Backstory: Five Questions with Genevieve Allen
Author of Half Past Two
What inspired you to write ‘Half Past Two’?
Almost all of my pieces are inspired by two things: nature, and the stories of LGBTQ+ people throughout history. The inspiration for this one began with the countryside surrounding my home. Specifically, it was a line of bare-branched, lichen-covered trees that brought about the image of Lyle stumbling through the undergrowth in his sadness. From there, I began to think about what could have caused the sadness he was running from, and it all settled around one word: “missing.” I’d been thinking for some time about the meaning of this word in the context of the world wars, and the devastation it had on those at home. In the story, Lyle is running from the consequences of that word, hoping to lose himself in the wildness of the land, rather than facing up to the reality – the wallpaper – of what the possibility of losing someone, and not being able to properly mourn, means to him.
Who are your favourite historical fiction writers?
An old favourite historical fiction writer of mine has to be Pat Barker, since it was studying the Regeneration Trilogy at school that unlocked both an interest in fiction set during the world wars, and an interest in writing more seriously myself. Another name I have to mention is Sarah Waters. Another long-term favourite, the sense of setting, of another time, that she creates in her work is something I’ve always aspired to. In recent years, there has been a trend for retellings or stories inspired by Ancient Greece and Rome that I’ve found particularly inspiring: the likes of Madeline Miller, Elodie Harper, Jennifer Saint, Natalie Haynes, and back around to Pat Barker herself.
If you could live for one year in any historical period, when and where would it be, and why?
It’s perhaps not the most original answer, but I might choose a year within the rise of Anne Boleyn. The Tudor period in general always feels to me like a time rife with myth and exaggeration and the rewriting of history to best fit those who came out on top. I would very much like to find out for myself which of the famous tales were true, and which have been hidden or exaggerated by history. Though I would of course keep my head down while living in this time period, for fear of losing it.
What do you think is the most challenging and/or rewarding aspect of writing historical flash?
For me, one of the most challenging things about writing historical flash, and longer pieces too, is the temptation to stop writing and fact-check certain things before finishing the piece. It’s very easy to lose ten, twenty, thirty minutes to looking up what breakfast cereals were available in the 1940s, the inner workings of Ancient Roman society, or the most feared names from the golden age of piracy. And by the time you’ve found what you were looking for, any inspiration you had has disappeared, and you go to make another cup of tea instead.
If you could have three historical figures over for dinner, who would they be?
Roman Emperor Elagabalus, pirate Anne Bonny, and the man himself Will Shakespeare.
Genevieve Allen studied at the University of Gloucestershire, where her work was published in the anthology Smoke, and adapted for the stage. Her writing has most recently appeared in Toasted Cheese Literary Journal. She writes LGBTQ+ and historical fiction, and edits at Flash Fiction Magazine. Find her on Twitter @GenAllen52.
Wallpaper image by salomenj via depositphotos, ID 27947289.