Midnight Echo #15 Showcase: Melanie Harding-Shaw
In the seminal novel that launched a genre, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley wrote, “There is something at work in my soul, which I do not understand.” With this single sentence, Shelley cuts at the reason that so many of us embrace dark fiction. And it is with this notion in mind that I am showcasing some of the dark souls who contributed their twisted and chilling creations to the 2020 edition of the AHWA's annual magazine Midnight Echo. Today, my guest is Melanie Harding-Shaw. Welcome Mel!
Who are you and where do you write from?
Hi! I’m Melanie Harding-Shaw. I’m a speculative fiction writer, policy geek and mother-of-three from Wellington, New Zealand. Why does the flash fiction format appeal to you?
Micro and flash fiction appeal to me in the same way that logic puzzles do. You have a collection of elements you want to include—themes, character, imagery, emotion etc.—and you have to arrange them just right to get them to fit the tiny space. You have to strip everything right back and let the reader fill in the detail and meaning. It’s a super fun way to indulge in collaborative story-telling, especially with horror where the imagination and fears of the reader will be even more effective than what the writer would have come up with if they had more words.
Can you tell us what inspired your contribution to Midnight Echo #15?
I wrote my flash piece ‘A Second Chance’ for the April 2020 Furious Fiction monthly competition run by the Australian Writers’ Centre. On the first Friday of each month they post a super detailed writing prompt and you have until the Sunday evening to submit a 500-word story. It’s free to enter and there’s a $500 prize for the winner. The April prompt requirements were that each story had to begin on the side of the road, each story had to include the words: apron, pigment, ribbon, icon and lemon, and each story had to include a splash. Why did you have to be so dark? 2020 has had its share of darkness. Do you think horror is more or less important in these very turbulent times?
Trick question! Horror is always important! But I do think that short fiction is particularly important this year, both for writers and readers. Many of us don’t have the brain space required for complex and lengthy narratives right now. A short, sharp shock of fiction is exactly what we need. Poe, Straub, King & Co aside, can you name any lesser known but deserving writers of horror fiction whose work has resonated for you recently?
So many! The horror writers I’ve really enjoyed reading recently are those writing short fiction that tugs at your heart and centres empathy even in the horrific, including Shiv Ramdas, Emma Osborne, J.C. Hart, Casey Lucas, Tabatha Wood, Octavia Cade and Toni Wi. Also, Tamsyn Muir for Gideon the Ninth of course! Midnight Echo #15 is being offered in both print and ebook versions this year. Did the offer of print make a difference to you? Are you seduced by the waft of vanilla and printer’s ink?
Who isn’t seduced by physical books?!
What are you working on right now?
I am doing my best to get my poor 2020-assaulted brain to cope with editing right now. Some days are better than others. I have a cosy witchy fiction novella, Against the Grain, that I am midway through edits of and will be released in early 2021. I’ll be honest, I had to get a little drunk to write something cosy with a dash of romance, but its not without darkness and it was definitely the right thing to be writing during lockdown. It has a passive aggressive shapeshifting demon familiar who’s not afraid to get his claws out and a good dose of manipulative creepy soul-sucking magic alongside the gluten-free baked goods and happy ending.
You can check out the project here: http://witchyfiction.com/ And you can read more about how we worked the collective indie writing project here: https://www.verbwellington.nz/essays/something-witchy-this-way-comes And if I’m very good and manage to get that done then I get to finish playing with the short story that is a sequel to my Sir Julius Vogel finalist eyeball-squelching horror story ‘A Devoted Husband’ that featured in Breach Zine in 2018. Melanie Harding-Shaw is a speculative fiction writer, policy geek, and mother-of-three from Wellington, New Zealand. Her short fiction has appeared in local and international publications such as newsroom, Daily Science Fiction and The Best of British Fantasy 2019. Her Censored City near-future thriller novelette series is available on Amazon and Book Depository. Melanie won the Sir Julius Vogel Award for Services to Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror in 2020. You can find her at www.melaniehardingshaw.com on Facebook and on Twitter. Website: https://www.melaniehardingshaw.com/ Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MelanieHardingShawWriter Twitter: https://twitter.com/MelHardingShaw