Alfie Elkins on Flotsam

For the first of our Wild, Wicked and Sparkling author interviews, we speak with Alfie Elkins from off the coast of Venezuela, where he talks about what inspired him to write his haunting love story, Flotsam.

1. Tell us a bit about your inspiration for your tale.

I’ve been living by the ocean for the first time since I was a boy, not in British Columbia but down in Venezuela. It brings up a lot of poignant thoughts about the past, about roads I didn’t take, paths I wasn’t able to tread. Also, moving across the ocean was a complete shake-up. I’ve never been out of Europe for living before, and the strange, disjointed, ethereal feeling I have for not having English soil under my feet- no matter how irritated I am at it presently- needed an outlet.

Walking by the ocean seems to be a real grounding point. It is all one sea, after all. I’m amazed by the sheer quantity of detritus that washes ashore. I’ve also been thinking a lot about relationships, and how they end, and how it connects up with both seasons and spirituality. Then I was reading a story from Tony featuring one of his characters, and I thought- this guy could go on a pretty dark journey, so I asked Tony is he’d mind if I popped him out of the tale and into a little Outer Limits-style classic horror story. It all kind of wove together with my memories of going to the west coast of Canada, and how much it seems like the border between the overworld and the underworld in Irish myth.

Oh, and I’ve also been reading a lot of Manga, too, lol.

2. What draws you to the Hallowe’en season?

It’s always been a very festive time for me. Growing up in London, it wasn’t actually Hallowe’en, but it was pagan style bonfires and all the old myths and beliefs, which usually lie dormant, were just suddenly back as though they had never left. Stories about the otherworld, about the spirits walking abroad, stories about loved ones coming back. Redemption across insurmountable odds, and the magic that comes with the dark time of the year.

3. Tell us about what would make the best Hallowe’en party ever.

You’d need a bonfire, for certain! Good music, not popular stuff, but mood music. Keep the costumes to a fantastic or archetypal nature, none of the flavors of the month. Lots of stout and cider. Would have to be able to go outside, in a natural space. And, of course, some spontaneous spectral activities.

4. Who has inspired you to not just write, but to keep writing?

I first started writing as a way to reduce stress from my job at the NHS. I was a paramedic and a supervisor of a station in London- not a fun job. Journals, then poems, then strange stuff started coming out of me, and a friend of mine, Pearl, knew Tony from the GAF Universe website. So I got into that, and couldn’t stop writing and working on it.

I’d have to say that Tony and Virginia, and also Will Norton, have been an exemplary model for making writing not just an activity, but a part of one’s life. The ease with which they accept whatever-old-thing you’ve been pounding out, be it a poem, a story fragment or what have you, makes it easy to silence the inner critic. Their communal worlds like the GAF Universe and The Program at Green Hill fire the imagination, and they allow you to jump on in and add your own inspiration, which helps if a free-formed idea just isn’t available. Then they take that idea and through some mystic process- bam! it’s incorporated into the whole. Will’s energy and sheer cock-eyed imagination is an inspiration, because the stuff he writes is just crazy brilliant. It makes you start thinking outside whatever bounds you’ve been placed inside.

5. Where can people find your work and more about you as an author?

People can find it through StarkLight Press, www.starklightpress.com and online at the GAF Mainframe site www.gafmainframe.com [Editor’s Note: The works are taken down until servers come back up following Hurricane Harvey, and should be available in four or five weeks]

There was also an autobiographical piece that did rather well for itself back in the day, based on my work as a teacher turned taxi driver, thence to the NHS. I’m in talks currently to get the publishing rights transferred to StarkLight Press, and hopefully it will see a third printing in North America sometime in 2018.

Virginia Carraway Stark and Queen Maeve

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Virginia Carraway Stark has a diverse portfolio and has many publications. Getting an early start on writing, Virginia has had a gift for communication, oration and storytelling from an early age. Over the years she has developed this into a wide range of products from screenplays to novels to articles to blogging to travel journalism. She works with other writers, artists and poets to hone her talents and to offer encouragement and insight to others. She has been an honorable mention at Cannes Film Festival for her screenplay, “Blind Eye” and was nominated for an Aurora Award. https://virginiastark.wordpress.com/about/

https://www.facebook.com/Virginiacarrawaystark/?fref=ts

https://virginiastark.wordpress.com/contact-me/

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Virginia took some time to answer our interview questions:

  1. What’s your most prominent memory of St. Patrick’s Day?I spent one St. Patrick’s Day in Boston and that was pretty awesome.
    2. Name the part of Irish culture you are most happy to lay claim to and why- is it Guinness? Irish music? The Book of Kells? The Fighting Irish?The happiest part is the saddest part. I long for the land of Ireland before the great Oaks and other trees were cut down. I feel a tug in my heart for what was and what will never be again. It’s been hundreds of years since the trees were cut down to make room for potato crops. Trees like Hazelnuts that provided sacrifice were burned by the grove and this resulted in the over-proliferation of potatoes and then the potato famine and the expatriation of so many of the Irish. This resulted in yet more discrimination as America did not welcome the Irish and its fondness for the Irish is a modern invention that replaced the ‘No Irish’ signs.

    I would lay claim to a language that I only ever learned a light spattering of, an oral culture eradicated mercilessly. I would lay claim to all that was stolen and long gone and the sorrow of knowing that for everything I suspect was lost there are a thousand things that I don’t have an inkling that I even lost them.
    3. What are your thoughts on working with this sort of writing exercise, fueled by prompts? How did seeing the prompts of your fellow authors and chatting online together with them about the work affect your process?

I love working on the anthologies in groups. Having feedback from other writers negates the vacuum that exists between the creative act and the reception of the anthology. Having gotten into the habit of having a writing community I would be sad to lose the inspiration and excitement that we share through this process together.

The prompts were an experiment to challenge writers to get truly creative and reach outside their comfort zone. A lot of us were neck deep in research and I know we all learned at least one new thing from having a directed prompt. It was a great way to stir up my creativity and I think we all got to know more about each other and our respective creative processes. Seeing where everyone went with the prompts was a real adventure!

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Here’s an excerpt from Virginia’s Story, The Stone Circle, which appears in Shamrocks, Saints and Standing Stones:

Kiona looked around herself, bewildered, leaning back on her elbows. The land was lit with the twilight light of stars hundreds or perhaps thousands of times closer than what the girl was used to. The circle of stones was healed and unbroken. The land that had been cut barren of trees around the stones was surrounded on all sides except for the side with the sea by oaks and hazel trees.

Where she was standing in the center of the stones was at the crossroads of four paths. One went towards the cliffs of the ocean, one lead behind her and was, in the other world at least, the direction of Aunt Alba’s cabin, the third lead into the grove of trees opposite the ocean and the fourth lead through sparser trees and in the distance, Kiona could see a white city with silver rooftops that glimmered palely under the starlight.

Maeve was already walking towards the city, the path lead up and down hillsides and the city was further away than Kiona had thought at first. Maeve quickly and Kiona had to run to keep up, her running seemed to annoy Maeve somewhat and she gave the girl a surreptitious glare or two on the way.

Finally Kiona, who usually could run for ages, realized that she was exhausted and couldn’t keep up the pace, “Please, Queen Maeve, could you slow down a little?”

Maeve was gone in a blur, down the path and Kiona could make her out at the edge of the city that towered above them, built into a mountain that didn’t exist in the land Kiona had come from. In an equally fast blur Maeve returned to Kiona’s side, she was cool and fresh as though she had barely moved, “As you see, I have slowed down for you, quite a lot really. Honestly, I don’t know why I try with your kind.”

“I can’t keep up,” Kiona exclaimed, desperate not to anger Maeve but even breathing the air was different here and she was exhausted.

“That isn’t my problem, now is it?” Maeve asked as though speaking to a very small child. She rolled her eyes at the girl, “I can’t spend all day waiting for you to try to walk, I’m going home. Make your way to the Star Palace and tell them the Queen sent for you.”

Maeve vanished down the road in a blur and Kiona started to cry. It wasn’t that the Queen was mean, not exactly, her expectations of her were beyond her capability. She trudged down the road the Queen had whizzed down.