BackStory: Four Questions with Katie Oliver

Shards of pottery

BackStory: Four Questions with Katie Oliver
Author of Fragments

What inspired you to write ‘Fragments’?

This originally appears in an as yet incomplete novella-in-flash I have languishing in my drafts. I was writing about Eve’s life, which features an event for which she’d need a motive. I started to think about what might have happened to make her resentful of her parents, and this is where ‘Fragments’ sprung from.

If you could live for one year in any historical period, which would it be?

There are SO many places I’d like to pop up in history, but I hate to say it – I’m a terrible British cliché and obsessed with the Tudors (I blame a diet of Phillippa Gregory during my formative teen years). So a year I’d love to witness would be 1540, when Anne of Cleves was falling out of favour and Catherine Howard was falling in. I think the relationship between those two women must have been fascinating, and there was so much going on politically behind it all.

What do you like most about writing flash?

I think I most like the challenge of making a short piece work as hard as it can by really looking at what you can do with language and structure. I’m very into themes and motifs, and I spent a lot of time developing these throughout ‘Fragments’. The piece itself is physically split into four parts, and then we have the images of the cracked bowl, the shattered pot, and the metaphorical wreckage of Eve’s life. The idea is that all of it comes together to emphasise Eve’s brokenness, and then at the end offers the possibility of the opposite: a mending, of sorts. I love when the form/and or content of a piece ends up enhancing the overall meaning, and I hope this is what I’ve achieved here.

What is your favourite piece of historical flash?

My favourite piece of historical flash has to be ‘Blessings, 1849’ by Johanna Robinson, which won the Bath Flash Award. It’s an exceptionally well-crafted piece, with the rhythm of the sentences mirroring the protagonist’s hard slog through life, with beautiful repeated images of counting, steps and knots. In her interview with Bath Johanna mentions that this piece is part of a work in progress, so I hope I get to read the whole thing one day!

Katie Oliver is a writer based on the west coast of Ireland, whose work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, Best Small Fictions and Best Microfiction. Her debut short story collection, I WANTED TO BE CLOSE TO YOU, will be published in December 2022 with Fly on the Wall Press, and she is a first reader for Tiny Molecules. She can be found on Twitter @katie_rose_o.

Detail of photograph from unsplash.