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Bewildering Stories

Bewildering Stories Interviews

Charles C. Cole

Charles C. Cole is Bewildering Stories Flash Fiction Editor.
We’re very glad to be able to add his interview to our distinguished list of interviews.

I. Personal Questions

Where do you live, if you don’t mind saying? — Outside Portland, Maine.

Cole photo

Where do you think you might like to live either in reality or in your imagination? — For part of the year at least, something like the (Edna St. Vincent) Millay Colony in Austerlitz, New York, surrounded by likeminded creative sorts.

What is your occupation? What do you do in real life? — Behind the scenes IT support for a large health care organization.

What advice would you give to a young person going into your line of work? — Computers are not going away, so get comfortable with them.

Has your occupation influenced your writing? — No. The recent (8-10 years ago now) deaths of my parents did that. Life is short, so express yourself while you can.

How did you come in contact with Bewildering Stories? — I took a week off from work one summer. I wanted to write a story, but something short that I could finish easily. I read about flash fiction on line. I submitted a story to alongstoryshort. When they accepted me five weeks later, I looked at the biography of one of their other writers and saw BwS listed.

What do you do in your spare time (aside from reading BwS stories)? — Freshwater kayaking with my wife. Community theater, sometimes with my wife. I’ve recently started directing short plays written by friends. I generally support the local writers by co-hosting a monthly event where they bring original 10-minute plays to be performed by local actors.

Is there anything BwS does particularly well? Of course there’s always room for improvement: is there anything in particular you’d like to see added or changed? — We give detailed responses to writers, hopefully supporting their growth, and in record time.

II. About Reading

What are your favorite and least favorite parts of working as an Editor for Bewildering Stories? — There’s always more work. Don is supportive and makes it all worthwhile. I am relieved (and affirmed) that we seem to share such similar perspectives on submissions. On the other hand, I tend to shy away from “active discussion” emails. Everyone has an opinion, sometimes passionate, and said opinions are not easily swayed.

What’s your favourite book? —Sentimentally, Richard Bach’s Illusions. When in high school, I wrote an essay for Library Week and won a gift card to a bookstore. Some passages in Kerouac’s Doctor Sax are amazing.

What’s the last book that you read and really enjoyed? — Gore Vidal’s play The Best Man, which is about a fictional 1960 presidential election and the now-familiar goings on at the convention.

Who are your favourite authors, and what about their works appeals to you most? — Ambrose Bierce: He can take me so completely on a dark journey using so few words. Kerouac: maybe because he was fringe/Beat, and he didn’t self-edit. My one unfinished novel was typed on 13 rolls of teletype remnants. I feel he inspired that.

If you could be any character (other than one of your own) from a book or movie who would it be? Why? — I admire the steadfast decency of Sir Thomas More in Robert Bolt’s The Man For All Seasons. Of course, others might say he was self-defeating.

III. About Writing

Is there anything you’d like to tell BwS authors to do or not do? — Avoid fan fiction. I want to hear original stories. Please don’t think shorter is necessarily better. I like pieces at least 900 words long.

Almost every writer is inspired by someone or something else. What inspirations have you found? Where do you get your ideas? — I hear snippets of dialogue between fictional associates and just let them talk like I’m not listening in.

What would you like readers to learn or gain from what you write? — Writing, in general is not hard. Things almost always improve with revisions. Quit reading books on “How To” and just do it. That said, the story you wrote for your mother when you were in junior high may need some tweaking if you want it published publically. Again, everyone has opinions.

How long have you been writing? — I wrote throughout my youth, but stopped for many years when I became a father and income-earner. Acceptance is the key approval to continuing. I might have never reconnected with the fun of it if Don (and alongstoryshort) had said, “No thanks.”

What made you want to start writing? — As an adult, work wasn’t as fulfilling and my parents (who were also my neighbors) were gone. They both always wanted me to write. Dad was a local columnist for many years and had enrolled in Rod Serling’s Famous Writers’ School when I was a child but never published any fiction. There was such a painful lag time in submitting work and hearing back. Now, interactions are almost, by comparison, real-time.

Do you have a favourite among your works? — Funny you should ask that. I used to “score” them on a spreadsheet as “Important to Me,” but I stopped after the first 35 (over two years ago).

The first one ever accepted (like a first love) has a distinct honor for obvious reasons. For BwS, that’s the time-travel piece, “A Locket With a Past.” Others: “The Cat Who Came in From the Rain” because it’s about my mother, and I can still feel the emotions.

It’s okay to write memoir-esque pieces. Authors tell us, “But that’s exactly the way it happened, my dad was a 7-foot tall albino.” Yes, but how is it relevant to the story you are telling?

The Koenig Incident” — I love how the quick-flying facts made it seem so believable to me. “Moonflower,” because Don taught me (early) of the power of a surprise (ironic) ending.

Do you have a favourite character in your own stories? — The high school misfit, Deegan, maybe because he’s in my longest piece so I’ve gotten to know him better. He’s so real to me, but so different from me. In some other writer’s? Elyot in Noel Coward’s Private Lives.

In composing a story, which do you think of first: the plot or the characters? — Probably characters. A brilliant plot won’t work if we don’t want to spend time with the characters involved.

Where do you write? — At my dining table on my work laptop, with 12 acres of woods out the window to my right.

When do you write: at set times or as the mood moves you? — As the mood strikes me, though I can see the benefit of set times.

Do you ever have a problem with writer’s block? — Because I write small pieces, I don’t have that problem. I could imagine it with a novel.

Some writers say that they have to write a certain amount every day. Do you do set a quota? — Sounds like a job.

Most writers have a particular audience in mind, although it may change from one work to the next. Who are your audiences? For whom do you write? — I never thought of it.

Do you use the Internet or the library to check facts? — Once or twice.

What do you consider the most revealing thing you’ve ever written? — Pieces about taking care of my parents.

Does anyone else proofread or critique your work? — Nobody proofreads. Don critiques, and I am always a better writer for it.

Do you have any favourite authors at Bewildering Stories? Have you found there any works you’d recommend to a friend? — As a writer, I would recommend Bewildering Stories to other writers because of our honest and supportive vetting process.

If you could invite any other writer to dinner, whom would you ask? Feel free to choose from any time or place. — I’d be too intimidated.

Some authors have said that their parents were supportive of their efforts when young, and some have said they had to sneak around and hide. What was the case with you? — My parents supported me. My mother wanted me to be a poet or an actor. My father edited The Boy Scout Handbook and wrote a local column.

Some authors have started writing later in life. If that’s the case with you, what brought you to writing rather than to some other activity? — I can do it at home alone with only the tools on my person.

Is there anything else you’d like to add? — Perhaps a word to the wise, which might be better coming from someone else. Writers write because they must, but few actually make a living at it. They usually supplement their income as college professors or book editors. I hope nobody is writing just to make a million dollars. Keep it fun.

Copyright © 2016 by Charles C. Cole

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