Ashlyn Rebel is a student at Mercer University and a finalist in Fiction. We caught up with her this week to ask her a few questions about her life and her craft. Her piece, “Vapor Waves,” will be published in the 46th annual ASC Writers’ Festival magazine.
What are you reading right now?
I’m currently in the middle of a collection of English novels, including Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles. Once I finish those, however, I plan to reread Gaston Leroux’s Phantom of the Opera, which happens to be my absolute favorite book.
In what spaces do you like to write?
When writing fiction, I typically feel most comfortable simply typing away at my laptop in my room because I know it so well that I don’t have to worry about any distractions and can get the story out much more easily. However, when I’m just working out the details of what I want to include in the story, I like to be out and about, especially in a car or walking around on campus.
Where do you want to go from here? What are your next steps?
Ideally, I would like to keep writing short stories and poetry, but I also want get started on a screenplay and have that completed and revised in a couple years’ time so that I can hopefully begin a career as a screenplay writer. I’m not a highly organized person so all I can say for sure about the future is that I want to keep writing; other than that, I’d just like to keep taking baby steps towards having more short stories published and eventually finishing the screenplays and musical I’ve been wanting to write for years.
What’s a source of inspiration for you?
I like to draw my inspiration from the little artful things in life; I feel that there is so much to be appreciated in the minutiae of life and so much beauty in the way things are, so when I go through life, I try to pay attention and pick up on the beautiful little moments that capture someone so perfectly in half a second and then write about that. There is so much to be noticed in the little things and I love taking those and trying to paint a picture of it all in my writing.
Why this genre?
Typically, when I sit down and write, it just so happens that I end up writing realistic fiction; it isn’t necessarily that I like that genre better, but I think most of my ideas are geared towards capturing life as I see it, and it also seems to come more naturally to me. That being said, I think that for this particular piece, the agonizing and emotional reality of war and the people dragged into it that I wanted to show could only have been properly conveyed in a realistic setting where nothing is exaggerated or distracting, so I had to deliberately keep everything well within the realistic fiction genre from the start.
What do you want readers to take away from your piece?
If I had to choose one thing, it’d probably be the fact that nothing in life is permanent. Youth is not a shelter, love is not a shield, and hope is not a defense. We live in a world and a climate that is constantly changing, and eventually everything that has meaning to us is going to change in some way or another. At the end of the day, all we have are memories, and even those change over time, so all we can do is take in every moment and live with our eyes wide open. Hopefully I’ve captured that appropriately in the short story.
What was the most challenging part of writing your piece?
Honestly, the most difficult part would have to have been writing the postwar scenes and trying to channel the amount of raw emotion that comes with losing someone you love into simple words and sentences for the sake of the story. I feel that pain like that exists almost wholly in the realm without words, and it’s all a writer can really do to try to grab onto the coattails of anything they can get and hope that that will lead the reader where they want them to go, so writing those incredibly emotional scenes in a way that conveyed the emotion the way I wanted to would probably have to be the most challenging part of writing the story.
What are you most proud of in your piece?
I think I’d have to say that I’m most proud of the resolution of the story. I know that sounds like a pretty broad section to be proud of, but after having brought the story to a fairly emotional climax, I really like the way it recedes into a resolution that doesn’t quite resolve anything but instead leaves the story somewhat “open” in a way. In general, I feel like a story isn’t worth much without a powerful ending, so I may be a bit biased; however, I would say I’m fairly proud of the way everything came together in the end.