BackStory: Five Questions with Bronwen Griffiths

Mary Stanford Lifeboat House

BackStory: Five Questions with Bronwen Griffiths
Author of No More Than an Eggshell

What inspired you to write this ‘No More Than an Eggshell’?

I was inspired to write this piece after attending a poetry workshop with Jane Lovell at Rye Harbour. We walked to the shoreline and discussed the power and beauty of the landscape, as well as its historical context. I knew about the Mary Stanford disaster but the workshop enabled me to think about the tragedy in a new way. The piece was originally a poem but it soon turned to prose.

What is your favourite piece of historical flash, prose poetry or hybrid work? What do you like about it?

I loved ‘Tyn’ by K.B. Carle. It’s a powerful piece and engages the reader in a visceral way with the terrible consequences of slavery and, in particular, the abuse of women. But as soon as I recommend one story I think about all the other amazing historical flash pieces out there and I feel bad I haven’t recommended them too.

What is your favourite part of the writing process? Your least favourite?

I love the first rush of writing when it all tumbles out, and I do enjoy editing, on the whole. But sometimes the editing process can become tedious and I find it difficult to sort the wheat from the chaff – to use one of those clichés that we are told to avoid! Sometimes, in the editing process I veer from loving a piece of work to hating it and I can’t always find the necessary middle ground.

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

I was obsessed with Minoan Crete when I was twelve years old after reading Mary Renault’s book, The King Must Die. At eighteen I hitched to Crete with a boyfriend and we visited Knossos. Many years later I returned and visited Phaistos. I would have liked to live in Crete at that time – but before the civilisation collapsed – possibly as the result of a tsunami.

How important is historical accuracy to you in your own writing?

I don’t write a lot of historical flash but for me the story has to ring true in some way. The further back in time a story is set, the less we know about the historical record and so there is more scope for imagining. However, there has to be a real historical truth. There can’t be a story in which slavery never existed, for example. We can’t know everything about the past but there are facts.

Bronwen Griffiths is the author of two published novels, and two collections of flash fiction. Her flash fiction has been published in Barren Magazine and Spelk, among others. She lives on the East Sussex/Kent borders and has just completed a new novel set in a fictitious Dungeness. Find her on Twitter @bronwengwriter.

Photograph of the Mary Stanford Lifeboat House by Barry Yates, Sussex Wildlife Trust; used with permission.