C. A. Johmann, Ph.D., is a research biologist turned science reporter turned pharmaceutical R&D manager turned children’s author of seven non-fiction books, among them the award-winning The Lewis & Clark Expedition. This is her first short story, her first mystery, and her first fiction for adults. A former director of the Rochester (NY) Children’s Book Festival, Carol lives in Connecticut. Visit her website at http://www.caroljohmann.com
In “Death by Deletion” you tell an entire story in 504 words. You describe “Death by Deletion” as your first short story, your first mystery and your first fiction for adults. What drew you to flash fiction?
I had not heard of flash fiction before attending a panel discussion by several Level Best authors at my local library in Cheshire last spring. During the discussion, one of the panelists (I think it was Leslie Wheeler) mentioned this very short style and I immediately saw the benefit of trying it. For me, writing too short has never been a problem. Going on and on, explaining ad nauseam, has. I figured telling a story in 500 words or less would be a good way to practice paring down my writing, editing it before making an editor groan. The same panelists provided the inspiration for my mystery when they spoke about editors making them groan over requests to cut word count, plot lines and even characters. Within minutes my mind was spinning a tale of a writer having to “terminate” a favorite character on orders from up high, the Editor.
One reviewer called “Death by Deletion” his favorite story in the entire collection. How does that feel?
That was a real “wow” moment. Very nice, very gratifying. Then I started to hear the same from writing buddies and began to wonder if the reader who wasn’t also a writer would think as highly of the story. Being a scientist by training, I experimented, though in the end in a not-so-scientific way. After a few so-so comments, including one from my own mother (“Well, that wasn’t much,” she said after reading the two-page story.), I decided against going for statistical significance and to listen only to fellow writers!
By profession, you’re a science writer and an author of children’s non-fiction. What are you working on now? Any plans to write more short stories for adults?
I’ve got too many things going right now – a proposal for a series of activity-based biographies on American entrepreneurs for kids 8-12, four picture books that need paring down before I can submit them again, a fictionalized family memoir that’s begging for a middle, an idea for a mystery series for children that focuses on the science of forensics, and a full-length mystery for adults. Among all that, around the edges of my brain, an idea for another Level Best mystery short is creeping about. I may need to attend another panel discussion to get it to gel.