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Interview with Nancy Robie, 2nd Place Winner in the WOW! Spring 2022 Flash Fiction Contest


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Nancy lives in New Hampshire with her husband and 5-year-old rescue dog, Laney. She is the mother of three and the grandmother of eleven. She has been married to her best friend for the last 49 years and together they have traveled to many places but always find their way home. Nancy recently retired from the insurance industry and is now enjoying a new life where there is not an 8-4 office day. She has been able to do much more reading in retirement and is particularly drawn to mysteries and psychological thrillers. Freedom from the five-day work week has allowed Nancy to spend more time volunteering with a local clothing resource for women, join a bowling league, take a course at the local college and plant more flowers in her garden. Nancy’s stories are often about women who find themselves in extraordinary circumstances and are able to find strength they never knew they possessed. She believes a good story allows you to identify on some level with the protagonist and travel with them as they explore difficult situations. In the end, you should feel as though you have grown with them during their journey and also glimpse the world through a crisper lens. Now that Nancy has time to focus on writing, she hopes to pull out many of the stories she has started and stashed in drawers over the years and finally finish them. 

Read Nancy's winning story here and then return to learn more about her writing and revising style and advice for writing flash fiction.

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

WOW: Hi Nancy, thank you for joining us today to talk about your story, which I really enjoyed. The character of Aunt Gabe hooks the attention of the reader from the start in “Buried Things.” How did you get the idea for this story focusing around the three women in one family? 

Nancy: Aunt Gabe is loosely contrived from my grandmother's older sister who was a bit eccentric. When I was growing up, I was intrigued by her unconventional lifestyle. Visits to her isolated cabin with my grandmother and whispers from other family members (when they thought I wasn't listening) helped to create Aunt Gabe. 

WOW: The key to writing a solid mystery is sprinkling little clues throughout the story or novel that the reader may not notice until the end. How did you decide how to carefully place your own clues throughout your story?

Nancy: ​It is true that leaving little clues along the way is key to a good mystery. As the creator of the story, I need to always remind myself to not assume the reader knows what I have in my mind. In this story, I had Holly discover the photograph of Aunt Gabe on the bureau and the newspaper picture of Delmore with the Stetson hat and string tie so she could put everything together in the end. 

WOW: You are a fan of mysteries and psychological thrillers. What are some you’ve read recently that you would recommend to our community? 

Nancy: I have never been disappointed with author Jennifer McMahon. As soon as her newest novel is released, I snatch it up. I just finished her latest, The Children on the Hill. This summer I discovered Megan Miranda (The Girl From Widow Hills and The Last to Vanish) and Lisa Jewell (Watching You and The Family Upstairs). Both authors do a great job with character development and provide a satisfying read. 

WOW: I love Megan Miranda and now I also have some other writers to check out, so I appreciate those recommendations. What tips would you offer for writing a compelling piece of flash fiction?

Nancy: I start by writing a story and do not focus on the word count at all. When the story is done, I go back line by line and cut away all the sentences that do not push the story forward. 

WOW: That's great advice that has also worked for me as well. Once the initial draft is complete, many writers struggle with revising too much. How do you know when one of your stories is ready for submission? ​

Nancy: This is a tough one. I always feel like I need to make changes! I think this is where deadlines are so important. There is a date on the calendar which requires I release my story to the world. Without that deadline, I might just keep revising!

WOW: Giving yourself internal deadlines to complete a piece is very wise. We look forward to reading more of your work in the future!

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