Join us as we peek behind the scenes of our upcoming anthology, ON TIME. Learn more about Amanda Hard in her featured interview.
ABOUT THE STORY
What inspired your story?
A writing group I was involved with liked to generate story prompts in unusual ways. At one meeting, we rolled dice to select a combination of words that had to be used in a draft of our piece. This story was inspired by the combination of the words “basket,” “clouds,” and “strawberries.”
Can you tell us a little bit about your protagonist?
Barbara lives in the most idyllic place she can imagine, where fruit falls from the trees and crops grow effortlessly. But Barbara remembers a time before this Eden of eternal summers—a time before she lost the one thing that gave her motion and meaning. Given the temptation, she has to decide if she is prepared to sacrifice to get back what she lost, and what shape that sacrifice will take.
What is the most interesting thing about the world you’ve created?
To me, the time storms are fascinating. I love thunderstorms, and there was a summer about ten years ago where dark gray clouds swirled into storms nearly every evening. The colors in the sky were astounding, and I remember wondering if the clouds were bringing something more than just rain with them.
What genre or mix of genres does your story fit into?
I would say science fiction, fantasy, and maybe a little horror. I think the term “speculative fiction” brilliantly encompasses the crossover of these genres.
How have your personal experiences influenced this story?
My mother is 83, and I’m acutely aware of how little time we have left with each other. Barbara, my protagonist, is a motherless daughter who would sacrifice anything—and anyone—to have back the mother she lost. I find this character intriguing because I can’t say that, given the opportunity, I wouldn’t be at least tempted to try what Barbara tries. I was also at least obliquely inspired by surviving a tornado in my childhood. As we were evacuated to basements, the children were given these metallic-looking blankets and told to cover our heads with them. To this day, I’m not sure what use a foil blanket is in an emergency, but I pack one in my trunk, just in case.
What would you like readers to take away from your story?
I want readers to ask themselves how they would react, given a similar situation as Barbara’s. As parents, we often talk of “sacrificing” for our children, but how far would we go? What would we give up for more time with the ones we love?
What was your favorite part of the story to write and why?
The storm was absolutely my favorite part to write. What is printed here is about the sixth or seventh draft of a story that started out with significantly more detail on the storm, to the point that one earlier critique partner said, “Well you can certainly write the weather. Now how about fleshing out the characters.” In a flash or “short-short” piece like this you don’t have a lot of the word count to devote to world-building, so I reluctantly cut a lot about the philosophy of the storm, the faux science behind it, and a lot of unnecessary detail about the wind so I could elaborate more on Barbara and her choices. I’m satisfied with what I kept in the story, but I doubt the T-storm is a concept I’m finished with.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
When did you write your first story, how old were you, and what was it about?
I remember writing a lot of poetry when I was in elementary school, probably about unicorns and demons, which were my two favorite subjects in my childhood. I didn’t get around to writing actual short stories until about the fourth grade, and those were probably Star Wars fan fiction. The only original story from that early period was a piece I think I called “Dust,” about two planets colliding and leaving a dust trail in space that occluded the sky so much that people on the planet “beneath” the sky looked up and saw only stars. This piece of science fiction brilliance was, sadly, never submitted and is now lost to the ravages of time.
What is your writing survival checklist? (Aka, what helps your write the best: music, snacks, coffee, complete silence, a stress ball, a cat, or an outline, etc.)
My home office was inspired by Ray Bradbury’s office, with trinkets and colorful items everywhere. Since purple seems to be a generative color for me, I write under the soft glow of purple Christmas lights strung up around the windows, and I drink sparkling water out of a purple champagne glass while I’m working. If I’m settling in for more than two or three hours I’ll burn a mistletoe or evergreen scented candle. I have to have relative quiet, and when it’s noisy in the rest of the house I’ll often listen to thunderstorm sounds with headphones on.
What has influenced you most as a writer?
Reading. My earliest memories are those of reading and being read to, and I am most inspired to write after reading for a half hour or so. I love the sound of language and I’ll often read aloud to myself as a calming technique. I probably acquired my love of the short story from Harlan Ellison or Ray Bradbury or Joyce Carol Oates, as their short fiction made up the bulk of my early reading once I decided I wanted to try my hand at it.
What font do you prefer to write in?
Cambria, if I’m writing in Word. Courier, if I’m writing in Scrivener. Futura, if I’m writing online.
Do you have any writing blogs/vlogs/podcasts, etc. that you would recommend?
I love Tim Clare’s podcast “Death of a Thousand Cuts.” When I have free time, I love listening to him. He’s brilliant on so many levels.
What is your favorite and least favorite word, and why?
According to my son, who says I use it at least a dozen times a day, my favorite word is “tedious,” which is usually modifying “dogs,” as in the pets we have who insist upon going in, out, in, out, in, out all day long. My least favorite word involves politics, and I won’t mention it here, but I will say my actual favorite word is “hope.”
Amanda Hard’s work has appeared in various magazines and anthologies including Lost Signals and Tales from the Crust, both from Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing. Her poetry has appeared in two volumes of the Horror Writers Association Poetry Showcase, and her flash fiction was part of three graphic collections from The Daily Nightmare. Amanda earned her MFA in Creative Writing from Murray State University, Kentucky, in 2018. She is a member of the Horror Writers Association and lives in the cornfields of southern Indiana with her husband and son.
ON TIME is coming in Summer 2020. Be sure to follow us on Amazon.