Interview with Katie Oliver
Katie has been praised for her ability to fully flesh out characters and uncanny, beautifully odd worlds in micro spaces. Her writing is testament that flash fiction maybe short, but that doesn’t mean it lacks impact or emotional resonance! Katie's debut, eco-themed collection I Wanted to be Close to You was published with Fly on the Wall Press in December and has already received glowing reviews. Its stories are as chlorophyll-green and luscious as its stunning cover. Centring around womanhood and nature, the collection has been described as "vivid, and beautiful and weird." Are there any better adjectives to pique your interest when searching for your next read? I think not.
Many of Katie’s story peer into both the chaotic nature of humanity and the complexity of human connections. Her often serious subject matter is balanced skilfully by the odd or unexpected- be that in terms of character, setting or even form- Katie's fiction won't take you along the anticipated path. For me, a great example would be “Fragments”. Published by Flash Back Fiction in 2022, "Fragments" is a story of survival. A tiny, historical, mosaic flash that fuses moments of Eve ,the protagonists, traumatic life together. As the narrative propels you through the years, you can't help feeling unsettled yet invested in Eve. It's a story that packs an emotional punch. Each snapshot is unflinching, but its ending brings with it new life, hope and light.
Meet the author:
Katie Oliver is a writer based on the west coast of Ireland, whose work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, Best Small Fictions and Best Microfiction. Her debut short story collection, I Wanted to be Close to You, is available to order from Fly on the Wall Press, She is a first reader for Tiny Molecules and a reader for the 2023 Welkin Writing Prize.
When did you start writing?
KO: I wrote stories from as soon as I could physically write - there were countless bangers that I also illustrated such as ‘The Adventures of Sally and Nutkin’, two squirrels that kept getting married at the end of every tale.
I wrote a lot for children during my twenties, with zero success. I remember sending paper copies of this absolutely pants picture book to agents and publishers when I was about 22 - some wrote back to me with actual letters that were so nice I’m convinced they thought I was ten and not a terribly misguided adult.
I then went on to do an MA in Children’s Literature after I had my son which was brilliant - it’s not the age group I’ve ended up writing for but I learnt so much and gained a lot of confidence from being forced to share my work on a regular basis. And I do have a load of children’s books knocking around in my drafts, so maybe they’ll make an appearance one day!
Do you own any pets and what are they called?
KO: Yes! A grumpy old dog called Juno, and two cats called Maggie and Coco.
What’s your favourite piece you’ve had published, to date, and why?
KO: Probably "Grave Goods," which features in my collection. It’s about a woman who becomes obsessed with a museum exhibit - I won’t spoil the plot but it’s about grief and I’m really proud of it.
What’s the best or worst piece of writing advice you’ve ever been given?
KO: Well, the worst is anything too prescriptive - I cannot STAND anyone saying that such-and-such is a hard and fast rule - it always makes me intensely want to go and do the supposedly forbidden thing. The best? Don’t give up.
Name your first celebrity crush.
KO: This deserves prison time, but Peter Andre. Or if we’re going even earlier, Sonic the Hedgehog.
What piece of punctuation, if any, do you always end up using wrong or too freely?
KO: Semicolons - I’m an addict. I’ve had editing sessions where I’ve come across sentences littered with the things. (I was very tempted to add one to this answer).
What’s your reading guilty pleasure?
KO: Historical fiction, specifically about the Plantagenets and Tudors. I’m trying to branch out from just monarchs, though - this year I read A Net For Small Fishes by Lucy Jago which was great. Granted, it was about a noblewoman, but baby steps.
Honestly, how many times a day do you check Submittable/refresh your email?
KO: I am a compulsive refresher! I need to lock my phone in a drawer like the My Year of Rest and Relaxation narrator.
Where are you right now?
KO: In my kitchen, typing this on my phone as my laptop just packed up. I WISH I was joking.
What are the recurring themes in your writing?
KO: Nature, technology, mental health, social media, women's issues. Often with a healthy dollop of surrealism.
What is the album you could listen to on repeat?
KO: Amy Winehouse - Frank
What do your first drafts look like?
KO: There will be about fifty repetitions of a really incongruous word, and all the characters will be frowning and widening their eyes at each other.
What’s the strangest story you’ve ever written?
KO: An as-yet-unpublished flash about sentient orange segments. Publishers, if you’re looking for fruit-based tales…
What makes you a writer?
KO: Wanting to write no matter the outcome. I won’t lie and say I don’t enjoy being published and having people read my work, but for me the process of putting words on a page to make sense of the world is the most important thing. I’d write even if it would never get read, as it has such a positive impact on my mental state.
Where is your ultimate getaway?
KO: Iceland. I went years ago and it was so incredible. The people are so lovely and welcoming, plus I went to a clothes shop that had a slide, a fish pond and free hot drinks. I’m currently plotting a cynical pivot to crime writing so I can get an invite to Iceland Noir.
Thank you to Katie for her great answers and being so personable, honest and fun!
Make sure, if you haven't already, to grab yourself a copy of I Wanted to be Close to You. It's available directly from Fly on the Wall Press, as well as Winding Stair Bookshop, Waterstones, Foyles and Blackwells.
What Katie didn't mention is that alongside flash fiction, she also writes poetry. Her poems have been published in various places, but I recommend "Information about Blood Transfusions" in Acropolis Journal.
If you want to find out more about the Welkin Writing Prize 2023, for which Katie is a reader then check out the guidelines here. The prize is headed up by the lovely Matt Kendrick, so you know it's going to be great.
Be sure to follow Katie's writing on her Twitter: @katie_rose_o