BackStory: Four Questions with Matthew Richardson

Detail from 'Ships in a Storm on a Rocky Coast' by Jan Porcellis

BackStory: Four Questions with Matthew Richardson
Author of Foundering

What inspired you to write this ‘Foundering’?

I think there is an interesting dynamic to be found when examining those who in times gone by made their living on the coast, particularly in rural or impoverished areas. In settlements such as the one in which ‘Foundering’ is set, the sea simultaneously provides the food on which families exist, whilst providing the greatest source of danger. Such a duality also exists when the villagers scavenge in ‘Foundering’. Whilst empathetic to the plight of the doomed sailors, the protagonist and his family are not slow to take advantage of the tragedy.

Who are your favourite historical fiction writers and why?

Hilary Mantel has to top my list. Her Wolf Hall Trilogy is everything good historical fiction should be – exhaustively researched, authentically voiced, and plotted with distinction. When reading historical fiction there is always the implicit question ‘Is the writer sufficiently informed to write about their subject?’. Although Mantel’s authority on her protagonist is obvious, her research is threaded through the plot in a way that never feels obtrusive. That fusion of historical knowledge and tradecraft is tremendously attractive to me. I also love Susan Hill’s novels and short stories. The mise en scène she employs in work such as The Woman in Black and The Mist in the Mirror constitute characters all by themselves.

What do you like most about writing flash?

I love the flexibility that flash fiction affords me. Nothing is too big a risk to take, because if the piece fails, all I have lost is a thousand words. Flash also provides a fascinating window into our world. It avoids the triteness of a drabble whilst retaining the discipline lacking in a longer story. Conversely, character, plot, dialogue, and theme must all be shoehorned into a thousand words or less, and all whilst retaining the story you originally set out to tell – what a challenge!

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

Very. The stories that have taken me longest to research have been those set in the past. Apart from anything else, I enjoy the process of researching history. Through writing, I’ve had to learn about things like crofting in the Western Isles of Scotland, the D-Day celebrations at Trafalgar Square, Victorian slums, and Greyfriars Graveyard in Edinburgh. I do feel a sense of responsibility as I write about the people who lived in these times and places, much as the characters remain my own. I also write as a reader, and there is nothing that takes me out of a narrative faster than a glaring historical inaccuracy.

Matthew Richardson has previously been published in publications including Gold Dust magazine, Literally Stories, Near to the Knuckle, McStorytellers, Penny Shorts, Soft Cartel, Whatever Keeps the Lights On, and Shooter. Matthew tweets at @mjrichardso0 and blogs at

Detail from ‘Ships in a Storm on a Rocky Coast’ by Jan Porcellis via Wikimedia Commons.