BackStory: Five Questions with Linda Walsh
Author of Comfortless Cove
What inspired you to write ‘Comfortless Cove’?
I strayed onto a holiday website and as soon as I saw ‘Comfortless Cove’ I needed to know more. The history of Ascension Island is fascinating and there are real graves in Comfortless Cove. I found the Ascension Island Historical Society website, and it’s full of interesting facts. Assistant Surgeons had the unenviable task of boarding incoming ships, who landed in the capital Georgetown seeking respite, and were tasked to look for signs of disease. If found, the ship was quarantined to Comfortless Cove to await the all-clear. I thought about what that must have been like and realised that they too might contract a disease and die. I wondered what that final journey on the rowing boat might be like, feeling the effects of the disease knowing his fate was in the lap of the Gods.
I wrote a short story imagining his life and couldn’t resist ‘flashing’ it.
Were there any interesting facts, details, or turns of phrase that didn’t quite make the final piece?
Originally the cove was called ‘Sydney Cove’, was re-named ‘Comfort Cove’, and finally the terrible history of the cove caused sailors to re-name it again as ‘Comfortless Cove’.
What do you like most about writing flash?
It’s over a year ago since I discovered ‘Flash’ fiction and quickly fell under its spell. Compressing a piece of longer writing really highlights the importance of words and their meanings. You can spend hours/days looking for the precise word that conveys what you want to say and also hints at other thoughts or meanings. You can read an excellent piece of flash at breakfast and it will occupy your thoughts till dinner time. Most of all, I find it fun.
What do you think is the most challenging and the most rewarding aspect of writing historical flash?
Getting the detail right is challenging, as is knowing what facts to leave out too.
History is often presented coldly as facts; fiction appeals to our emotions. Historical flash can combine the two in a way that allows us to experience, even momentarily, what it might have been like to live through past events and connect us emotionally to the people who lived it.
How important is historical accuracy to you in your own writing?
I do appreciate historical accuracy but fiction is fiction and some altering of facts and timelines are fine once they are acknowledged.
Linda started writing flash in 2018 and is now addicted. Currently writing short stories and has started an historical novel. Previously published in @CabinetOfHeed. She lives in the Dublin Mountains with a husband, too many children and a dog. Find her on Twitter @francaisanna.
Illustration of a patient suffering from yellow fever courtesy, from Observations sur la fièvre jaune, faites à Cadix, en 1819 / par MM. Pariset et Mazet by Pariset and André Mazet, courtesy of the Wellcome Collection (CC BY 4.0).