She isn’t the first author in the Houston Writers Guild that I met, but she is arguably the most influential in my career. I’ve been in three different critique circles with Patricia Flaherty Pagan, so she’s read my first stab at a novel, to giving me the idea to entirely re-write the chapter called ‘Truth or Truth’ in my debut romantic thriller Unseen.
Patty isn’t only an award winning author, she’s the founder of Spider Road Press a local feminist driven publishing house in Houston. This fall my piece Thomas (which came in fourth place last year in the Spider Road Press Flash Fiction Contest) will be included in their collection Approaching Footsteps. My poems ‘Darkness’ and ‘Snowfall’ (under the pen name Elizabeth Harris) are included in the collection In The Questions. For video of me reading Thomas click here to view it on my Facebook author page.
As far as Spider Road Press I’m happy to announce that my flash fiction piece Blanquita was awarded third place in their 2016 Flash Fiction Contest. The award ceremony, along with the Press’s birthday celebration will take place on August 18 in the arts district in Houston. I’d love for you to join us for the readings, cake, and a little bubbly.
Without Patricia I would have never written a flash fiction piece to begin with, but with her guidance and support it turns out I’m pretty good at it. Although I’m no match for her visceral and visual pieces. Thanks you for everything, Patty.
And now award winning author, amazing Mom, and kind leader Patricia Flaherty Pagan answers my 20 Questions…
20 Questions with…
Patricia Flaherty Pagan
Every writer has that one book that made him or her want to be a writer, what’s yours?
The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe is the book that awoke my imagination, and still one of my favorites of all time. But the book that made me think I could be a writer, and see myself doing it, is a book that I also read in fourth grade-The Diamond in the Window by Jane Langton. It was also magical, and fun, but took place in Concord, Mass, just three towns over from where I grew up. If she could write a good story about my area, then being a writer was a real job, that smart, real people could do.
2. How old where you when you started writing?
Ten. But before that, I used to draw streets with several houses on them and imagine all the stories of the people who lived inside. My poor older sister Maryellen-she got to hear all the stories.
Name four authors that you’d love to have lunch with.
We’d have to have lunch in writer’s heaven-which would surely have a good bar. Flannery O’Connor and Truman Capote, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Shirley Jackson. Do I have to stop there? If Edgar Allen Poe and Dorothy Parker could drop by for a “digestif,” that would be ideal. Because what’s a dinner party without Dorothy Parker?
What would you eat?
We would start with baked Brie and warm French bread, because all good things start with good cheese. Steak salad, strawberries and champagne.
How do you plot out your work?
I make notes and then a rough outline, but really I’m a midwife for my characters. They know the route. My characters tell me what they want to happen, and it never fits the outline.
Do you write in the morning or evening?
Writing in the morning is my preference, but with a toddler you write whenever the baby sleeps.
Is there music on?
Yes. I often play the same jazz and classic rock albums, in fact. Writing music should be interesting, but not too interesting, as then it could distract you.
What inspired your last story?
I am interested in voice and setting as a character; my stories often grow out of an interesting story and her “voice,” or a unique place I have visited. Recently I have been working on a story about quarantines on Roosevelt Island in New York and the characters and plot flow flowed from there. Roosevelt Island has a fascinating history of housing the “other” of New York and New Jersey-people struggling with mental illness, prisoners, and sick people. Yet Manhattan glitters right across the tram. And now parts of it are becoming trendy housing-right over where the other was held.
Name three books so good you wish you wrote them.
Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Alison, We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson, In The Woods by Irish suspense writer Tana French, and all the short fiction collections by Joyce Carol Oates. She’s one of the best living American writers.
10.What television shows, movies, or albums do you believe are written well?
- Netflix’s Bloodline is an excellent TV thriller. Clever Man, a new Australian show with an unlikely Aboriginal hero and available on Sundance TV and iTunes, is fantastic-in all the senses of the word. And of course the brilliant The Wire, and Gilmore Girls, which a classic for rapid-fire dialogue. Regarding films: Thelma and Louise, Rear Window, In the Bedroom, Strangers on a Train, any Jane Campion film. I could go on… How much time do you have?
Which actor would you cast in the protagonist role of your most recent piece?
Tatianna Maslany from Orphan Black. She can play anyone with compassion and humor.
Which of your pieces was the hardest to write?
I love mysteries-but they require an extra level of focus because all the clues have to tie together well at the end. No scene can be kept just because it has pretty words in it.
Which was the easiest?
“Blood-Red Geraniums” my tense little piece in Waves of Suspense, a fun read featuring work by several Houston authors. It’s won an award, but it was inspired by a summer job I had many years ago and an article I read about migrant workers in Texas, so it flowed.
Which of your pieces did readers ‘get’ when they told you their thoughts on it?
“Bargaining,” My award winning story about baby brokers and a desperate woman from my collection Trail Ways Pilgrims. Women have responded to the desperate woman’s moral, legal, and emotional dilemmas.
What are you working on now?
The Roosevelt Island piece, and a historical mystery short story set in Revolutionary Lexington and Concord.
What story do you have to write before you die?
I am working on a story about a woman with mental illness and her neighbor, a flawed mother, who witness a murder and no one quite believes them. Because in American culture, how much weight do we give flawed women and women with medical problems?
What’s your best fan story?
A reader mentioned reading Trail Ways Pilgrims four times. That’s wonderful and humbling.
What sentence have you written that you feel encapsulates your style?
“I neither missed nor carried” or “I redact.” They are both from my flash piece, “Rays Of Someday Almost.” It’s been published in The Pitkin Review and Trail Ways Pilgrims. I love short sentences with zing.
Have you ever based characters off of real people?
“Perhaps. But I’d never admit that here,” she said with a raised eyebrow and a grin.
Who’s your favorite character?
Meredith from my novel, Bleed She’s driven and sarcastic as hell, but tries to bring the truth to light.
You can find out more about the author on her website, http://patriciaflahertypagan.com. You can purchase her work from http://spiderroadpress.com/book-store/ and check out her work on Amazon author page, http://www.amazon.com/Patricia-Flaherty-Pagan/e/B00LZY4VB4