Following the release of our anthology,?We Run Through The Dark Together, we?decided to interview a handful of its featured writers in order to get to know them and their?work better. In this interview, we speak to Damhnait Monaghan, author?of?Postpartum, about motherhood, her favourite writers and her writing process.
Postpartum is a powerful, frantic confrontation of motherhood. In your writing, do you find that the themes of motherhood and mental health often cross paths?
The theme of motherhood?appears often in my flash fiction. I sometimes think my writing taps into subconscious fears about what might befall my own children. It’s as though I use stories as a talisman to protect my children from the difficulties experienced by my characters. The theme of mental health appears to a lesser extent, but it’s there. Right now, I’m working on a flash about the distorted thought process of a menopausal woman during a hot flash. Other stories have treated fraught mother-child relationships due to addiction or self-harm, for example. I’m not all dark though! I’ve been known to write humorous flash about motherhood, and even the occasional romance.
How do your life experiences feed into your craft as a writer?
As a character in one of my stories says to a fellow creative writing student: “Sometimes I take childhood experiences and big them up, but mostly it’s just me making shit up.” I think that’s about right. I might weave snippets of thoughts or experiences into my fiction, along with news items or overheard conversations, but mostly it’s made up. Occasionally I write creative non-fiction, like Postpartum, where the writing is directly inspired by my life. I almost don’t recognise that frantic, sleep-deprived mother but it’s mostly me fourteen years ago. Last spring I was lucky enough to do a Fast Flash workshop with flash guru Kathy Fish. She asked us to write “one breathless paragraph.” In the past, I’d considered writing about those dark days of early motherhood, but it was too raw. I was so surprised when the piece whooshed out of me after all these years. It’s been polished a bit, but it mostly came out good to go, almost like giving birth.
How would you describe your writing process?
I’m not the most disciplined writer and I don’t have a specific writing process. Bum in chair is the goal, but I don’t always achieve it. Nicola Davidson recently tweeted that the publishing world should stop perpetuating the myth that writers write every day. I think you fit it in when you can, especially if you have young children. Hats off to anyone who manages to write in those early years. I didn’t. I signed up for an evening writing course when I had two toddlers, but rarely got any assignments done. The teacher eventually suggested I instead use those years as future fodder.?Postpartum implies I have buried memories from that time. I just have to figure out how to excavate them.
If you had to reduce the essence of Postpartum to just 5 words, which would they be?
Flash fiction writers work hard to pare their writing down to its essence, but that’s a tough question. Motherhood can be bloody hard?! Or perhaps less controversially (and in the words of my Irish mother) “A cuppa tea cures all.”
The flash community on Twitter is astonishingly talented and supremely supportive. I constantly get tweets with links to outstanding flash fiction. Rather than make specific recommendations, I would point readers to online flash publishers like Spelk Fiction, Ellipsis Zine and Jellyfish Review (to name only a few). Dealing specifically with motherhood and mental health, though, I was completely undone by Aubrey Hirsch’s Bad Boys, recently published by Jellyfish Review. Killer writing. And of course, I cannot wait to read We Run Through the Dark Together.
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