On Monday, we published the third place story for our 2021 Flash Fiction Contest, “How to Develop (Film)”. Today, we’re excited to share with you this interview with the author, Candice May, conducted by assistant editor Melissa Hinshaw.
First off: what is it about a dark room that is just so sensual? Hot damn! *whistles*
Well, I don’t know that a darkroom is inherently sensual, but I hoped to make it that way in this piece. It could also be quite a technical and tedious place. Perhaps the mood lighting, aka the red light, helped set the tone. And of course, the “badness” of what actually went on in there probably amped up the sensual tension. For me, it was serving as an environment that reflected the narrator’s loneliness and (illicit) sexuality.
How did you get the idea for “How to Develop (Film)?” Is any aspect of it autobiographical?
I was a lonely girl in high school, and in my final year in particular I did spend my lunch hours in the darkroom, hiding out. I even had a small darkroom in my bathroom at home that I spent a lot of time in. I liked being in the dark, quietly developing film, without the social anxieties and pressures of life and high school. Otherwise, this piece is pure fiction. There was no “Mister” in my life.
What effect do you feel the list form has on this story?
For me, it helped focus the narrative. I had been looking up film development procedures to remind myself how it works, and suddenly realized that the story needed to be told in the list / instructional form. It also helped steer me in a much more fictional direction than when I started the piece. I think it also points to the naivety of the narrator and the denial about what is actually happening—like, Nothing going on here, just developing film as per usual protocol….
One of this story’s strengths is its ability to steer clear of cliche or adolescent whiny-ness, capturing that pure thickness of high school and becoming more fully human. How did you walk that line but still “go there” with the content of this piece?
I didn’t want this narrator to be a victim, although in some ways of course she might be. She has agency, she’s an artist, she’s creating her reality, even if her choices are questionable. I also imagined her being in her final year of high school, right on the precipice of adulthood, and definitely not a whiner. She’s more of a contemplative, deep thinker, loner type. I did have to push myself to fully “go there” with the content, because it’s uncomfortable and illicit and totally taboo! But I think it paid off because the piece has tension, and people aren’t perfect, and I think as readers we are interested in tension and imperfection. It’s relatable.
If you had to put this story to a soundtrack, what songs would be on it?
“Take on Me” by A-ha. “Enough” by The Dance Hall Crashers. “Familiar” by Agnes Obel.
Interviewed by Melissa Hinshaw