the religious belief of the main character in the foreground of the readers mind via the title, to contrast with the extraordinarily tragic event that occurs at the end of the story.
- I know you have been working on short fiction intensively this year. Is flash something you have come to recently? And what do you enjoy about it?
Yes, a friend recommended With One Eye On The Cows to me at the beginning of this year. I was blown away by the quality of the writing, theme diversity and the vibrant worlds that were created in just 300 words. After reading the book in one afternoon, I was hooked.
- We’d love links to other stories you might have out in the world.
I was lucky enough to have my story ‘A horse that kicks backwards‘ published earlier in the year by Reflex Fiction.
- Writing plans for next year?
It’s going to be a busy 2021! I’m beginning a Creative Writing MA in January, which should keep me off the streets for a while. I’ll also continue to submit my work to flash fiction competitions. There are great online lit magazines that I’m intending to submit longer length stories to, as well.
- A title tip if you have one?
Read, read, read! There’s a smorgasbord of fantastic flash out there. I’ve been inspired and learned so much in the last 12 months.
J A Keogh writes from Suffolk. His work has been shortlisted in the Flash 500 Short Story and the Bridport Prize, and longlisted for the Bath Flash Fiction Award, Bath Short Story Award, Reflex Fiction and the Flash 500 Flash Fiction. He tweets at @keowriting.