Today we welcome J.H. Fleming to Writer’s Ramble. J.H. Fleming started her first novel in the 9th grade. That novel will never see the light of day, but it sparked something that has resulted in numerous short stories and 5 novels so far. She received a Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing from the University of Central Arkansas, and it’s very possible she’ll try for a Master’s at some point.
She owns roughly 1,100 books and spends her free time befriending dragons, fighting goblins, and learning the craft of the bards. J.H. lives in Northwest Arkansas with a dog, a cat, and a turtle.
1) The tag line on your website says that not every character gets a happy ending. What inspired that?
So when I first began to take my writing seriously I noticed that pretty much every story I wrote ended with someone dying, or the bad guy winning. I didn’t intentionally set out to do this. My stories just naturally tended to go that direction. This has changed a bit over the last few years (there are some happy endings now and then), but I’m definitely not the sort who believes everything will always work out. Bad things happen sometimes, so why shouldn’t this be reflected in my fiction? The tag line serves as a reminder, and a warning for readers.
2) Do you know at the front end whether your main characters will get that happy ending or not?
It depends on the story, but most of the time no. I’m more of a pantser than a plotter, so I really discover the story as I write. Often I’m just as surprised as a reader will be when a character dies.
3) You have works out of many varying lengths, including poetry. Which do you find the most challenging to write?
Definitely poetry. I actually used to write a lot of poems and songs when I was in high school, which I forgot about. I only remembered when I discovered old notebooks. But most of the time I stick with short stories and novels. I recently tried poetry again because I was inspired, but it’s not a form I’m comfortable with. Perhaps I just need more practice, lol.
4) What are some challenges you deal with for each (novel, short story, poetry) that are unique to those formats?
I have the same problem for both novels and short stories, actually. The way I write tends to be too long for short stories (too much detail, too much going on, too many characters), but a little short for novels (not enough of everything). So maybe I should actually be writing novellas. I have to be aware of exactly what I’m doing, whether I’m adding too much or glossing over things that should be expanded on. I actually have a unique situation with one tale because of the way I decided to publish it: I write only a thousand words at a time and post it on my blog. I intended this to be a different story every week, or at most only a few weeks for each story, but I’m on week twenty-something now and am still on the first one. So what started as a short story is currently novella size, and fast morphing into a novel. I have a general idea for an ending, but I really don’t know week to week what exactly will happen. This makes finding that balance I mentioned a little more difficult, because I’m still not entirely sure what the finished product will look like.
For poetry, I find the whole process challenging. You would think it’d be easier, considering the form as a whole is shorter than a novel or short story. But that just means each word has to be exactly the right one, and that’s no easy task.
5) Do you have a favorite fantastical species or mythos? If so, what about it do you find compelling?
I could list several, but I’ll go with faeries. A lot of people have some sort of image in their head when they think of them (Tinkerbell, for example), but they’re much more complicated than that. There are Seelie (good) and Unseelie (bad), and within these there are all sorts of different species with varying appearances and dispositions. Gnomes, for example, or goblins. Both are technically fae, yet many people don’t realize this. They think only of tiny people with wings. And even when you know a faery is Seelie or Unseelie, their thoughts and motivations are so different from humans that you can never be completely sure what to expect.
6) What is it about fantasy and magic that you find personally appealing?
For me it’s about endless possibility. Absolutely anything can happen, and you don’t have to get technical about how everything works. When there’s mystery, or something that can’t be explained, it feeds my sense of wonder and inspires me to expand my imagination. If ‘x’ can happen, why not ‘y’? What else is possible?