Second in our new Extras series, Headlander Allan Drew interviews New Zealand writer, and Headland alum Zoë Meager. Zoe’s flash fiction story ‘How it Ends’ appears in Issue 7.
Zoë is from Christchurch. Her flash fiction and short stories have appeared in several journals, at home and abroad. Her work was recently shortlisted for National Flash Fiction Day 2016, and for the 2016 Overland VU Short Story Prize. There are links to her work at zoemeager.com.
What is Extras? Allan Drew brings you bonus content through our blog to complement the works in our issues. Commentary, stories, and more. Allan is a PhD student at Victoria University Wellington, where he studies creative writing and English literature. His short stories and poems have been published in a number of journals and magazines, and he has won or been short-listed in several writing competitions.
Zoë Meager is a Christchurch writer of fiction of all lengths. I suspect she also writes poems, simply because her fiction leans towards the poetic rather than the prosaic. I haven’t seen any of her poetry, however—at least not lineated poetry—and this statement is supposed to serve as a bit of a dare for her. Zoë’s flash fiction ‘How it ends’ appears in the most recent issue of Headland, and demonstrates, I think, her determination to face life front-on in her work. I talked to Zoë after the release of Headland 7.
Allan: How long have you been writing flash fiction?
Zoë: About five years, since I started reading flash-dedicated publications like Flash Frontier and Nano Fiction. Before that, funny driftwoody things that were something like flash fiction would show up on the page now and then, but I never picked them up.
Allan: Can flash fiction accomplish things that longer form fiction can’t?
Zoë: Yeah, flash is the plunge pool of fiction. As the writer you don’t have the breadth to get any water ballet happening, but at its best, the reading experience is totally immersive. A real rush of fiction to the head.
Allan: Your story, ‘How it ends’, begins with an ending. In fact, I feel like the story prefers to think of an “ending” as a verb. That is, a story doesn’t have an ending; rather, it ends… and that action of ending can start right at the beginning, if need be. The question for you is: do your stories wait until the end to end, or do they begin ending at the beginning?
Zoë: I suppose that’s a kind of momentum isn’t it? Short fiction needs to be rolling somewhere all the time, towards something. But I think we get a bit obsessed with endings too, which was a starting point for writing How it ends.
Allan: You live in Christchurch. Given the recent history of that city, do you feel an obligation or duty to set your stories in Christchurch?
Zoë: I had a flat for six months overlooking the Arts Centre, so I spent a lot of time sitting at my kitchen table, writing and watching the rebuild. Before the earthquakes the Arts Centre was one of my favourite places in Christchurch, so it was a thrill to see it being saved, except there was something unbearable about watching the decorative stone bits on the roof being replaced, in particular. They started at one end and worked their way along. This new-scrubbed white stone creeping across the roof, filling in where the original weathered stone used be. Like a losing chess game. It’s still not finished, and I just want them to leave one gap, and let the pigeons keep living there.
Someone said that writers are the slowest to process the earthquakes into art, which is probably true. I think we enjoy the liquefaction too much. Plus, I don’t usually put really real places in my work, but Christchurch is a very odd place to live these days, so surely some dust will be blowing around and get in the fiction.
Allan: Robert Hass wrote, “All the new thinking is about loss. / In this it resembles all the old thinking.” I’ve read quite a lot of your writing, and what would your response be if I said that you always write about loss?
Zoë: I’d probably feel a bit worried and like I should be writing about broader themes. But hey, at least I know I won’t run out of material anytime soon (or perhaps I’ll always be running out of it..?).
Allan: What’s driving you mad right now?
Zoë: I don’t own a dog but I really feel like do, you know? My heart keeps asking, where is my dog? It’s a bit of a Kubelko Bondy situation.
Allan: What do you like least about writing?
Zoë: Writing’s perfect, it’s just keeping the real world at bay long enough to get time for it that’s a pain.
Allan: Do you like being interviewed about your writing?
Zoë: It wasn’t too bad, thanks!