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Interview with Louise Mangos, 2nd Place Winner in the WOW! Spring 2021 Flash Fiction Contest


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Louise writes novels, short stories and flash fiction, which have won prizes, placed on shortlists, and have been read out on BBC radio. She has published two suspense novels with another on the way in spring 2022 and her short fiction appears in more than twenty print anthologies. You can connect with Louise on Facebook, Twitter @LouiseMangos, and Instagram @louisemangos, or visit her website, www.LouiseMangos.com where there are links to some more of her work. Louise holds an MA in crime writing from UEA and lives in Switzerland with her Kiwi husband and two sons. 

 








----------Interview by Renee Roberson 

WOW: Louise, congratulations on your win and welcome! We're looking forward to learning more and you and your published work. Your website mentions your love of exploring the world, and this is apparent in “Halfway to Guayaquil I Fall in Love.” Why do you think it’s important for writers to explore new places whenever they can? 

Louise: Not everyone has the luxury or capacity to travel. I have been very lucky to do so over the years. It is what generated my desire to write stories with a strong sense of location way back when I began studying creative writing at CU in Boulder 30 years ago. I’ve always kept travel journals, and when the spark for stories was first ignited, I simply referred to them when the ideas for fictional stories in real settings began to emerge. I believe the settings in novels or short stories are as important as each of the characters. I’d also like to think that I’m bringing that sense of place to people who can only travel between the pages of a book from the comfort of their armchair . 

WOW: I love the idea of keeping travel journals if possible. You have published two suspense/thriller novels through an imprint of Harper Collins UK (with a third scheduled for next spring) that I now want to add to my TBR pile. Where did you get your ideas for your first two books? 

Louise: The premise for my debut novel “Strangers on a Bridge” was inspired when running with a friend near a notorious suicide bridge one day in central Switzerland where I live. We looked up at the huge arches of the bridge and imagined what it might be like to see someone standing up there contemplating their fate. It was the catalyst I needed to start a novel, having already penned many short stories. The second novel takes place in two vastly different settings: The first a women’s prison and the second a ski resort in the Swiss Alps. The village where my protagonist lives is a place I spent many years when I first arrived in Switzerland. It’s easy to pull details from your memory when you know a place intimately, like a character. The women’s prison is a place that exists near Bern. However, it was (fortunately) a location I initially knew little about. I visited the prison several times, interviewing the director and wardens to get a sense of the place, and even met some of the inmates. My third upcoming novel “The Beaten Track” is a fictional psychological thriller set in several locations I travelled on a round-the-world trip in the eighties. The easiest part was transposing each of the many settings, taking ideas from my journals. The fictional characters then fit into their roles throughout the narrative. 

WOW: I love hearing about your research process for "Her Husband's Secrets," and how the premise for "The Beaten Track" came together. What was your path to publishing your first novel like? Did you go the traditional route and query literary agents or did you approach publishers first? What advice would you give to aspiring novelists who are nervous about querying their work? 

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Louise: I finished writing the first draft of my debut novel in 2013. I then went through the traditional route of querying literary agents. A few showed interest, calling in the full manuscript, and a couple even gave useful editing tips and suggestions for improvement. But the novel was turned down again and again. A few years passed, the narrative had been re-written a couple of times and I was growing impatient. I wanted to see my novel in print, as I had almost finished writing my second. One day in 2017 I saw a call-out for a one-line pitch on Twitter from HQStories for their digital-first imprint. I tweeted my pitch and an editor called in my query letter and first three chapters. Within 12 hours she requested the full manuscript and within another 48 hours I had signed a contract for a two-book deal. After waiting so long, it happened so quickly. After publication I was delighted to learn that both my books would also be going into print. My advice to aspiring novelists takes two parts: Never give up, and exercise patience. I still believe it is best for an author to have an agent to champion their work, to find the best home and garner deals for foreign and media rights. I’m lucky to have many contacts in the publishing industry, but the book world can be a confusing place for creatives starting their journey to publication. 

WOW: Great advice, and you just never know where the right connection will be made! Kudos to your for holding onto faith with that first novel while working on your second. Regarding this contest win, flash fiction is fun to read, but can be difficult to write with the limited word count. What are some of the fundamental elements you feel are necessary in crafting a solid piece of flash? 

Louise: Of all the genres and lengths I write, flash fiction is the most challenging of them all. Condensing an entire story into 500 words or fewer requires an immense amount of discipline. Sometimes work comes out fully formed, sometimes it takes weeks of editing. It’s important to put a piece of writing away for a time and come back to it with fresh eyes. It’s only then that you can see where (if) the piece needs improvement. Read the flash fiction of other experts. Kathy Fish, Tania Hershman, Elisabeth Ingram-Wallace are favourites of mine who come to mind. See how they structure their pieces, making the title work with the narrative, having that all important stunning opening line. The arc of their stories never loses pace, every word counts to build to a satisfying conclusion. 

WOW: You are also an accomplished artist. How do you balance the time between creating art and fiction? What is your creative process like for both? 

Louise: Since publication of my novels, painting has taken a bit of a back seat in my creative life. But the two art-forms are inextricably linked, and for me it’s once again all about the setting. Most of my paintings are landscapes. When I study a scene with the bare eye, I envisage how it will look on the canvas. I might be trying to catch a moment in time, when a ray of sun bursts from behind a cloud or an eddy in the lake forms a special pattern on the water. Rather than painting in-situ, I use my camera and take several shots to capture that moment. Back in the studio, I try to convey the feeling of the moment in that place with paint, hoping to replicate and enhance the vision so the observer can feel, smell, hear what is portrayed on the canvas. I endeavour to do the same when writing setting. I like to think I’m painting with words.

WOW: Louise, this interview has been full of valuable advice and useful tips. Thank you. We're looking forward to checking out your novels and hope to see you back here again soon!

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