We speak with another of our finalists from Remastered Words 2017 competition. Stephanie Hutton is a big fan of short fiction and has been writing for two years now. With nearly thirty-five flash pieces already published since 2016, Stephanie is now looking at taking the short story market by the scruff of its neck.
How long have you been writing for and what first got you interested in the art?
I’ve only been writing for two years. Once I decided aged fifteen I was going to be a clinical psychologist, it never occurred to me to do anything else. I was writing a piece for work and decided to use fiction rather than an academic essay to get my point across of what life was like for some of the clients I worked with. It surprised me that I managed to write something out in the time it took my daughter to finish her dance class. I didn’t know it at that point, but it was the start of writing short fiction and my life changing for the better.
What memorable stories have you read that prompted you to continue writing and why?
With the demands of full-time work and raising children with special needs, I found I just couldn’t get through a novel, so started to buy short story anthologies. The short story that gut-punched me and left such a pull to short fiction was ‘Tamagotchi’ by Adam Marek. It has a startling first line which made me think ‘you can’t say that!’ and then used magical realism in such a clever, moving way that told a story that closely resembled some of my difficult experiences as a parent despite seeming to be about something strange and impossible (a toy Tamagotchi with AIDS leading to son’s isolation). I recall a similar blast to my body when reading ‘The Rental Heart and Other Fairy Tales’ by Kirsty Logan and one of my favourite stories ‘Don’t Try This At Home’ by Angela Readman. What these pieces have in common is bringing the unusual into mundane, recognisable situations with terrific impact, and they all leave behind images that can’t be forgotten.
Tell us about what inspired you to write this winning piece?
For several years I worked with adoptive parents both pre-adoption and after. There are lengthy processes for being approved for adoption in this country, and people are desperate for the chance to parent. I was thinking about our online shopping culture and expectation that we should get all our needs met if we just pay enough. That led me to imagine how an unscrupulous entrepreneur could possibly fill the desires that people have for newborn babies. I didn’t expect at that point for the story to take the turn it does towards the end. Since writing the piece I have seen a science article about developments in ‘external wombs’ and think this will become a reality at some point.
Who is your favourite character in the story or your favourite part and why?
I do have a soft spot for my ethically dubious main character. I felt it was important to hint at her own attachment experiences to help explain her detachment, her unmet longings and how she suppresses her own needs and wants to try to live up to her mother’s high standards. Maybe I’d like to be her psychologist?!
Have you had anything published before and how has this competition boosted your confidence for the future?
I had my first pieces published in 2016. As I write mainly very short (flash) fiction, I have managed to get around thirty-five stories published or accepted online or in print so far. I’ve really enjoyed writing flash fiction, but really want to develop as a short-story writer. I find there are aspects of short stories that I can hide from in flash, namely considering place, moving across time and dialogue. These are not my strengths! I was thrilled to gain third place, particularly as this story has genre elements which can be harder to place. Now I’ve reflected on some of my favourite stories, I can see that my real pull and passion is including the strange and unexpected in everyday settings. It is also a real privilege to get your work voice recorded, which brings a piece to life.
How did it feel when you were shortlisted and were then notified of being one of the winners?
I try to distract myself when I’m waiting for results by submitting more work! But there are always key submissions that mean more. I was particularly hoping to make the final cut with Remastered Words to get this story audio recorded, I did celebrate with chocolate and squealing.
Where did you hear about Remastered Words and what made you enter this competition in particular?
The Twitterverse is my saviour! I’m limited in terms of direct social contact, writing retreats and so on because of my children’s needs. Twitter is a wonderful, supportive environment for people who write and all competitions are shared widely.
What can we expect from you in the future in terms of writing?
I want to strengthen my short stories and find my writing voice. It has been fun to try many genres and styles, but I feel like I am getting a clearer picture of how I want to develop. I am just starting work on a novella-in-flash, and my dream is to publish a short story collection. I’m happy to say, I’m sure if that ever happens, the content will be strange and magical.
‘Agency’ will be available soon in the release of our 2017 audio anthology.