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Inside Fictional Minds: Q & A with Dr Stephanie Carty

Dr Stephanie Carty is a writer, NHS Consultant Clinical Psychologist and trainer with a qualification in teaching higher and professional education. Her fiction is widely published and has been shortlisted in competitions including the Bridport Prize, Bath Flash Fiction Award, Bristol Short Story Prize and Caterpillar Story for Children Prize. Her novella-in-flash Three Sisters of Stone won Best Novella in the Saboteur Awards. She is represented by Curtis Brown

We’re very excited that our small press Ad Hoc Fiction is publishing Stephanie Carty’s’s guide book Inside Fictional Minds, which is now available for pre-order from Ad Hoc Fiction at a 25% discount during the pre-order period and released on June 24th.

Below, Stephanie explains how the guide book came into being, what it contains and how to use it. Stephanie will also say more and answer questions in a mini ten minute spot at 2.30 pm BST on the next Great Festival Flash Off day, June 26th and Jude Higgins, representing Ad Hoc Fiction, is hosting a launch of the book on Zoom on Saturday, July 3rd from 8.15 pm – 9.15 pm BST.

At the launch, we will hear from Stephanie, Louise Ryder, psychotherapist and the artist who painted the beautiful cover. Also five writers of short and longer fiction: Rachael Dunlop; Neema Shah; Wiz Wharton; Sarah Moorhead and Melissa Fu who have all attended Stephanie’s Psychology of Character in Writing course and will read extracts from their works saying how they used her suggestions, also covered in her new guide, to deepen their characters.

Everyone is welcome to come to the launch – flash fiction writers, short story writers and novelists. And anyone else who is interested in learning more about this fascinating new book.
Email Jude {at} adhocfiction {dot} com asap for a link.

Q & A with Dr Stephanie Carty

  • You have been running your courses on the Psychology of Character in Writing for several years now and they have been very popular for writers of long and short fiction.
    Can you tell us more about what gave you the idea for devising these courses?
    It’s the perfect combination for me of applying what I’ve learnt as a clinical psychologist to my other love which is writing. What I’d noticed in some stories and novels was that lots of thought appeared to have gone into creating an interesting character with quirks, desires and emotional reactions but that sometimes their behaviours didn’t add up or a sudden change in them jarred as unrealistic. Once I started to run the Psychology of Character course, it was clear that many writers had not thought in depth about why their characters acted the way they did or what it would take to change their patterns. From the very first practice session, the feedback of how much of a difference it made to attendees to learn a little bit about some key components of how humans develop, act and grow encouraged me to continue.
  • The book is a complement to your face to face and online courses, but it is also something that writers can use separately from them. Can writers can dip in to, or is it something to work through from the beginning?
    What I love about the book is that it covers a wide range of ideas followed up by tasks to put ideas into practice so there should be something relevant for every writer and every story. I’m certain that people will use it according to their own style – some will want to read from cover to cover for an overview whereas others may already have in mind where their gap or uncertainty lies for a particular character. I’d actually recommend reading the whole book from start to finish without doing any of the tasks first. That will allow a writer to have a ready-made framework of how elements interact with one another. Then choices can be made about which sections to work on thoroughly using the questions posed to deepen understanding and bring the learning to life.
  • I think you have 48 exercises in all to try out in the book. What would expect writers to discover having completed them?
    There are actually 123 questions divided into 48 sets of tasks – far more than I’d expected there to be when I started to plan the book! To me, the active element of Inside Fictional Minds is crucial to its usefulness and sets it apart from some other resources that are more academic in format. The focus is on everyday behaviours,, emotions and unconscious mechanisms rather than extremes such as serial killers. So the tasks should lend themselves to any setting,, genre or length of story as people are people! I think one of the most interesting things for writers will be seeing how topics that may seem separate actually all impact on one another to create complex, interdependent factors that make their characters who they are..
    Several of the beta readers also stated that they learnt about themselves!

  • Can you say how thinking about character development is useful even for micro fiction?
    I think in very short fiction it can be a challenge to find room for character development. One method is to show your character’s defence mechanisms in action. In my upcoming short fiction collection The Peculiarities of Yearning, many pieces rely on a shift in an emotion or longing moving from unconscious to conscious awareness.. The character deals with this by a displaying a behaviour (defence mechanism) that aims to push this emotion or longing back down. If the defence works, you can have a tragic ending where the reader sees what’s missing even as the character denies it. If the defence doesn’t work and the hidden aspect breaks through, then the character has displayed some momentary insight or change. That’s ‘big enough’ for very short fiction and hints at greater development being possible outside of the story.
    My flash Cosmina Counts was awarded third prize in Bath Flash Fiction Award. As a standalone flash, I think it uses aspects covered in the book and gives glimpses into the internal world of a trafficked woman by demonstrating her defences, her longing that slips out, clues to her trauma and a return to her pushing the pain away with more defence mechanisms.
    Finally, very short fiction requires the writer to condense so much rather than spell things out. Each sentence is a chance to show the reader the world through the character’s ‘glasses’. Word choice and what is focused on versus what is omitted works really well in flash to demonstrate the character’s internal world, which I give some examples of in the book.
  • Can you tell us more about the the advantages for character relationships in novels and novellas?
    There is huge scope for character development in longer form writing. For example you can show the bumpy ride to change that is realistic rather than sudden revelations or change.. Realisations and beliefs are not equal to behaviour and personality change. There’s an ebb and flow to how we change. The book covers areas such as perfectionism, narcissim, social roles, being a people pleaser as well as a focus on the way that characters experience (and forbid) certain emotions and beliefs. Long form writing allows the character to dip their toe into alternatives, or ‘peel off the armour’ briefly as I explain in the book..
    My flash Cosmina Counts is actually a chapter from my second novel. I have the luxury over the course of an entire book to flip forward and back in time to account for Cosmina’s behaviours and then move her realistically from a mindset of revenge and isolation towards facing reality and accepting the help of others. Such a significant change could only work across multiple chapters because it’s human nature to resist our painful, hidden aspects coming to the surface. My longest chapter in Inside Fictional Minds focuses on change. Longer form provides the space to really delve and deliver without relying on so much interpretation of the reader. Working through the tasks in Inside Fictional Minds should provide a series of insights that although small on their own, can build into an overall picture of a deeply believable and developed character that resonates with readers.
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Pre-orders open for Echoes in a Hollow Space, by Ruth Skrine

    We’re delighted that Ad Hoc Fiction is publishing Echoes in a Hollow Space, a novella-in-flash from Ruth Skrine, Ruth turned to writing fiction in 1999 when she retired from her long career in the medical profession. She completed an MA in Bath Spa University and since then has published several novels and a memoir. In 2017, at the age of 87, she began writing flash fiction inspired by Ad Hoc Fiction’s weekly micro contest and a writing class on flash fiction run by Jude Higgins. Many of her micros were published in the weekly Ad Hoc Fiction ebook, and her flash fictions have been published in And We Pass Through, the 2019 NFFD anthology; Flashfrontier and Free Flash Fiction. In this Q & A with Jude, Ruth tells us more about the inspiration for her book and in advice for the older writer at the end says:

    All creative work is life-saving in old age. One is never too old

    Back and front cover. Picture of woodland with a hollow space, where title is placed Echoes in a Hollow Space is available at a discount of 25% for the preorder period and will be published on 31st May. It is also available for pre-order as an ebook on kindle and will also be available to buy as a large print format paperback from Amazon at the end of May. Read in Full

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Q & A with Geeta Sanker, first prize winner, Feb. 2021

Geeta Sanker

We’re delighted to post this Q & A with Geeta, who won the 17th Bath Flash Fiction Award, judged by Charmaine Wilkerson. Charmaine’s comments about ‘Let Them Eat First‘ are posted in her judge’s report. We’re always interested in what inspires a story, whether it is memory, meetings with others, the written or spoken word, images or other things. Here, Geeta tells us her story was prompted by a striking visual prompt. She is coming to read ‘Let Them Eat First’ and talk about it at ‘Flash Point: Flash Fiction and Social Commentary’, a half an hour conversation with Charmaine and others at our first Great Festival Flash Off Day, 27th March. This will be a fascinating discussion and we hope you can join the festival day to hear them and participate. Do also have a look at ‘Butternut Tosh‘, Geeta’s short film produced during the lockdown with the London Eclective group she is involved with. Another quite different, yet very pertinent type of social commentary. Read in Full

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Pre-order Gaps in the Light, the new hybrid collection by Iona Winter

Our Small Press, Ad Hoc Fiction is privileged to be publishing Gaps in the light, the new book by poet and hybrid writer, Iona Winter from Aotearoa, NZ. Several of Iona’s flash fictions have been both longlisted and shortlisted in our Awards and published in the yearly anthologies and it is exciting to see a whole collection of her writing. In advance praise for the book, well-known NZ author Pip Adam, writes:

Gaps in the Light is an amazing work. It uses form in innovative ways to express deeply the experience of loss and joy in ways I can’t remember reading anywhere else.

We love the rhythm of the prose,the different forms used in the collection and the inclusion of the Maori language (with glossary) which adds a beautiful music and extra depth to the work. We’re looking forward to hearing Iona read the stories when she posts videos on her social media sites. In the very moving interview below, she tells us about the process of writing the collection and her son Reuben’s death soon after she had completed the manuscript. We are very glad that it is being published as one of the first books from Ad Hoc Fiction this year, on March 19th. Gaps in the Light is now available for pre-order at a 25% discount from Ad Hoc Fiction in paperback during the pre-order period, on pre-order at Amazon kindle. And it will also be available in paperback from Amazon worldwide on publication day. It is one of two new flash fiction collections published on 19th March and available for preorder now. The other is by US based writer Fiona J Mackintosh and it is wonderful to have new flash fictionbooks from writers in two different hemispheres.
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Pre-order The Yet Unknowing World, new flash collection by Fiona J Mackintosh

We’re so delighted that Ad Hoc Fiction, our short-short fiction press, is publishing Fiona J Mackintosh’s debut flash fiction collection, The Yet Unknowing World. It’s one of two books open for pre-order today, 22nd February, with a 25% discount during the pre-order period, by authors from two different hemispheres, Fiona in the US and Iona Winter in New Zealand. Both brilliant examples of the range of variety of the flash fiction form.

In advance praise, well-known writer and teacher of flash fiction, Kathy Fish, one of the acclaimed authors quoted on the back cover says of The Yet Unknowing World:

“These stories by Fiona J. Mackintosh are miniature masterpieces, resonating far beyond the pages they inhabit. Mackintosh’s pen is assured, her vision clear-eyed yet compassionate. Like the paintings of Edward Hopper, The Yet Unknowing World invites us all to peer into the dark, quiet corners of human yearning and to connect with the flawed, aching beauty of our own hearts.”

We agree. We love the variety of Fiona’s writing and her beautiful use of imagery and detail. There are such treasures within this book. In the interview below, Fiona talks about how the book came about, its construction, the cover design, where the title comes from and more.

We hope you will be able to come along to the Zoom launch Jude is hosting on the first day of Spring, Saturday 20th March from 7.30- 9.30 pm GMT. Please contact her at Jude {at} adhocfiction [dot} com for a link.At the launch, Fiona will read several of the stories,there will be extra short readings from guests, time to talk to flash fiction friends from around the world and we’ll give away two copies of the book for those who win our quiz.

The collection is published the day before the launch on 19th March and the book will be also be available on Amazon Kindle and in paperback from Amazon Worldwide, as well as from our bookshop.

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Interview with Johanna Robinson, 1st prize winner, BFFA October, 2020

We’re delighted to share an interview with Johanna Robinson, who won first prize in the October 2020 round, which was judged by Nod Ghosh. The story plus two other listed stories of Johanna’s is included with all the other winners and longlisted writers who agreed to publication in Restore to Factory Settings Bath Flash Fiction Vol 5. released this week from Ad Hoc Fiction. Johanna was a runner-up in our Novella-in-Flash award in 2019 with her wonderful NIF, Homing. It is now available as an ebook from kindle as well as in paperback from the Ad Hoc Fiction Bookshop. Links to worldwide kindle are on the bookshop page. So if you want to read more of Johanna’s work, it is instantly available. We’re so interested to learn that her win, ‘Blessings 1849’, another historical piece, is a story which had been submitted into various competitions previously in different forms and had actually also been sent to BFFA before and not been listed. Johanna describes here how she edited it and we’d love to take up her offer to show the various versions of the story, in a new post on the site. It also gives encouragement to others, as she said, not to lose heart over a piece you are dedicated to. It might need working on, but it can still be successful in finding a home as a competition winner or in a magazine.

Interview Read in Full

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Review of Going Short, by Nancy Stohlman by Cath Barton

    Thank you very much to Cath Barton for this excellent review of Going Short – An invitation to flash fiction by Nancy Stohlman which was published last month by our short-short press, Ad Hoc Fiction and is available for sale from Ad Hoc Fiction, Amazon in print and digital and Kobo. Signed copies are also for sale directly from Nancy. It is FlashNano this month, (a month long writing prompt opportunity offered by Nancy for the past eight years) and Nancy is offering a two-for-one deal on signed copies of Going Short directly from her website. Cath supplied the first great prompt on November 1st for FlashNano. A clue – it’s suitable for a rainy day and you can find it on Nancy’s website. Read Cath’s review and buy the book to help you write 30 flashes this month, such a very positive thing to do in these challenging times.

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Q & A with Charmaine Wilkerson, Award judge February, 2021.

Charmaine Wilkerson is an American writer who has lived in the Caribbean and is based in Italy. Her award-winning flash fiction can be found in the Best Microfiction anthologies from 2020 and 2019 and other anthologies and magazines, including 100-Word Story, Bending Genres, Fiction Southeast, FlashBack Fiction, Litro, Reflex Fiction, Spelk and elsewhere. Her story How to Make a Window Snake won the Bath Novella-in-Flash Award in 2017 and the Saboteur Award for Best Novella in 2018. Her debut novel Black Cake is due to be published in 2022. She is represented by Madeleine Milburn of the Madeleine Milburn Literary Agency. Read in Full

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Pre-order open for Something Lost, a novella-in-flash by Louise Watts

We’re delighted that Something Lost the brilliant novella-in-flash by Louise Watts which was specially commended in our 2020 Bath Flash Fiction Award is now available for pre-order with FREE worldwide shipping at Ad Hoc Fiction, our short-short fiction press. It will be released on November 9th. Read our 2020 judge, Michael Loveday’s comments on Something Lost in his judge’s report. The novella is the last of our series of novellas from the 2020 Novella-in-Flash Award up for pre-order and all of them will be released for sale on our bookshop and on Amazon by the end of the November.
We’ve quoted the synopsis from the back cover below. It’s a great read and another excellent example of this exciting form.
Read in Full

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Interview with Simon Cowdroy, Second Prize winner, February 2020 Award

With two weeks to go before the end of our 15th Award on June 7th, here’s another fascinating interview in our winners’ series, this time from Simon Cowdroy, second prize winning author in our February award judged by Santino Prinzi, to inspire all Last Minute Club writers. You can read Simon’s wonderful story ‘The Dissolution of Peter McCaffrey’ here and it will be published by Ad Hoc Fiction in our end of year anthology along with the other winners, shortlisted and longlisted writers from our 2020 Awards. Simon tells us more about his writing process and his influences which include other writers like Australian Clive James and also the landscape in which he lives, pictured here. We asked him about his striking use of language and think his comment that he strives to use ‘imagery derived from finding a powerful and unexpected way to frame the words’ is very good advice for others who want to write memorable flash. We also like his other tips at the end of this piece and his suggestion to ‘write as if it is your last chance to do so’. It was great to meet Simon at the Flash Fiction Festival last year and hope that when we hold the festival again (fingers crossed for such events), he can come again all the way from Australia, and we can hear him read it. Read in Full

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