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Flash Fiction: Iron Lady

Spellbound (1945 film)

Spellbound (1945 film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Memories raced back through Dolly’s mind, of her first husband, Jack.

She squeezed the handle hard, and as steam hissed out in front of her, she could see his face. His china blue eyes and quick smile. His fair hair, always perfectly coiffed, brushed back in a quiff with Brylcream. He had been a good‐looking man, in his day.

Running the iron back‐and‐forth, across the snow white fabric, she wondered what the owner of this shirt looked like. She inhaled the faint scent of Old Spice still ensconced in the size 18 collar. Obviously a tall man. Big build. Maybe along the lines of Gregory Peck? She hummed the music from Spellbound, seeing herself as Ingrid Bergman, as she deftly manoeuvred the iron in between the buttons.

Twenty minutes later, as she hung the last of the twelve shirts onto a hanger and covered them with plastic, she heard the bell above the front door jangle.

“Dolly, have you got the ironing for Margaret Harris finished yet?” shouted Paul from the counter.

“Just finished this minute, but it wasn’t due to be collected until Tuesday,” said Dolly. As she walked out to the counter with the crisp, white cotton; she glanced in the mirror. Her curly, auburn hair nestled around her neck, sticking out slightly on the right. Probably from all the steam, she thought, pushing it behind her ear. She pressed her lips together, enlivening the pale pink lipstick she had glided on earlier in the morning.

“Oh, sorry about that,” smiled the tall man at the counter. “My housekeeper, Margaret, normally does my ironing, but she slipped. Broke her arm. I just dropped them in this morning on my way for a round of golf and thought I’d check to see if there was any chance they were ready on my way back. Well, my luck is in,” he smiled at Dolly.

He had a nice smile, she thought. Well dressed too, in a black polo shirt and black trousers. His face was lightly sun‐tanned and his cheeks ruddy. His mop of grey hair stuck up in tufts, but it was his blue eyes, housed beneath long dark lashes, that drew her attention.

“Well, it wasn’t too busy today,” smiled Dolly, passing the shirts across the counter. Their fingers brushed and she felt a tingle of pleasure run up her arm.

“How much do I owe you?”

“That’ll be €12, please,” said Paul, ringing it up on the register.

“No doubt I’ll be in again, at least until Margaret recovers. She’ll be mighty impressed with the creases in these,” he laughed, holding up the shirts. He handed Paul a €20 note.

“Well, we aim to please Fr!” said Paul, counting back the €8 change.

Dolly sauntered back to her ironing board.

She was wrong, she thought, not Gregory Peck, maybe more like her third husband, John. Starting on a new bag of ironing, she began to hum the theme tune to True Grit.

The Next Big Thing

Recently, I was approached by the extremely talented writer, Valerie Sirr, as she wanted to tag me in an on-line blogging chain – The Next Big Thing – a way for writers to promote their work-in-progress through a series of questions. Valerie, as I’m sure many of you know, is a Hennessy New Irish Writer winner – and if you’ve already read any of her short stories or poetry, then you’ll see why – if you haven’t yet, then you’ve a treat in store.  I’m a big fan of Valerie’s work – and was honoured to accept the challenge along with fellow writers, Celeste Augé and Brian Kirk.

So here goes!

My Next Big Thing:

I’ve been working on my debut novel – a crime fiction thriller set in New York City – for the guts (good choice of word considering my chosen genre!?!) of the last year.

In between, and to keep my writing ego buoyant, I’ve managed to produce a few short stories which have done extremely well – one was Long Listed in the RTÉ Guide/Penguin Ireland Short Story Competition, 2012, another has just been published in the Anthology of Original Writing from Ireland’s Own, 2012 and another was awarded First Prize in the Jonathan Swift Creative Writing Awards, 2012.

What is the working title of your book?

My title, as yet, is not set in stone.  I had originally opted for Killer’s Curse.  But on advice from a couple of writers I greatly admire, they figure that when I get published, the right cover will give readers an idea of what’s inside, so a title that’s a little less telling would suit better.  You noticed the ‘when’ – probably why I value their opinion so much!  I’ve a title in mind, but I want to hold it there and savour it for just a little while longer . . .

Where did the idea come from for the book?  

Reading a snippet about a killer and how he chose his victims set my mind racing and my fingers typing and they never stopped until I reached the end.

What genre does your book fall under?

It has to be crime fiction.  I’ve always been an avid reader and I’d read extensively, but I’ve always LOVED thrillers – in any shape or form – the thrill of guessing what’s going to happen next keeping the pages turning late into the night.  Sometimes you get it right and sometimes you don’t and occasionally you come across such a clever twist or turn that you really wish you’d been clever enough to come up with it.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?      

If I could pick any actor, from any era, to play one of my main characters then the first name to pop into my head as the good guy would be a young, Gregory Peck.  Impossible I know, but as a kid I loved watching his movies.  My favourite had to be Alfred Hitchcock’s, Spellbound, with the tag line ‘Will he Kiss me or Kill me?’  I was enthralled from start to finish.  Maybe it’s time to watch it again?  My villain, in this scenario, could have been Paul Newman – those piercing, ice-blue eyes, dismissing any doubts his victims might have.

English: Colin Farrell at the 2007 Toronto Int...

English: Colin Farrell at the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And if I had to go modern day, then I’d go with Colin Farrell for my good guy.  My character isn’t perfect – far from it – but in the end, you trust that whatever obstacles lie in his way and no matter how difficult the choices, he will strive to do the right thing.

Matt Damon would be my choice as my charismatic villain – his role in The Departed sealed the deal on this one!

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?  

Your name appears on a list, along with six others – five are dead!

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?  

With work and life butting-in, it took me the guts of a year.  But I also did quite an amount of research which I could probably have done during the editing stage to get the first draft down on paper much quicker.  Swings and roundabouts, I suppose . . .

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?   

Some of my favourite thriller writers include; Alex Barclay, Tess Gerritson, Jeffrey Deaver, John Connolly, Harlan Coben, Jo Nesbo, Tana French, Arlene Hunt and Louise Phillips – so I would be delighted if my novel compared favourably to any one of them.  Aiming high, aren’t I?

Who or what inspired you to write this book?   

I’ve always loved books – especially mystery stories – something to keep the brain engaged.  That love of books eventually inspired me to write.  I started with short stories and poetry.  If I’m totally honest here (and shooting myself in the foot in the process!) I prefer to read a book rather than a short story – even by my favourite authors.  It’s not that I don’t enjoy them – I most certainly do – but I feel that you’ve invested your time and interest in their story, you’ve got to know the characters, but then suddenly – it’s over!  With a book, you know you can become more immersed in their lives and if it’s a good story, then you want that.  And that’s why, when this nugget of an idea began to grow, I decided I had to use it to write my debut novel rather than another short story.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?  

This novel is based in New York City and contains elements of the occult – just a trifling – but enough to appeal to readers who are excited by something a little different to spice up their thriller.

When and how will it be published? 

Well, first, I need to finish editing so that my debut novel is as good as it can be.  I’ve heard, on more than one occasion, that you only really get one shot with agent’s and publisher’s and I want to ensure that when I come knocking on their door that I have a novel worthy of their time!

And now it’s time to pass the baton.  I’d like to tag three diverse writers who are destined for big things:  Derek Flynn, Jillian Godsil and Michael Whelan, for The Next Big Thing (Wednesday, 9th January 2013).  Keep an eye out for their rising stars!

Derek Flynn is an Irish writer and musician, with a First Class Honours degree in English Literature.  He’s been published in a number of publications, including The Irish Times, and was First Runner-Up in the 2011 J. G. Farrell Award for Best Novel-In-Progress.   He released his debut album, “Do You Dream At All?” earlier this year. His writing/music blog – ‘Rant, with Occasional Music’ – can be found here: http://derekflynn.wordpress.com and on Twitter, he can be found here: http://twitter.com/#!/derekf03

Jillian Godsil is a writer, blogger and freelance journalist.  She went viral in 2010, 2011 and traditional in 2012.  She hasn’t looked back (much) since. Her blog is www.jilliangodsil.com and you can follow her on Twitter https://twitter.com/jilliangodsil

Michael J Whelan is a poet, writer & historian living in Tallaght County Dublin.  He served as a Peacekeeper with the Irish Defence Forces in South Lebanon and Kosovo during the conflicts in those countries.  He was 2nd Place Winner in the Patrick Kavanagh International Poetry Award 2011 & 3rd Place Winner in the Jonathan Swift Creative Writing Awards 2012.  He was also short-listed in the Doire Press and Cork Literary Manuscript Competitions and selected for the Eigse Eireann/Poetry Ireland Introductions 2012.  He has written books on the Irish involvement in the Congo in the 1960s and Ex British Soldiers in the Irish Army during the Irish War of Independence and Civil War 1913-1924.  He is the curator of the Irish Air Corps Aviation Museum and a member of Platform 1 and Virginia House Creative Writers.  Follow his blog here: http://michaeljwhelan.wordpress.com/

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