Untreed Reads. He has worked as a business manager, entertainment journalist, voter registration drive organizer, and farm hand. When not home-roasting coffee or reading genre fiction, he likes to blog about narrative, genre, and the craft of writing at www.ISawLightningFall.com. He lives with his wife and son in south Florida.
Gerald So: How did the idea for your story, "Thirty-One Hundred", develop?
Loren Eaton: I have a shameful secret to share (which, I suppose, makes it no longer secret and even more shameful): I really like a certain big, blue-box-shaped retailer. For liability-free ease of reference, let's call it Megamart. I like Megamart's huge selection. I like its rock-bottom pricing. I like that some academics say it lowers obesity rates. So when Patti Abbott and Steve Weddle suggested an anthology organized around Megamart, it struck a chord.
Okay, so I was supposed to write an 800-word story about Megamart. Setting was easy. Now what about a main character? Despite my enjoyment of it, Megamart's massiveness has always struck me as slightly absurd, so I tried to encapsulate that silliness in the protagonist's name -- Wofford Ortlund Marshall V. (Actually, I knew a guy who had a very similar moniker; wisely, he went by Ted.) Why's Wofford in Megamart? Perhaps to check out an item it alone sells, maybe an exclusive box set from a once-famous musician, say Kenny Rogers. And what if he found stationed at the store's hunting counter the most beautiful woman he'd ever seen? But how to get him there from the music section ... Heck, let's make it even more absurd: Wofford glances up to see his Megamart-hating boss stagger into the store (which is odd), a gray pallor tainting his face (also odd), and begin gnawing at the greeter's throat (beyond odd).
That's "Thirty-One Hundred," my zombie-Megamart-love-story contribution to Discount Noir.
GS: What appeals you about flash fiction?
LE: Initially, I thought flash fiction was an impossible form, its very brevity making effective storytelling nigh impossible. But having read some wonderful examples, I came to see there's a certain purity in the style, a jewel-like clarity that emerges when every word counts. I don't know how well I do at it, but it's a joy to try.
Last year, an open invitation went out on the blogosphere to share spooky, 100-word stories on Christmas Eve, a tradition stretching back (in one form or another) to M.R. James and Charles Dickens. Participating in it and reading pieces from other contributors was some of the most writerly fun I've had in ages. It reminded that flash fiction (like another sort of storytelling) can run the emotional gamut from serious and elegiac to light-hearted and amusing. To see last year's shorts, click here or go here to see this year's open invite.