J.L. Knight’s story, “Field Trip,” is one of those stories that stabs you and it’s only after a few minutes that you realize you’re bleeding. Read on to learn more about this short, atmospheric piece of flash fiction.
Q (Crone Girls Press): What do you write? How long have you been writing? What are your preferred genres and why?
A (J.L. Knight): Generally I write flash horror fiction. I enjoy the constraints of the very short form, and the challenge of creating an effective story within a limited space. However, right now I’m working on a novella, which carries its own set of challenges.
I have been writing since I was a kid. I went to college on a creative writing scholarship. I felt a lot of pressure to write Serious Literature that would please my professors and academics. That was the killing blow to my creative process. I dropped out of college and stopped writing for many years. I have always been a horror fan. I grew up reading King and Poe and Lovecraft and all the rest. When I started writing again, about five years ago, they were horror stories because that’s what I love.
Q: What inspired your story in this anthology? Tell us the “story behind the story.”
A: A lot of my stories have kids in them, I guess because I’m a mother and I write what I know. Kids are always getting into trouble, due to their natural curiosity and lack of understanding of the world. I could totally see one of my kids doing what Calvin did in “Field Trip”. Luckily the story was not inspired by actual events.
Q: What draws you to the genre of horror/dark fiction? What do you find there that you don’t find anywhere else?
A: I like the freedom of possibility. You’re not tethered to reality as much. Why do I like monsters and ghosts instead of elves and fairies? I dunno. I’d be cool with evil elves. Maybe I should write a story about that.
Q: Of the characters you’ve created, who is your favorite, and why?
A: My characters are like my children. I love them all equally, no matter how badly they’re behaving.
Q: What do you find the most challenging about the writing process, and how do you meet that challenge?
A: By far, the most challenging thing about the writing process for me is finding time and space to do it. I have a job and a family and we live in a small house. It’s really hard to write when the TV is going in the background and people are asking you what’s for dinner. Noise cancelling headphones have been a godsend.
Q: What was the worst writing advice you ever received? The best writing advice? Why, and how did it affect your writing?
A: Personally, I hate “show, don’t tell.” I guess it’s supposed to encourage world building rather than just a recounting of events, but really, what fiction writer does that? I think all writing advice has a good side and a bad side. In “On Writing”, Stephen King says to avoid adverbs. This is useful if you rely heavily on adverbs, especially in dialogue. But it can also seriously hinder the flow of your writing, if all you’re thinking about is your adverb usage.
The danger of writing advice is that it can alter your voice. I think the most important thing in writing is to find your authentic voice, the one that is uniquely you, and use it. Don’t try to write like someone else.
My favorite piece of writing advice is “omit needless words”. I guess that’s why I write flash.
Q: If someone asked you to recommend books/stories similar to what you write, who/what titles would you be giving them? And, why?
A: Flannery O’Connor, Shirley Jackson, Robert Bloch, Ray Bradbury. Not because our tones are so similar but because they deal with ordinary people and events that suddenly take a left turn into weirdness. I’m pretty influenced by the Twilight Zone type of horror.
Q: What’s next in your writing journey?
A: Hopefully something longer than 1,000 words. Right now I’m halfway through a novella that has kind of stalled out because I’m at a turning point and I can’t decide which way to go.
J.L. Knight lives in Lexington, Kentucky with her husband and two teenage children. Her stories have been published in numerous indie anthologies and magazines. By day, she works for a non-profit bookstore serving the Lexington Public Library system. By night, she writes things that make some people look at her funny.
To read “Field Trip” by J.L. Knight, pick up a copy of Stories We Tell After Midnight 2. And, once you are finished, please think about leaving us a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads. Reviews make our cold, dark little heart so happy…