BackStory: Five Questions with Nick Lord Lancaster

BackStory: Five Questions with Nick Lord Lancaster
Author of On The Ethics of Book Burning

What inspired you to write ‘On the Ethics of Book Burning’?

The piece actually describes a true story. I bumped into it one day while bouncing around the internet looking for interesting distractions and thought it was worth exploring.

How much research did you do while writing and editing this piece? Did you discover anything that surprised you?

What surprised me was how difficult it was to actually find any information on the specific incident. Obviously it’s not a major historical event, but it’s a nice bit of ironic trivia which I would have expected to be better attested. There isn’t actually a lot of historical detail in the story so research in that area was minimal.

If you could live for one year in any historical period, when and where would it be, and why?

I love my home comforts far too much to survive at any time in history. Having said that, I do find early 20th Century London quite tempting, as long as it is exactly the way G. K. Chesterton describes it.

What do you like most about writing flash?

I’m a miniaturist, really. I’m much more at home with small-scale stories, vignettes, anecdotes, character pieces. I’m not a fan of the epic and overblown.

I’m also very impatient with extraneous detail – the literary equivalent of small talk. Just get to the point. As a reader, if a story’s well-written I’ll soak up every detail, but if it’s not I often find myself skipping paragraphs to reach the end more quickly. I don’t want to have that effect on the reader.

What do you think is the most challenging and/or rewarding aspect of writing historical flash?

When I write historical flash, the historical setting is rarely the point of the story. I think the best of my fiction is about memories, and when you write about memories there’s obviously a large element of the story that’s centred in the past.

Nick Lord Lancaster’s work has been published in Maudlin House, KYSO Flash, The Linnet’s Wings, Saturday Night Reader and Flash Fiction Magazine. He lives in Essex with his wife and two daughters (one human, one canine). Read more at or follow @nlordlancaster.

Image detail from a photograph of E.M. Forster with Lady Ottoline Morell’s pug Soie, taken by Lady Ottoline Morell in 1922.  Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery.