Author Gemma Brook is so frickin’ awesome, she sold not one, but TWO short stories to Running Wild Press for its Running Wild Press’s Anthology of Stories, Volume 2. Let’s start with the first few sentences of “The Guest” and “Last Memory,” shall we?
The elders always say to lay another place at the table, pour another cup, and leave the door ajar for the celebration. So we do, even though the air is sharp and cold this time of year. When I was really young, I expected every year that some unexpected guest would come through that door – someone wise, or tall, or striking. Someone who would make us catch our breath, rise to our feet, and bow our heads in reverence. For that whole week, when the spring moon was large-bellied, I would come to the dinner table with my heart thumping in expectation, wondering who would join us.
Oh, my word. “When the spring moon was large-bellied.” That actually made me swoon a little.
Right, now, on to “Last Memory”
The last thing I remembered was her necklace – a tiny, corked glass flask, with a bit of dark earth and two minuscule leaves uncurling. I carried that image with me into the dark, a spark of both hope and claustrophobia. How could that living thing survive in that tiny space?
Your imagery is nothing short of divine.
What inspired you to write this story?
A pair of writing prompts, from an excellent online course run years ago by Running Wild Press founder, Lisa Kastner. For “The Guest,” I believe the prompt was “Our special guest.” My mind turned that into an unexpected visitor, which sparked this idea.
For “Last Memory,” the prompt was, “The last thing I remember.” And I have a strong visual memory of the tiny glass flask – I think I ran across it in a google image search, perhaps for a different story.
What would you like readers to take away from your story?
That’s an excellent question, and I’m honestly not sure of the answer. I really want readers to form their own impressions; I think both stories are very open to interpretation. Perhaps one thing I’d like a reader to take away: Be open to the unexpected.
How long have you been writing?
It feels like almost as long as I can remember. My fourth grade teacher had us all write stories and make illustrated covers for them; I’ve been hooked ever since.
I’d love to know if you still have yours.
Do you write full-time? If not, what do you do for a living?
I’m retired from a previous career in bookselling. Writing is one of my passions that I pursue now.
Do you only write short fiction? If not, how does writing a short story differ from writing a novel? (Other than the obvious length/time.)
Short fiction is really a departure for me; normally I prefer to write novels. How they differ is a good question. I spend a lot more time plotting for a novel, for one thing (as I wrote these two stories, I was definitely more of a pantser than usual). I think there’s more telling in a short story (less space to show), but it requires lot of care to choose what to tell, and how to add vivid details where possible.
What does your typical “writing day” look like?
I’d like to start my day writing, but I’ve learned that getting up early and just sitting down at my desk leads to a lot of blank staring at blank paper. On a good writing day, I like to get out early for a brisk walk for maybe half an hour. The walk helps get my blood flowing and my mind working, and my thoughts in the POV of my character – or working on a plotting question. When it’s too dark, cold, or inclement for a walk, I’ll make a cup of tea, do a bit of stretching, and hope that by the time the tea’s steeped I’m awake! Then I sit down with pen and paper for what I hope is at least an hour – on a good day, maybe more! Then there’s whatever chores, tasks, and errands the day holds. In between, my husband and I often go for walks or hikes, which is fruitful for inspiration, especially since a lot of my stories take place in forests. And some days we like to spend a little time in a bookstore or library; I can edit or plot in such places, but it’s hard for me to create there. In the afternoon/evening, I’ll type what I wrote in the morning, sometimes adding more, always with some revising as I go (and, sadly, inevitably adding typos!)
That sounds way better (and more productive) than my typical “writing day.”
What are you currently reading?
I’ve just finished Sea and Sand by Alex Lidell. It’s the latest installment in a great nautical adventure series, set in a fantasy world. It’s a real page-turner filled with tall ships, great characters, naval battles, political intrigue – and magic!
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
First and foremost: write! By all means, jot down ideas in a place and a way you can find them again (I’ve learned the hard way: don’t depend on memory alone!) But also work on getting the story on the page. Remember it’s perfectly okay for the first draft to be “crap.” You can always revise and improve later – but if you haven’t written it, there’s nothing to improve.
And – when you’re ready – get critique partners or a critique group. But not too many people, or it can be overwhelming. This can be tricky and scary, but good critique partners can offer tremendous help. Find people who write, too, but who don’t try to write your story for you! And remember that in the end, the story has to be true to your vision and your voice.
Sing it, sister!
Where can readers learn more about you and your works?
They can contact me via my email: gemma.l.brook12 at gmail dot com or by cruising my site at https://gemmabrookwriter.com/ I’d love to chat with readers and writers about writing!
Huge thanks to Gemma Brook for joining us. Check out her two brilliant stories in Running Wild’s Anthology of Stories, Volume 2 here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B079F248VZ