A couple months ago I got an email from a woman who saw the Coven Book Club emblem and wondered if she could get in touch with the artist. Since the artist is me, I replied. Long story short, I drew a similar emblem for her business and was inducted into the Tea Coven which is a secret society for ladies who love tea. It’s mysterious and wonderful. As a result, I’ve met some truly lovely (and extremely talented) women and Holly Karlsson is one.
Holly Karlsson is an author and artist living in the mountains of Northern California, US. She currently writes short stories for her blog hollyjkarlsson.com, though she has published a collection of her flash fiction called Unusual Diction, which is only 99 cents on Amazon right now. This is such a steal because Unusual Diction will enchant you, and leave you wanting more.
I talked to Holly to get the lay of the land with flash fiction and to get news about whether or not we’ll see longer works from her in the future. Grab a cup of tea and sit down with us!
Allison: Holly, thanks so much for being with us today! I’m excited to talk with you about flash fiction, because I think most people don’t know much about it. What does “flash fiction” mean to you?
Holly: Delighted to be here! Flash fiction is essentially a brief glimpse into a story in a few hundred words or less. Unlike a short story or longer piece, I only have a single scene to draw the reader in, revealing a compelling character in a captured moment. I love the open-endedness of this form of storytelling, as it allows the reader’s imagination to fill in what’s left unsaid.
Allison: What got you interested in flash fiction?
Holly: I can’t remember now how I stumbled upon it, but in looking for writing challenges online, I found a group called The Prediction. Every week we would be given 3 words and challenged to write a story in 100 words or less. I found this very exciting, as I could create new worlds and characters continuously. Somehow the 3 words would always inspire me, regardless of whatever writing block I’d have when sitting down to write for my novel.
Writing can be a very solitary life, and flash fiction gives me a chance to interact with other writers, as well as remind myself that my stories are actually enjoyed outside my own head. It’s easy to doubt yourself when it takes a long time to finish a story.
Allison: This is very true. I have a ride-along reader for just this reason — someone who reads my pages as I write them. I’d never considered that flash fiction could eliminate help banish some of that weird in-between time where you start wondering if you’re the only one who likes your characters.
As a reader, I found that so many of the stories in Unusual Diction are so intriguing and engrossing that I was bummed not to get to immediately read another chapter. Do you have plans to develop any of them into longer works?
Holly: Thank you! There are a lot of characters I’ve created that I’d love to go back to, and do plan on writing longer stories for them in the future. Currently I’m working on a fantasy novel about a spymaster’s daughter who is caught up in a plot to remove magic from the world, which I hope to self-publish sometime next year.
Allison: That sounds amazing! I’ve always loved stories about spies, especially when magic is involved! Tamora Pierce’s Daughter of the Lioness books are some of my favorites. What authors do you feel have had an impact on the way you want to write?
Holly: I haven’t read her books yet, but they sound amazing! Definitely adding to my to-read list. There are so many authors that inspire me. One of my favorites books is The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. I loved how magical and vibrant her world was, and all the different characters. Her writing is beautiful, and I strive to instill a similar richness in my own writing. Juliet Marillier, Robin McKinley and Neil Gaiman also have that beautiful, magical quality to their stories that I love; pure inspiration!
Brandon Sanderson and Terry Goodkind are two of my favorites for epic fantasy. Their world building is so immersive, and their stories intense and enthralling. I’d love to have the same power with my stories; I want my readers to care deeply about my characters and believe the worlds are real.
Allison: I am also a huge fan of The Night Circus. It’s one of those books that’s unique enough that it’s hard to recommend what to read next if you loved it. Unusual Diction has a lot of great fantasy stories, but there’s also some awesome steampunk in here. Who are some of your favorite steampunk authors?
Holly: I love how creative and inventive the steampunk world is, though most of my experience with the genre is from film and artwork. I’ve only read a few steampunk stories so far, so would love any good recommendations you have! One of the books I enjoyed is The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman. It has a magical feel to it (daemons and mercenary bears!), but is filled with scientific machines and obvious steampunk flair.
Brandon Sanderson’s wild west steampunk book, The Alloy of Law, is another favorite, as well as Charlie N. Holmberg’s The Paper Magician. I love to think of new forms of magic, and enjoyed his use of paper as a medium.
Allison: I love the His Dark Materials books. I’m in the process of re-reading them right now, actually. I’ve also enjoyed Charlie Holmberg’s Paper Magician books, they’re so fun and remind me a bit of Diana Wynne Jones’ style. I think if you’re looking for some fun steampunk to read next then you might enjoy Cassie Clare’s The Infernal Devices series, which is a part of The Mortal Instruments universe, but is decidedly steampunk, by most accounts. Also, Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate and Finishing School series have been popular ‘round these parts. And I recommended Monstress last week, which is gorgeous and totally steampunk-y…
Girl, I’m gonna shut up now about books and ask you a hideously unfair question: out of all the characters in Unusual Diction, do you have any particular favorites, folks who kind of hang out while you sip tea and wait around for their next moment with you?
Holly: Kensi is one of my favorites, from Off the Grid and Good Enough. She’s defiant and wild, and lots of fun to write. I would often bite my nails thinking of all the trouble she was going to get into, and I know she’s waiting for me to continue her story.
I also have a fascination with Elstet and Elaeya, from Fate and Talents. Their world is dark and spellbinding, and I love the poetic way their story flows. Some mornings when I sit down to write in the lessening darkness, my thoughts drift to their world. I think they have a lot more to say, but will definitely be a challenge.
Allison: Kensi’s one of my faves as well. I love a badass babe. However, the Twice Born have stuck with me and I want to give our readers a taste of your gorgeous way with words before we go:
All the twice-born girls were shackled at their first blood. Silvery iron, so thin it could have been mere spiderweb, linked every girl to a watcher. Beauty came with first birth, but the power, able to destroy man and worlds, unravel even time, came with the second. It was for this, that the watchers were bound to the earth-breakers.
Allison Carr Waechter is going to tackle her TBR over Fall Break and try to see if she can replace all the water in her body with tea, science be damned.