About the Author: Born in 1961, in Reading, England. Francis Powell attended Art Schools. In 1995, Powell moved to Austria, teaching English while pursuing his varied artistic interests adding music and writing. He currently lives in Paris, writing both prose and poetry.
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Interview with Francis H Powell
What is the name of your most recently published book…how did you come up with the title?
Flight of Destiny is a collection of twenty two short stories published by Savant publishing, Honolulu. “Flight of Destiny” seemed to capture the essence of what my short stories are about…fate governs people’s lives…
I write dark surreal stories, that have an element of wit. The challenge is to get the reader hooked from the start, with a powerful opening line. For the stories to build and build and move in the direction of a powerful ending. With my endings I like to give them a dramatic unexpected twist. With short stories, you need each sentence to be very precise and to serve a function. You need to establish the main plot and characters very quickly. At the same time I like some of my stories to have a certain amount of ambiguity, so the reader asks…is this real?
Where are you from, tell me a bit about your childhood.
I was born in a “dormitory town” called Reading, not famous for much, apart from a huge Rock festival, and for the fact that Oscar Wilde was sent to prison there and wrote “The Ballad of Reading Gaol”. My family then moved to a farm in the country, in Sussex, not too far from London. I was sent aged eight, to a boarding school, so I would spend long periods away from my family. Imagine having regular prison sentences, imposed upon you, as a child. At some of the schools I attended, there were psychotic teachers and cruel nasty children. I used to count the days when I could be reunited with my family. I became a recluse in the art room and painting was my salvation. I had a teacher who encouraged me to paint and introduced me to various artists, including Kandinsky. I went from austere harsh boarding schools to Art College, a very different environment.
What books were the biggest influence on your life and work? Are these books similar or different to the books you write yourself?
I love the work of Rupert Thompson. I also read a book by Roald Dahl, many years ago called “Kiss Kiss” and I think this book has stayed long in my mind, and had a direct influence on Flight of Destiny, in terms of the fact that I always aim to put a twist at the end of each story, in the same way Roald Dahl does, with his short stories.
Where do you find inspiration?
To some extent my stories are indirectly autobiographical; as stated before my life has not been a smooth journey, with many setbacks along the way. I don’t think I consciously draw a line between real events and the fiction I write. I doubtlessly draw from my experiences, good or bad. Some ideas come from nowhere. Once traveling on the Paris metro, a name suddenly came to me…Little Mite…I then thought about, who would possess such a name…concluding it seemed like a young adolescent, rather wicked. The story is about two families: one old aristocracy on the wane, the other nouveau riche. Little Mite’s sister is about to be married, a match made in heaven and beneficial to both families. There is a party on a lawn, all the final details are being made for the wedding. Little Mite entices the groom’s younger brother to her father’s workshop and glues the innocent boy to a coffee table, a work in progress. Not content with this, she goes and picks some stinging nettles and thrashes the boys legs. This idea came from a newspaper about the author and writer Vita Sackville West, who had a similar fate awaiting children who visited the Sackville estate when she was a child. The story gets very dark, at the end when Little Mite decides to play a trick on her family, to try towing back her parent’s good favor. Unfortunately her father mistakes her for a burglar and shoots her with a hunting rifle. This idea came to me after reading a newspaper article about a similar mishap. Ideas seem to plant themselves in my head and I feel a need to expand on them and develop them. Sometimes newspapers provide excellent sources. I read obscure stories about people stealing other people’s identities, a person who pretends he is a Duke, but in reality he is a fraud.
Can you give us an obscure fact about yourself?
I was once on Austrian TV, wearing a kilt, pretending to toss a caber. They were looking for Scots, I am a part Scottish. I was and still am a bit scrawny and I don’t look anything like somebody who would participate in a Highland Games. I could barely hold up this “caber” and it was lucky I did,’t drop it on somebody’s head. I was also once in Pigbag video, wearing a Guerrilla suit, pretending to play a trumpet.
Other than writing do you have any other interests, do they connect up with your writing?
I do so many things…write music…make videos…paint…make sculptures from found objects…and I guess a lot of these activities link up…
Who designed the covers for your books, were you happy with result?
Me…I also did 22 illustrations, one for each story. This took a lot of work…but I am happy with the result…
Is there a character in one of your books that really stands out for you?
I guess “Bugeyes” for me stands out. He is born into an aristocratic family, with a genetic fault (over-large enormous eyes) and immediately rejected by his mother and sent to live with a servant on the estate. He is mocked cruelly due to his physical defect, as well as being denied his natural inheritance. He gets revenge in the end.
Why would somebody want to read your book?
If you feel that you are an outsider…If you live in a dingy bedsit…feel isolated…my stories are for you…in the same way the British band “The Smiths,” appealed to a certain type of loner…My stories are very unusual, descriptive and visual. I would like to think they are dark, but also have an element of wit…maybe British dark sense of humor. They are often anti-establishment. There are often reversals, characters people might expect to be bad (like the gangster Gecko in Bugeyes) come across as being wise and good and the types people might expect to come across as good (for example there are a few preachers in my stories) come across as the opposite, bad and inhumane. I would like to think I use rich language with sharp powerful sentences. The starts to my stories are also critical, for example my story Bugeyes begins with… Bug-eyes was due a life of toil. Seed begins with Captain Spender’s wife was ovulating. Cast from Hell begins with There it was: I was to be banished from hell. It is important I start my stories powerfully, but also end them strongly. I hope that more stories keep people intrigued right up to the final sentence…There are also some nice illustrations that go with the stories…which I did for the book…
If your books were adapted into being films, which director dead or alive would you want to direct them? Which actors would you like in the films? What would be the general mood of the film?
Let’s dig up Stanley Kubrick, his films were great and varied in subject matter. Let’s put Jack Nicholson in a role, a younger Johnny Depp, alongside Wynona Rider or Christine Ricci, maybe it’s getting a bit confused, and it’s starting to look like a Tim Burton film. David Lynch would do a great job, but apparently he’s not such a nice man…I saw him once in Paris, I went to his art show and was lucky enough to be allowed into his press preview.
The mood would be dark…but witty…
Who would you prefer to have at your dinner table…out of the following…
Oscar Wilde, Marlon Brando, Sigmund Freud?
They would all be very interesting in their own right, but for me maybe Oscar Wilde would be the most charming dinner guest.
Flight of Destiny
by Francis H Powell
Goodreads blurb: Flight of destiny is a collection of short stories about misfortune. They are characterized by unexpected final twists, that come at the end of each tale. They are dark and surreal tales, set around the world, at different time periods. They show a world in which anything can happen. It is hard to determine reality and what is going on a disturbed mind. People's conceptions about morality are turned upside down. A good person can be transformed by an unexpected event into a bad person and then back again to their former state. The high and mighty often deliver flawed arguments, those considered wicked make good representations of themselves. Revenge is often a subject explored.
Interesting in reading??