Interview with Chris Fielden

Here Cafe Aphra barista Sara Roberts interviews writer Chris Fielden about his work and the highly successful flash fiction challenges he has been running since last year.

Cafe Aphra: Hi Chris, so tell us what is your main interest as a writer, in terms of form and genre?

Chris Fielden: Dark humour. Most of the stories I write involve an element of fantasy too, but are often set in our world. So there might be a demon in London, or a zombie in Washington. I’ve always been a fan of writers with vivid imaginations – Stephen King, Philip K. Dick, Ursula K. Le Guin, Terry Pratchett and Roald Dahl to name a few – so I’m drawn towards the weird, the wonderful, the macabre and the amusing.

CA: Do you also teach creative writing? Tell us about your latest course.

CF: I’m not a teacher in the academic sense, but I have written a book called How to Write a Short Story, Get Published and Make Money. That uses my own published stories as case studies, clearly showing how all the advice in the book has been used in practice to generate success.

I am currently writing an online course which will use the same format, but with entirely new material. It will include lots of new writing exercises and real life examples that people can learn from. The course will also include options for critiques and mentoring.

CA:I've heard a lot about the anthologies of flash fiction you've been putting together. Tell us how they came about.

CF: They are released via the writing challenges I run on my website. Every time we receive 100 stories into any of the challenges, we publish a book. The profits from book sales support various charities.

CA: Why did you start running flash fiction writing challenges?

CF: Mike Scott Thomson was writing a guest post for my blog about the ‘rules’ of writing and how subjective they are. While we were discussing edits, we came up with the idea of incorporating a rule-breaking writing challenge into Mike’s post, inviting people to write 100 word stories crammed with as many adverbs as humanly possible.

When I published the post, submissions started coming in, so we created the challenge its own dedicated page and said we’d publish a book if we received 100 stories. That happened within a few months. We’ve now received over 330 stories into that particular challenge and are accepting submissions for our 4th adverb book.

Mike and I were both pleasantly surprised with the popularity of the challenges. It seems lots of writers like to break the ‘rules’.

CA: What is the purpose of the challenges?

CF: There are a few:
To learn – by inviting writers to make common mistakes, they become more aware of errors, can apply what they’ve learnt to their writing and give themselves a better chance of publication
To gain experience – it gives new writers the chance of seeing their stories edited and presented professionally on a website and in a book that is distributed globally
Diversity and inclusion – because every story is published, it doesn’t matter how old you are, where you live, how much experience you have, what your ethnic background is, what you have done with your life – you will be published
To support charity – to raise money and awareness of some amazing causes

But primarily, the challenges are about having fun with words. I think that sometimes writing can be taken too seriously. The challenges are there to remind you to enjoy writing and have fun with it.

CA: Which charities do the challenges support and why?
CF: Many of the charities we support are literary. First Story, Book Aid International and The National Literacy Trust all do amazing work with schools, libraries, children/adults from disadvantaged backgrounds etc. That seems appropriate for the writing challenges.

The Daisy Garland was selected by Lesley Truchet, who runs the Nonsense Challenge with me. She is friends with a member of a family that lost their daughter, Daisy, to SUDEP (sudden unexpected death in epilepsy). It’s nice to be able to support small charities, as the money goes straight to families in need.
And the other charity is the Arkbound Foundation. I’m a trustee of that charity. We aim to widen access to literature and improve diversity within the media industry. Again, this ties in nicely with the writing challenges and what they are all about.

CA: How many authors have you published?

CF: So far, over 600. That figure rises every day. I’ll probably have published over 1,000 by the summer, if submissions remain at their current levels.

CA: Are there any plans for more challenges in the future?

CF: Yes, although the amount of time that they are taking to run means I am having to slow down the amount of new ones I launch. At some point I hope to be able to take on staff to help me run the website, but at present I simply can’t afford it.
However, you can find out about the future planned challenges here.

CA: What is your long-term plan for the challenges?

CF: To take over the world – insert maniacal laughing here…

Seriously though, to publish thousands of authors and make my website a community authors can be proud to be a part of. It’s already getting there, but will take a lot more work to grow it into a business that is sustainable.

CA: Where can people buy a copy of these anthologies?

CF: They are available on Amazon and most other online shops. You can find full details of all the books and how to buy them here.

CA: What other resources do you have for writers on your website?

CF: There are loads in the ‘Advice’ section of my website:

The most popular resources are lists of competitions. I list short story competitions, short story magazines, flash fiction competitions, non-fiction competitions, novel contests, poetry contests and more. There are over 600 publishing opportunities listed on the site and that figure continues to grow.


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