BackStory: Three Questions with Jude Higgins
Author of Wolf Moon
What inspired you to write ‘Wolf Moon’?
I’ve been sharing prompt words daily with John Wheway for a while and the word ‘wolf’ plus a few other words in this piece came up in the list. I knew that the editors at FlashBack had some time-line gaps in medieval times and when I did an internet search on ‘wolves, thirteenth century’, I came up with the information about the wolf hunters.I decided to tell a story from the point of view of a wolf hunter’s wife, and then the piece came out quickly. It’s the fastest piece of writing I’ve done for a while. I wrote it one day, sent it out the next (which is very unusual for me) and the team at FlashBack accepted it the following day. I was amazed.
How much research did you do while writing and editing this piece? Did you discover anything that surprised you?
I just did the quick internet search I described above. It’s astonishing that over 200,000 wolves lived in the great forests in England in the thirteenth century, before the wolf hunters captured and killed most of them. There was a great push to exterminate wolves completely at that time. I imagine there would have been some people who saw their value as a species and maybe the wolf hunter’s wife in my story, in thinking about the ‘wolf mothers’, might represent such a person. Peter Corbett was a real person, named as a famous wolf hunter. King Edward 1st, one of the prime movers to get rid of wolves completely, employed him to work in the counties around the Welsh Marches where wolves were common at this time.
What do you think is the most challenging and/or rewarding aspect of writing historical flash?
I think getting the voice and diction ‘right’ is a challenge – imagining how people might speak and think many centuries ago. Peter Corbett’s speech in my story has words directly quoted from Edward 1st (according to the entry in Wikipedia) and I do like the archaic language here, but apart from that, there are just a few adjustments so the diction doesn’t sound too contemporary. It’s satisfying to think of things that might resonate with the present day in an historical flash. I hoped readers might feel a resonance with the current urgent crisis about species extinction. Throughout the centuries, men, usually in poor and oppressed communities, have become obssessed with killing when large bounties are offered. I also thought about women and their roles in this time period – although this is in my imagination, rather than research based. Precariousness about child birth must have been a big issue, and the need to produce heirs, but also the risk of saying something that disturbed the status quo, which would make women, like the wolves, viewed as ‘pests’ or witches, to be killed too. Writing this flash fiction got me interested in finding out more about women in these early centuries and apparently there are such scholarly texts written.
Jude Higgins’ flash fiction pamphlet, ‘The Chemist’s House’ was published by V. Press in 2017. She is widely published in literary magazines and anthologies including Flash Frontier, The New Flash Fiction Review, The Blue Fifth Review, The Nottingham Review and NFFD anthologies. She has won or been placed in many short short fiction contests. She runs Bath Flash Fiction Award and directs The Flash Fiction Festivals, UK.
Image of Anglo-Saxon wolf hunt with wolfhounds from The British wolf-hunters: A Tale of England in the Olden Time (a novel), Thomas Miller, 1859.