BackStory: Five Questions with J.B. Stone

BackStory: Five Questions with J.B. Stone
Author of Amber Rose

What inspired you to write ‘Amber Rose’?

I originally wrote Amber Rose as a submission to an Anne Sexton-themed submissions call from the folks over at Fairy Tale Review. I have always been a fan of transformations, but as I always was a fan of the poem Briar Rose, along with many of the works alongside, I was trying to find unique ways to recreate the contemporary fae prose that I think would do the messaging in the modern fairy tale its justice. In that, I came up with a take on the process of how certain creatures become dormant. Like certain insects in caves that stay in a state of suspended animation, only to awake after their slumber has ended. Or like the process of certain creatures fossilized in amber sap. The one’s in suspended animation, but without a wake-up call of their own. Real-life Sleeping Beauties from a prehistoric past such as a queen dragonfly or a beetle-bred princess sleeping in the belly of a warm, but dark space that is supposed to be a bed, but in all reality, is a coffin. I love playing around with this idea that some fairy tales aren’t bound in a realm of the impossible but can expand to the universe of the highly probable. Part of the idea also came from a giant hall of fossilized insects, located in the halls of Kingsborough Community College where my grandmother used to teach at.

What are your favourite pieces of historical flash, prose poetry or hybrid work? What do you like about them?

I love a lot of the work here at Flashback Fiction actually! I do have some personal favorite gems though in; “Of Chinwoke” by Adachioma Ezeano, “Erased” by George L. Hickman, and “cottonmouth” by Audra Kerr Brown. I love “Erased,” because I think for the time, we’re living in with the rise of Anti-Asian violence this is an important work that shows how vital Asian immigrants were to the development of our nation, and also how the violence and oppression against Asian Americans stems far longer than the pandemic, but dates as far back as they made inroads as immigrants to our nation.

Of Chinwoke” is such a beautiful piece of writing. For all of the workshops I have been a participated in, one of the things that is always stressed about flash fiction is trying to pack as much of a full story into one scene, and I feel like this work in the little room of 500 words required does just that. The movement, the flow is almost poetic, but there is a character in Chinwoke, there are other people in the story who bring value, like Chinwoke’s Papa, like his Mama, and there is no room for names, but it’s seen evident there are more ways to paint a character’s portrait than just with names. There is beautiful imagery that matches what seems to be an important part of the author’s culture, and I think that really tackles the heart of what makes historical fiction so special.

Audra Kerr Brown’s “cottonmouth.” I have read some awesome flash work from Audra before, her work is always fantastic, and I love this piece for a few reasons, but I’ll stick with two here: I love stories about snakes, because I love snakes, and I also love how this entire story sort-of resembles a literary echo chamber from the teachings of a parent. The vernacular used here feels so unique for the context, and I always love when people bring a part of their culture into a work of fiction, and in way turning that work of fiction into a non-fiction. Now I don’t know if this the author demonstrating the commentary of their mother’s thoughts on snakes, or if this purely just fiction, it’s not my place to say, but I do interpret that sort-of non-fictional take brought into this work, as I do with so much of historic fiction.

Who are your favourite historical fiction writers (flash or otherwise) and why?

Although both have explored other genres of course, I love Colson Whitehead’s Underground Railroad, and I also love George Saunder’s Lincoln in Bardo. Those are two incredible works of historical fiction, although it’s full-length novel rather than historical flash/micro fiction. I also enjoy some of the work as well at The Copperfield Review as well.

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

I didn’t have to do much research, because I already know a decent amount on the minor components of the subject I was researching, and on what I was looking to include. My grandma taught marine biology at Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn, NY, and she is responsible for a childhood and young adulthood of mine spent looking up different animal facts, heck I still do this at 30. I am not by any means an entomologist (scientist in the study of insects), nor a palaeontologist/fossilist, but the amber process doesn’t take a world-renowned expert to know of, it’s in almost any big reference work on palaeontology/fossilology and/or entomology.

What do you like most about writing flash (or prose poetry, or hybrid work)?

As mentioned above as a reader, as a writer I love the challenge of attempting to pack the semblance of a full story into a small space. I also love writing flash prose, because as someone with ADHD, and Autism, for the days when my attention is limited, I feel it’s become less daunting exploring the ways I can expand or cut into the body of a flash prose piece as opposed to that of short fiction or a novella. I don’t say it’s easier because each genre presents it’s set of challenges, but the set of challenges in a flash fiction, are more in-tune with where my attention lies most of the time.

J.B. Stone is the author of Fireflies & Hand Grenades (Bottlecap Press 2022). He is the Editor-In-Chief/Reviews Editor at Variety Pack and a Reader at Uncharted Magazine. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Flash Fiction Magazine, BULL, Crack the Spine, among other places. He tweets @JB_StoneTruth.

Photograph of amber via depositphotos, ID 39288957.