shining the spotlight on short story collections
This week we welcome Tara Fox Hall, whose first story collection, Just Shadows, was published in January. She tells The Short Review how she got interested in short stories:
“Writing careers begin in various ways. For me, it was a short article in a small print magazine that a friend, Harald Moore, put out to promote his catnip farm in Johnsonville, New York. The name of the magazine was Catnip Blossoms! My first article —detailing my curiosity and concern for a turkey I would always see by itself, sans flockmates— was called Lonely. Another article entitled “Good Work”—a rundown about how working on a dairy farm was hard yet meaningful work compared to cubicle existence—quickly followed. Both I submitted it on a lark, and to my surprise, Harald asked to publish them.
In the next year, I published more non-fiction articles, detailing my adventures saving wildlife, my experiences living on an acreage, and humorous recountings of the antics of my wacky pets. I kept publishing stories for the next five years, even as the name of the magazine changed to Meanwhile, and then to On The River, when the catnip farm went out of business, and Harald moved with his family to Troy, NY. Yet even happy with my success as a writer, I longed for an outlet for my fiction ideas, primarily my scary stories. I had longer works of paranormal suspense, and vampire romance, but no publisher or agent I submitted to was interested. The only successes I had to my credit were my short nature articles. I had to build up my publishing credits, but how?
In spring of 2011, it suddenly dawned on me that I had the tools; I just needed a new platform. Resolute, I went looking online to see what horror markets were there looking for shorter stories. It was then I first heard the term “flash fiction.”
When faced with the sheer number of online horror magazines, I was excited, but hesitant, too. Here were calls for stories on multiple sites, in just the genres I wanted to write. But could I write scary fiction the way I had my nature non-fiction? More important, would readers be moved without real life experience to color the stories with emotion? There was only one way to find out.
My small stories of nature paved the way
Using material from nightmares and my imagination, I began churning out stories. To my delight, flash fiction was about 500 words, which was almost exactly the length my nature articles had been. I already knew how to begin and end a story within a page, and draw the reader in. I could do this. My only worry was could I do this well enough to get published?
I submitted a few stories, then scored when Deadman’s Tome published The Hunt in May 2011. Encouraged, I devoted all my spare time to writing short horror stories, submitting them as fast as I could write them, seeking out new markets for each. At first, I had limited success. Rejections clogged my inbox, editors telling me my stories just weren’t what they were looking for. Irritated but determined, I kept as it, reworking each rejected story, and doggedly sending it back out within a few days. A few months passed this way. Desperate, I searched out more markets and wrote more new stories, making them harder hitting, more twisting, and darker than pitch.
In the fall of 2011, I began to hit it big, with story after story being accepted. I had found my horror “voice,” and had both readers and editors wanting more. That cumulated with my publication of Just Shadows in January 2012, an anthology of both previously published horror stories and new work.
I have my first novels coming out this year, with likely more to follow. My small stories of nature paved the way, leading me in a roundabout way to my dream of being a published author, and a novelist. But the short story, particularly flash fiction, will always remain a close friend, one I’ll keep returning to for years to come.
And I haven’t forgotten my affinity for saving wildlife, either. On the River is still being published. I’m still contributing to issues. For the latest one, go to On The River magazine.”