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Interview With Randall Brown, Author of “Mad to Live”

January 30, 2013

by Chara Kramer


Randall Brown, known for his flash fiction, recently published a short piece in “Forgotten Philadelphia,” based on Independence Hall. Founder of FlashFiction.Net, a nationally recognized blog, and teacher at Rosemont College’s MFA in Creative Writing program, we got in touch with Randall to see what he’s up to and what he is planning on next.

Kramer: Not everyone knows what “flash fiction” is. Could you give us the essence of what makes a story a flash fiction story?

Brown: There are a lot of definitions of “flash fiction” out there, but for me, it’s pretty simple: it’s a story defined and confined by a specific word-count, usually under 1000 words. I think it’s exciting to see how each writer deals with that restriction on narrative, language, character development and the like.

Kramer: For “Forgotten Philadelphia” you wrote a short piece about a young child caught in the middle of a riot, whose brother is fighting in Vietnam. Was there any specific reason why you chose a young main character?

Brown: Forgotten Philadelphia evoked memories of field trips to Philadelphia, and it made me think that Philadelphia might be first experienced by a number of people through those eyes. The world exists for a young person as something to be figured out (not that the process of figuring out the world ever ends), and so I think that desire to makes sense of things works well for a flash fiction narrative. I wanted the young character’s desire to figure out the demonstration outside of Independence Hall to mirror, in some way, the conflicts surrounding the ideas embodied by “independence.” Also, I liked the idea of a character who is denied the experience of going inside the locale.

Kramer: What was the most difficult part of looking at the Vietnam War through a young child’s eye?

Brown: I think the Vietnam War, or any war for that matter, has been written about so many times that it’s a challenge to use war as a backdrop and keep the story feeling unfamiliar to readers. It’s a story about a kid dealing with the idea of his brother going off to war. How many times have readers encountered that plot? Hundreds of times. I hoped his being thrown unexpectedly into this anti-war demonstration help make the story feel less familiar. So, in short, the most difficult aspect was trying to make that “look” at war feel like something readers haven’t encountered a hundred times before.

Kramer: Do you think you tend to gravitate towards specific themes in your writing? If so, which themes?

Brown: I like stories in which all the parties involved—the character, the author, the reader, and even the text itself perhaps—are trying to figure out something, something tiny yet significant.

Kramer: What do you think is the one event or single influence that initiated your writing?

Brown: I don’t have a specific memory of this, but I think it’s when I realized that people could look at what I’ve written instead of at me.

Kramer: Is there anything that you are coming out with soon that we can look forward to?

Brown: Nothing currently. But I would encourage people to check out Matter Press and its Journal of Compressed Creative Arts to discover some exciting things writers are doing with flash fiction. (

One Comment leave one →
  1. Jefferson permalink
    January 31, 2013 10:50 pm

    Thank you Kramer and Brown, interesting interview!

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