Sunday, January 5, 2014

Virtual Panel Discussion with Five Authors from The Story Shack

The Story Shack is an online magazine the presents a new work of flash fiction every day. This is an interview with five authors whose work appeared in The Story Shack.  It has been edited for length.

Let's start with a quick, easy question: How long have you been writing?

Francesca Burke: I guess since I learnt to read and write, which is so pretentious! Part of me wishes I picked up a pen yesterday.... I just didn't really notice that I enjoyed it until I was twelve or so. I've been doing my blog since I was fourteen.

Tony Conaway: I started selling nonfiction in 1990, but it's only since around 2010 that I've gotten my fiction published regularly. Does that make me a new writer?

Ben Dodge: Since I was little, really. I did the odd short story in elementary school, an occasional fragment of a play or some such, but I never started writing seriously until halfway through high school, when I met a number of supremely talented friends from out of town. They've been an inspiration to me, and I haven't stopped writing seriously since I met them.

Peter McMillan: I have been writing flash fiction since 2007.

Anna Peerbolt: It depends on the genre. I made my living for about 20 years as a journalist (magazines and newspapers). As for fiction, like many writers I was dabbling in it by high school and continued to dabble until about ten years ago when I got serious. I started out with short stories and passed on to flash, though I still do a longer story now and then. So, the short answer is 30 years, give or take.

Who is your favorite author, the one whose writing inspires you or the one you'd like to write like?

Ben Dodge: My answer's different for all three. My favorite author of all time would be Orson Scott Card or Neal Stephenson.

The author who inspires me the most would be Dan Abnett, Hilary Mantel, Tony Burgess, or Chuck Wendig--their collective ability to world-build and create narratives that fit their characters to a tee is flawless and beautiful.

If I could write like any author I know of, my style would be an eclectic combination of S.M. Stirling, Hunter S. Thompson, and Brent Weeks. With an undercurrent of the ethical concerns and dialogue that Orson Scott Card weaves into his work.

Francesca Burke: My favourite author is usually the one whose work I'm currently reading, so at the moment it's Jane Austen. In the past few months it's been Rick Riordan and Khaled Housseini, as well as Lionel Shriver, JD Salinger and Sylvia Plath for school. If I could write like all those people I'd be the knitted jumper of the book world, it'd be great.

Peter McMillan: Jorge Luis Borges.

Tony Conaway: Michael Chabon.

Anna Peerbolt: That is actually a tough question to answer. I’m a huge mystery story fan with Robert Parker and Dorothy Sayers being the best in my book. There are many other writers I admire, among them: Ursula K LeGuin, Charles Dickens, Anne Patchett, Martin Cruz Smith, and Ian McEwan.

Have you been published before? If so, where?

Francesca Burke: I was published in Story Shack in 2012 and an article I wrote for my school magazine was included in a book about the school this year.

Tony Conaway: Some recent stories of mine have appeared in the online magazine Smashed Cat and in the anthology Unclaimed Baggage.

Peter McMillan: I have published two collections of my reprinted stories.

Anna Peerbolt: My bio names some online zines where I have been published plus stories coming out soon in The Boston Literary Journal, Right Hand Pointing, and Burning Wood.

Ben Dodge: I've been published four times in Story Shack. In order of publication, Drive, Inked, The Last Song, and Bury Your Soul Six Feet Under. Other than that, I've published a few of my pieces online--I've been a member of deviantArt's community for almost two years now. If you're interested in looking me up, go to my deviantArt page

What genre is your story in Story Shack? Can you tell us a little about the origin of the story?

Tony Conaway: It's humor. I was fortunate to have a bookstore that allowed my writer friends and I to read our work. Lachrymosa is a piece I wrote specifically to read (and get laughs) at that venue.

Francesca Burke: My story is called Season's Greetings. It's a Christmassy piece first set at Halloween. It was inspired by some people's insistence that festivals like Christmas should be all about Jesus, even though they don't go to church the rest of the year, as well as by those people who are just really into some holidays. Thalia was inspired by Thalia Grace from Rick Riordan's novels.

Peter McMillan: Poker Night at Papa G's is a vignette or tableaux that evokes stories not told.

Anna Peerbolt: The Magical Night is literary/magic realism. I wrote it in response to a prompt offered in the Flash Factory, which is part of the online Zoethrope Virtual Studio.

Ben Dodge: The Last Song is a suspense story. I remember that I'd been swamped with a lot of work, and I hadn't written a short story in months. I was frustrated, it was late, and I ended up going to the BBC's website. This was after Hurricane Sandy hit New York City. I saw the photographs being taken of the storm, and realized that I'd run to the end of my CD. I put the two together--if you had to go out, what would be the last song you'd listen to. Would it matter? I grabbed a pen, and this story happened.

Finally, some writers are willing to talk about their works-in-progress, some aren't. Would you like to tell us, briefly, about what you're working on now?

Francesca Burke: An essay for a school project whose title I can't actually remember and some future blog pieces and projects. I've always got sketches for stories and characters too, but it's anyone's guess what will get published (though I sincerely hope it won't be the essay).

Ben Dodge: My chief project right now is a post-apocalyptic novel called Pit Stop.

Peter McMillan: The topics for my flash fiction just happen, so I can't go beyond saying that I'm working towards a third collection of reprinted stories.

Anna Peerbolt: I’ve got a short story titled “Cops and Lenny” that is about a small town petty thief and the trouble he gets into. It’s a love story doused with humor. I’m also rewriting a number of flash pieces that have shown promise.

Francesca Burke's blog is at

Ben Dodge has several links:
dA page:



Tony Conaway's blog is at

And that's all we have room for in this post. Take a look at our fiction on The Story Shack, and please leave a comment on that site!


  1. Always great to get a glimpse into other authors' minds :)

  2. Thanks, Tina! I appreciate that you took the time to comment.

  3. Happy Birthday Tony, thank you for taking the time to delve into other authors minds. It's always a pleasure to see others succeeding. xoxo

  4. I'm always interested to see what authors like to read.

  5. Happy Birthday Tony, may our GOD help,guide & bless you in your all GOD loving works in your entire life span !

    1. Congratulations, Tony. What a great idea. Especially enjoyed reading who are the favorite authors!

    2. Thanks, Joan! We appreciate it.

  6. Glad to find this info and get the chance to read it because now I want to try and check these author's books out when I have the chance.

    1. That's what we always hope for, Nancy! Thank you! You can find another story of mine at

  7. Great idea - and a great job putting it all together. I'm always interested in learning what other writers are up to.

    1. Thank you, Sandy. Glad you liked it. I got this idea from horror writer Jonathan Maberry.