This is the first in what I hope will be an interview series with my fellow contributors to Discount Noir, an e-Book flash fiction anthology available now from Untreed Reads.
Kathleen blogs at kathleenaryan.blogspot.com with fellow Sisters in Crime at www.womenofmystery.net. Follow her on Twitter @katcop13.
Gerald So: How did the idea for your story, "Secret Identity", develop?
Kathleen A. Ryan: Since the 800 word challenge had to include a "discount" type store, and at the time of the writing, we were headed into the holiday season, I recalled a case I handled as a police officer while working in Crime Stoppers, that had occurred on Christmas Eve at such a store, in which a man was caught on video stealing a woman's wallet; she was a customer on line in front of him. Because of the hectic time of year, and she was juggling packages and small children, this creep behind her took advantage of the situation; it was a crime of opportunity. Sadly, he had children with him. The clerk was too busy to notice what had transpired. I was interviewed by the NY Daily News for the story. I told the reporter how the suspect missed out on a great opportunity to show his kids how to do the right thing. We have solved many cases in Crime Stoppers, but this one went unsolved -- no one called to identify the suspect. For this story, of course, I changed that ending,
Since I had received calls on the tips line over the years from children, especially those who were calling in about a parent, I decided to make my protagonist a young boy. My nephew, who lives near a particular discount store, was the inspiration for this character. He is my brother's only child -- who was 5 months old when my brother was killed in a motorcycle accident in 2001.
Also, I handled calls in which parole violators used aliases, committed crimes, and fled. Family members, friends, and scorned women (those who possess the most accurate info, IMHO) would call with information concerning their locations.
I enjoyed the theme of real vs. fake throughout the story: a fake tree and a real one; the Santa greeter; a 'real' or biological dad vs a stepdad; and of course the real vs. fake identity of the bad guy; even the "fake" cheese -- Cheez Whiz. The title refers to the bad guy, the anonymous caller (the child), and of course, Santa Claus.
GS: What appeals to you about flash fiction?
KAR: I enjoy reading flash fiction and writing it. To me, writing flash is a challenge, sort of like a difficult puzzle, but one that I enjoy. Contrary to popular belief, writing "short" isn't necessarily easier than writing "long." As writers of shorts already know, it's more difficult.