|Photo by Joe Henson|
Today, G. M. Malliet, author of the St. Just and Max Tudor novels, offers her perspective.
G.M. Malliet did post-graduate work at Oxford University after earning a graduate degree from the University of Cambridge, the setting for her earlier series, the St. Just mysteries.
Raised in a military family, she spent her childhood in Alaska, Colorado, New Mexico, and Hawaii and has lived in places ranging from Japan to Europe, but she most enjoyed living in the U.K. She and her husband now live in the Washington, D.C. area, but often visit Europe.
She writes full time every day but Sunday, and is currently writing a screenplay in addition to her mystery novels and short stories. She changes her mind frequently about who would be the best actor to portray St. Just or Max Tudor. Currently, Hugh Grant for Max Tudor is tied with Colin Firth and Rufus Sewell. She feels Jude Law would make a perfect DCI Cotton (Max's crime-solving sidekick).
How has being part of a short story writing community influenced your writing?
My first published fiction credit was for a short story I submitted to the Chesapeake Chapter of Sisters in Crime, a professional association for mystery writers, male and female. Acceptance into the anthology was just the sort of reinforcement I needed at the time, to keep me going.
What is your thought process when you submit or select stores for a themed anthology?
I try to avoid the obvious. For a holiday mystery anthology for example, you have to figure nearly everyone is going to write a Christmas or Hanukkah story.
When do you know an idea is suited for a short story instead of a longer work?
When the ending is a "gimmick," a sort of one-off solution that couldn't be sustained by a longer narrative arc.
Have you written flash fiction? What do you think of flash fiction as a literary form?
I really can't write flash. I can barely write short.
How many characters can be in a short story?
One to five or six. And two of those should be a couple or a team of some sort, to help the reader keep everyone sorted.
How long have you been writing short stories?
All my life, beginning age five or six. I was inspired by my best friend, a little girl with literary aspirations. We wrote and "published" illustrated children's stories. Our parents were our only audience as I recall. Some things never change.
What is good/bad about the current short story market?
Not enough print magazines.
Should an unpublished author self-publish short stories?
Never say never, but it's risky. A lot of what gets published online gets stolen from online and you need a team of lawyers on call to track down the pirates.
The reason I write short stories is:
To cleanse the palate after a long slog of writing a novel. I just handed in the fourth Max Tudor book and all the while I was writing it new ideas, unsuitable for the series, kept popping into my head. You have to channel the extraneous stuff somewhere. The short story is ideal for that.
The most important aspect of writing a mystery short story is:
Entertaining and surprising the reader.