Laura Besley

Laura, I follow your lovely Instagram page. By looking at the pictures you take, I’ve guessed that you don’t live in a big city. Am I right? And it seems that you do love your neighborhood. Has your surroundings had a positive influence on your creativity?

Firstly, I’d like to thank you for asking to interview me, Maysam.  

I actually live in a big city, but in a suburb which borders farmland, so in that respect I’m very lucky because I can walk out of my back door and into the countryside. Generally I don’t usually spend the whole day inside, but during lockdown it has become even more important to get out and get some fresh air. My surroundings don’t necessarily have a positive influence on my creativity, but I find walking often brings about ideas or solutions to problems within my writing. 

You’ve published quite a lot of stories in literary journals. Does a writer like you still get rejected from time to time? If yes, what are the three top reasons that journals reject your pieces?

Oh yes, definitely! Lots and lots of rejections. More often than not, editors of journals don’t tell you why they don’t want one of your pieces – they have too many to read and respond to, so in all honesty, I don’t actually know the answer to that question. However, I often find that if I go back to a piece a month or two later, I can see some things I’d like to change, so that’s always worth trying before sending it out again.

Do you write creative nonfiction, too?

I never set out to write creative nonfiction, but occasionally something grips me that I want to write about. These pieces are largely just for me. They’re too personal to publish. 

I know you have a lot of published micro fiction and flash fiction stories on the net, but let’s narrow it down to three. What are your three most liked short stories so far?

That is a really tough question, but these are certainly three that I really love.  

That Apple (Fictive Dream) was my very first journal publication in 2017 and I remain grateful to the editor, Laura Black, for publishing it. It appears in The Almost Mothers, although has been edited slightly. 

The Motherhood Contract (Ellipsis Zine) was my second journal publication in 2018. I wrote this story as part of a novella-in-flash (that several years later is very nearly finished). Elspeth, the main character, is one who is very close to my heart and there is a lot of me in this piece. This one is also in The Almost Mothers

Another favourite is Her Glorious Face (50 word stories). I’ve found, especially recently, that the stories I write are getting increasingly shorter and I really enjoy the challenge of the strict word count. 

Laura, what are some good characteristics of the English people? What do your people have in common that makes you feel proud of them?

Something, I feel, that has been noticeable during lockdown is how kind people can be. Not just English people, of course, but these are the stories I’ve predominantly heard about. I think people, as their lives have slowed down and become smaller in many ways, have been reminded to be kind. I’d like to think that this is something that we can hold onto when ‘normality’ resumes. 

Charles Dickens is my most favorite British classic writer. I call him Uncle Charles. Who’s yours?

I don’t read many classics to be honest with you, however my favourite would have to be Thomas Hardy. I received Far From the Madding Crowd for my birthday when I was a teenager and immediately fell in love with it and the 2015 adaptation is one of my favourite films. 

Let’s talk about The Almost Mothers now. What motivated you to write this book, and how long did it take you to write, edit, and publish it?

In 2018 I decided to do FlashNano (the idea being that you write a piece of flash fiction for every day in November). Every day, while my youngest son napped and my eldest was at school, I sat down and wrote a piece of flash fiction. Some days were better than others, but about halfway through the month, I realised that a lot of the pieces were about mothers and motherhood. In December I edited the pieces on that theme and put them in a collection along with previously published pieces about motherhood. I then entered the collection into a competition in January 2019 and was lucky enough to be long-listed, something I was thrilled about. 

And please tell us about this experience of cooperating with Dahlia Books. Did they find you, or did you find them?

In April 2019 Farhana Shaikh, editor and director of Dahlia Books, put a call out for short story and/or flash fiction collections to be pitched in a single tweet. I did this and Farhana replied requesting my full manuscript. It was honestly a dance-around-the-kitchen moment. Farhana contacted me in September asking to meet and we discussed publishing the collection. There was quite a lot of editing involved, far more than I thought, and she asked me to write some additional stories as well. This was done over the months October to January and the manuscript was sent to the printers in February and officially published in March 2020. 

Is it more accurate to say that “The Almost Mothers” is a flash fiction collection, or is it a novel/novella-in-flash?

The Almost Mothers is a flash fiction collection because it doesn’t have an overarching narrative, although there are a couple of stories that are linked. 

You generously let me have your book for free. I appreciate that. While reading the book, I felt curious to know which part you most enjoyed writing? And which paragraph(s) of “The Almost Mothers” would you select to read aloud for our readers now?

You’re very welcome. I’m so pleased to know that you enjoyed it. 

I don’t know that I particularly enjoyed writing some parts more than others, however, while I was writing this collection, I started experimenting with quirky and dystopian pieces. Until that point, I had never written pieces like that and some of those are the pieces I’m most proud of. 

If I was reading a paragraph aloud, I would probably choose the first paragraph from the first story: ‘Mothers Anonymous’:

We’re not here to judge, they tell us. Night after night, we sit in this cold church hall sipping teas and coffees, trying to get the good biscuits before they’re all gone. We’re here to support each other, they tell us. We’re here to listen.

Are you currently working on a new book, or are you busy with some other projects? What are your plans for the next five years?

I’m currently writing new stories and editing others for my second collection, 100neHundred, which is due to be published in May 2021 by Arachne Press. This is a collection of 100×100-word stories. 

As for my plans for the next five years, I very much hope there’ll be more writing and more published work.  

And my last question, has Laura Besley achieved most of her goals?

In terms of achieving writing goals, I feel I still have a long way to go. A really long way. I write a lot of short and very short fiction, and want to continue doing this. However, recently I’ve been reading a lot of short stories and would also love to write a collection of short stories, maybe even a novel, but we’ll have to see what the future has in store for me.


Victor Smith

By reading what other people tell you about themselves, either directly or through the medium of fictional characters, we can see that, unique as we all are, we are more alike than different.

Victor Smith

Mr. Smith, when did you start writing short stories? And what was your first published work?

I wrote stories when I was a child, and for a while after I left school. Luckily, none of these early efforts have survived. For many years I could find little time to write, and did not begin again seriously until later life.

The first work that I published was a novella called ‘The Cold of the Dawn’. (This was self-published, and not everyone thinks of that as ‘published’.)

I’ve since withdrawn it from sale because I think now that it is substandard, and I am in the process of rewriting it.

In 2015, you published Mrs. Simkin’s Power: and other short stories. How many short stories are there in that book, and what are the main themes?

There are twenty one stories in the collection, of varying lengths, from flash to three thousand words. I have never thought before of shared themes for these stories, as I see them as individual efforts, so your question has caught me out! A number of them explore what it is to be human, so that might be a theme, but most fiction deals with that question in one way or another.

How much time do you typically spend on reading and writing stories per day?

I’m not very disciplined, so sometimes I work for hours, sometimes not for days at a time. I’m a bit better at reading, and spend an hour or two most days doing that.

I envy well organised writers who can set aside a number of hours every day to work. Either circumstances or inclination have always stopped me doing the same.

What are your three most favorite online literary journals?

I think that there are some interesting pieces published on Spelk Fiction at:

Another favourite is Reflex Fiction at:

When I’m in the mood for very short fiction, I turn to The Drabble at: Some of the pieces on this site are actually poems, depending on your definition, but I don’t draw a clear line between stories and poems, anyway.

What is the most challenging part of writing a new short story for you?

Before I start, I need an idea that seems to be good enough to build a story on. I will then immediately realise that someone else has used the same idea before, and made a better job of it than I’m likely to. The challenge is to try to present my idea in a fresh light.

Which one of your stories have readers liked and praised the best?

Of the stories on my blog, ‘Anastasia’, about the last days of the Romanovs, seems to have pleased people most, although I personally prefer some of the others! Commenters said that they found it thought-provoking and moving, and I take some satisfaction in that.

When we hear of the massacre of thousands, millions, we cannot comprehend it. We feel no connection to numbers. A number cannot stare defiantly back at us from a fading photograph.

Anastasia – Written by Victor Smith

May I know which one is your own pick?

I think that the story that was most successful in what I was trying to achieve is ‘Early Harvest 1914’. It is about the sudden and permanent change in European society brought about in the early 20th century. Comments made by readers make me feel that I have managed to create the effect that I was attempting.

Who are your three most favorite short story writers?

A strong influence on me when I was young, were the stories of HG Wells. Some of his ideas, and many of his expressions are uncomfortably out of touch with current thinking, and if I read his stories now it’s not always a pleasant experience. When I was learning to write, though, I found his story-telling skills fascinating.

A writer of a completely different type, James Joyce produced some ground-breaking work that I find really interesting.

I must mention a current writer, to my knowledge unpublished, who produces some challenging work at:

This is dm gillis, whose stories and poems can be abrasive at times, but have a brilliant, individual touch in most cases.

Which one is more important for you: talking with friends or reading a new short story collection?

That’s a difficult one! Perhaps I can wriggle out of it by saying that if I read some new stories, then I have something interesting to discuss with my friends?

There are a lot of literary journals and writers out there. How do you choose what to read? Do you follow your favorite writers and genres only? Or do you have some other methods to find quality pieces?

I search WordPress for good writers, follow them and have their new posts emailed to me. In the same way, I scour Twitter for promising writers and read and share their work there. This process usually produces a number of recommendations of writers not using either platform, but by following links I can read their work also.

I’m sure you have read thousands of stories so far. Was it worth it? Has reading all these stories had any positive impact on your life?

That’s another tough one! These things are hard to quantify. I have a strong feeling that all of us are individual, that no-one can know what another person thinks or feels unless, of course, they tell you. By reading what other people tell you about themselves, either directly or through the medium of fictional characters, we can see that, unique as we all are, we are more alike than different. 

My last question is about your plans for the future. Should we expect a new short story collection? Do you think you’ll write and publish even more stories in 2021?

That’s my hope, but, as I mentioned earlier, I am currently re-writing a novella. It has surprised me just how much ruthless editing it needs, and how painful and time-consuming the process is. I’m confident that it will be worthwhile, and then I’ll have a book to publish and less distraction from story-writing. On that positive note, I’ll end and say thank you very much for inviting me to this interview.