Please welcome award-winning author Tara Laskowski, to talk to readers about switching from short stories her writing her debut thriller. One Night Gone, told in two voices, is garnering stellar reviews. Don’t miss it!

I have always considered myself a short story writer. A very very short story writer, to be specific. I feel most comfortable at about 745 words, two pages max. I’ve been editing a journal of flash fiction for nearly 10 years, where we publish stories that are 1000 words or less, so I’ve been trained to think at that length. I like tiny moments, small epiphanies. I like seeing a story in its entirety.

So, I never really thought I’d be able to write a novel. I tried it several times. My MFA thesis was a doorstop 500+ page novel that spanned over several decades, that I worked on for 6 years. For the longest time, my longer projects never really seemed to work out.

But then after I published two short story collections, I felt like I needed a next step. A new challenge. And so I decided to try writing a novel one more time. Just to see what happened.

I took the plunge, immersed myself in my book, determined not to come up for air until I had a first draft. The alluring Siren calls of flash fiction ideas tried to beckon me away, but I ignored them as best I could. I dealt with the pain of not being able to see my plot in its entirety. If I had an idea for a short story, I wrote the idea down in my notebook and carried on with the novel.
It worked, for the most part. I was able to complete the draft of my book, One Night Gone, in a little over a year. I had done it. I’d written a novel, bird by bird, scene by scene, chapter by chapter. Somewhere along the way, I’d gotten into a rhythm with it. Dare I say it—I even liked it?

Then, once the editing was over and my book was on its way, I turned to all those notebook ideas. I thought—yay! Now I can go back to my short story babies and make them happen.

Except for one problem. I’d trained myself so well on writing a novel that I had forgotten how to write a short story.

That summer was painful. All these ideas! And none of them were working. I couldn’t write a succinct story to save my sanity. It all felt dull and tired.

There are writers who say they can switch back and forth between forms—writing poetry alongside their novels, flash fiction while working on a nonfiction book. I’ve realized I am not one of them. I have so little time to write in my packed, hectic schedule that I need to focus or I’ll be lost forever, shipwrecked on the beach endlessly searching for the seashell pieces of my fiction. Therefore, I realized that since it takes me a while to get in my groove, once I get in it, it’s very hard to pull out of it into another one.

That summer, I did end up getting a few decent short stories completed. But there is still an embarrassing amount of stories started and never finished, ones I may never be able to work out. Or maybe I will. Maybe, like wine, they just need to sit and age for a bit.

They have plenty of opportunity to do so, as I’m about to start writing my second book soon. And when I do take that deep breath and plunge under the surface, I probably won’t be emerging for a while!

Wish me luck! And while I’m out at sea, be sure to keep those Sirens entertained!

Tara Laskowski

TARA LASKOWSKI is the award-winning author of two short story collections, Modern Manners for Your Inner Demons and Bystanders, which was named a Best Book of 2017 by The Guardian. Her debut novel One Night Gone was published in October 2019 by Graydon House Books. She is the editor of the online flash fiction journal SmokeLong Quarterly, an Agatha Award winner, and a member of Sisters in Crime. A graduate of Susquehanna University and George Mason University, Tara grew up in Pennsylvania and lives in Virginia.