BackStory: Five Questions with Morgan Quinn
Author of I Have Suffered the Atrocity of Sunsets
What inspired you to write ‘I Have Suffered the Atrocity of Sunsets’ ?
Back in 2018, my husband and I had the opportunity to go on a long dreamed for trip to Japan. During this trip, we were lucky enough to be in the beautiful city of Hiroshima on 6th August; the anniversary of the date the city was devastated by the atomic bomb. We visited the Peace Memorial Museum, which was a profound and harrowing experience. The survivor testimonials in particular were deeply moving. A large part of the inspiration for this story comes from that experience. The secondary inspiration was Sylvia Plath’s poem, ‘Elm’, from which the title of this piece is taken. I actually started with the title and the content of the story built itself around that.
Who are your favourite historical fiction writers and why?
I’ve really enjoyed some of Bernard Cornwell’s work, particularly The Saxon Stories and The Warlord Chronicles. I have a particularly soft spot for The Warlord Chronicles as I’m a bit of an Arthurian legend geek, and this series covers the oft-retold story of King Arthur in a compelling and novel manner, with a much greater focus on the historical context of the time he is purported to have lived. As a teacher, I also read quite a lot of children’s literature. Emma Carroll is a favourite in terms of historical fiction. As a child myself, I especially enjoyed reading books set in the context of WW2, and Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian has a special place in my heart to this day. I was also fascinated by the plague of 1665, and loved a book called The Naming Of William Rutherford by Linda Kempton, which was a time slip story set in the village of Eyam.
What is your favourite part of the writing process? Your least favourite?
My favourite part is without a doubt the moment where the details of a piece begin to click, or a character voice works itself out and you realise you finally have something workable. It sometimes takes a while for me to settle on an idea, storyline or structure that I am happy with, and I find it incredibly difficult to free write which can be quite frustrating. On rare occasions, which is actually what happened with this piece, a flash fiction can just roll off the keyboard almost fully formed. Those are the best writing moments of all!
My least favourite? Editing, I’m afraid! I’m not much of an editor, and rarely touch any of my writing beyond the initial draft, bar the very odd tweak here and there.
What do you like most about writing flash?
Flash was such a revelation to me. I discovered it after joining Writers’ HQ and tentatively dipping my toe into the fabulous Flash Face Off community. I love that, be it featherweight or heavyweight, flash is guaranteed to pack a punch and linger long after reading. I love the fact that it lends itself to experimentation with form and pushes me out of my comfort zone as a writer. I love that something so brief can encompass so much breadth, and I love the challenge of creating depth and clarity of meaning from a tiny word count. Most of all, I love the fact that discovering flash fiction got me writing and, for the most part, keeps me writing
How important is historical accuracy to you in your own writing?
I think this is really interesting, and for me, the answer is: it depends. For this story, I wanted there to be a relatively high degree of accuracy in order to feel I had done justice to the topic and to the real people who either lost their lives or lived through it. So whilst the family and narrator in my story are fictional, I wanted it to feel real. I included details based on eye witness testimonies, and my own experience of being in the city. I also wanted there to be a relatively strong sense of place within the piece. I feel like this was particularly important given the relative recency of the event I was writing about, as well as the sensitive nature of the topic at hand. Similarly, if I was writing about a real person from history I would probably try and keep many of the key details factual and accurate within the framework of authorial creativity. However, for more frivolous historical stories, I think I would feel comfortable going a bit more off-piste as far as accuracy is concerned.
Morgan Quinn lives, writes and teaches in North West England. She started writing in June 2020, and fell in love with flash fiction for its wonderful breadth and glorious brevity. Her stories have recently won third prize at Flash 500, and fourth prize (twice!) at Reflex Fiction. She also has flash fiction published or forthcoming with Crow and Crosskeys, Funny Pearls, Fudoki, Retreat West, NFFD and Bath Flash Fiction. She can be found on twitter @voxishwrites.
Photograph of sun over Ogonzancho, Minami Ward, Hiroshima by Warabi Hatogaya, via Wikimedia Commons.