Thomas Elson’s short stories, poetry, and flash fiction have been published in numerous venues such as Calliope, The Cabinet of Heed, New Feathers, Pinyon, Lunaris, New Ulster, Lampeter, Selkie, and Adelaide. He divides his time between Northern California and Western Kansas.
What is your greatest accomplishment as a writer so far?
Even after all these years, my greatest accomplishment is being published for the first time
Why do you write?
I come from a family of Irish storytellers and photographers. As a child I listened to stories associated with those photographs that grew from snap-shots into fully-developed lives, e.g. an older conservative woman in her 80’s who was a flapper in the 1920’s and the photograph of her in flapper attire; a photograph of three men standing by a county lake and what their stance reveals about their relationship; or an old man and his grandson on a coastline and how that reveals their life together.
What is your writing process? (Any favorite places to write? Any interesting quirks, traditions, or rituals you may have? How many times might you revise something before being satisfied with it? Besides, you, does anyone else edit your work? Etc.)
I usually write the story in one fell swoop, then rewrite it 10-12 times, after which I turn it over to two beta readers, review their suggestions, and revise again. All this takes place in a back room of the house at an old kitchen table with a laptop and an IBM-style keyboard and Rossini overtures blaring in the background.
Your two stories published in The Chamber (“Not Yet” and “A Cell in Motion”) seem to be very intense, very personal inside views of the main character. You seem to be getting inside their minds. How do you come up with these viewpoints? How do you imagine being in their metaphorical shoes?
My process is to be with the characters in that particular setting either as a participant or an observer who hears what they hear, smells what they smell, and hurts when they hurt. To me it’s neither a “metaphor” nor an “as if” situation; it’s being with them. After I experience it with them, I write about it.
Do you have anyone (friends, relatives, etc.) review your works before you publish them?
I have two beta readers who review my work.
Could you give us an idea of your upcoming works without spoiling anything?
I have about fifteen short works and two novels near completion.
What do you hope to achieve as a writer?
To be able to continue what I have wanted to do since the age of twenty four: to write the stories of life’s dramatic interventions and folks’ reactions to them; to take a bunch of words I have tossed onto a page and mold them into a story with emotion and impact.
What do you think of rejections and criticism? Are they helpful or harmful to you?
Any editor who takes the time to critique a story of mine, then takes the additional time to reduce that critique to writing is an immediate friend of mine. Some of my most significant growth as a writer has come from critiques contained in rejection letters.
What advice do you have for novice writers?
I can’t really give advice, but what I did as a beginning writer was to read:
- Willa Cather who taught me how to write about the land I came from.
- Annie Proulx who takes flat, dull people and transforms them into vibrant characters.
- Mary Karr who taught me I could write about the people I grew up with.
- Daniel Woodrell who shows emotions through the characters’ behaviors.
- Alice Munro who taught me the smallest of things in the smallest of towns have large lives.
- Margaret Attwood and her skill of injecting life and elfin-like humor into the gravest situations.
- Molls Giles and her ability to take someone sitting on a porch and make it a breathing story.
- Tania Hershman who can take an upright piano and transform it into a reflection of someone’s life.
What do you feel are the most important resources a writer can use?
My most useful resources are Writer’s Digest articles and the website, Helping Writers Become Authors, and Literary Hub.
Where can people find out more about you and your writing? (websites, social media, etc.)
I’m on Facebook and LinkedIn, but the best way is to google “Thomas Elson – author”.