with Keely O’Shaughnessy
Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?
Keely: It’s a very writery answer but I think I’ve always written. I used to make my mum little story books and write a diary. I read everything and anything. I remember being obsessed with Robin Hood stories as a kid. I would rewrite them and try and make them even more magical. But nobody said that I might be good at writing until I was eighteen or nineteen. That’s when I discovered Angela Carter and the joys of magical realism for the first time. And then later, during my degree, I read Raymond Carver endlessly. I wanted only clean, crisp and stark prose then. Thankfully, now a days, I think I manage to strike a good balance somewhere between the two.
Q2: Who are your biggest influences today?
Keely: I wouldn’t say I have one main influence but there are many authors and artists I admire. I still love Carver and Carter, only now I read more widely. I love anything written by Jhumpa Lahiri. And flash writing wise, I adore Jules Archer and Kathy Fish. I’m also lucky to be part of a magazine (https://flashfictionmagazine.com/) where I’m surrounded by a wealth of talented writers and editors, who I’m privileged to be friends with. Thinking outside the writing world whenever I’m stuck creatively, I turn to David Bowie.
Q3: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing? Have any travels away from home influenced work?
Keely: I was born in Devon in the UK. It’s quite a sleepy and rural place, which boasts both seaside and moorland. I’d say feel most at home in green spaces (I live in the Cotswolds now) and I
think this affinity with nature and the countryside often finds its way into my work. Equally, I like to travel and one of my favourite places to visit is Canada. The extremes that can be found there and the vastness of the landscape is something I find completely captivating.
Q4: What do you consider your most meaningful work that you’ve done creatively so far?
Keely: This is a super hard question and either that means I haven’t achieved anything meaningful or perhaps I see everything that I’ve managed to write as meaningful. A piece of work can mean a lot to you personally as a writer or artist, but I think creating something that moves a reader, something that inspires someone or offers them an alternative perspective is so important.
Q5: Was there a pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?
Keely: As I’ve already said, I’ve always harboured ambition of being a writer, but I remember being told in high school that I could never be a writer because of my dyslexia and cerebral palsy. When you have a disability people often make presumptions about your ability and will try and impose limitations on you. But, funnily enough, it was those limitations that spurred me on. I was going to write and create beautiful things.
Q6: Favorite activities to relax?
Keely: I’m a huge fan of TV and films. It’s not considered high culture, but there’s nothing better than relaxing with your favourite show. I’m a sucker for a detective drama. I also enjoy reading (that’s a given,) drawing, needle felting, cooking and baking. I make an awesome chocolate brownie.
Q7: Any recent or forthcoming projects that you’d like to promote?
Keely: Feel free to follow me on Twitter at @KeelyO_writer to read any of my stories or learn about upcoming projects. My website is www.keelyoshaughnessy.com And while I’m here I want to give a shout out to Dialect as I’m just coming to the end of their Arts Council funded mentoring programme and it has been an incredible experience, where I was able to learn and grow as a writer while connecting with other likeminded creatives. I was mentored by novelist Mahsuda Snaith.
Q8: What is a favorite line/stanza from a poem of yours or others?
“When he’s thirteen, my son, who has his father’s strong jaw and the parts of me that matter, turns into a frog. It’s his skin first. It sheds in large coin-sized discs. I pull off the bigger, dryer flakes and bathe the sores beneath. He’s startled by the patches of green that radiate like sun on stained glass.”
This is taken from the opening of “What If We Breathed Through Our Skin?” a story which has recently been published in the 2021 National Flash Fiction Day anthology.
My micro “How to Sow a Wildflower Meadow” was also part of this year’s Flash Flood. It was a privilege to be part of NFFD’s 10th Anniversary.
Q9: Who has helped you most with writing?
Keely: There are so many people who have helped me with my writing it’s hard to narrow the list down to something that would fit in this space, but I have to mention, my husband. He isn’t a writer but he’s my first reader and most of the time I trust his gut reaction to a draft. Second, not in value but in this list, are all my wonderful colleagues at Flash Fiction Magazine. There are also my lecturers from my days studying and the kind and generous writers I’ve met on Twitter. Social media can quite easily be a toxic place but the writing community there has been unbelievably supportive.
My brief author bio is as follows: KEELY O’SHAUGHNESSY (she/her) is a writer and editor with Cerebral Palsy, who has writing forthcoming in the Bath Flash Fiction Award anthology and Complete Sentence. She has been published with Ellipsis Zine, the 2021 NFFD anthology, and Not Deer Magazine, among others. She is Managing Editor at Flash Fiction Magazine. When not writing or editing, she likes discussing David Bowie with her cat. Find her on Twitter @KeelyO_writer.