Lunch with the Alien and Other Short, Short Stories: Greg Roensch’s digestible flash fiction tales
Greg Roensch’s flash fiction has appeared in Dream Noir, 365 Tomorrows, Defiant Scribe, Potato Soup Journal, The Potrero View, and elsewhere. He’s written five books for young adults, including biographies of Bruce Lee, Vince Lombardi, and Rickey Henderson. Lunch with the Alien and Other Short, Short Stories is his second collection of flash fiction (and the follow-up to Breakfast with the Alien and Other Short, Short Stories). He also writes poetry and songs. Learn more at www.gregroensch.com.
You’ve been the editorial director at a large video game company. Does that affect your writing or story structure?
I was fortunate to work for many years as a writer and editor in a centralized creative services team at Electronic Arts. I mention that it was a central team, because that meant I worked in varying editorial capacities on hundreds of games released at EA during my time there. From one day to the next I might have worked on a racing game, a football game, a city-building game, or a game in which aliens try to rip your guts out.
Working on such an amazing range of games helped shape my interest in writing short stories in different genres and styles. In Lunch with the Alien and Other Short, Short Stories, for example, I include a few science-fiction stories, a few horror stories, a few crime-gone-wrong stories — and even a love story or two. And, yes, there are stories where aliens try to rip your guts out.
You also do professional copywriting. Does that inform your creative writing in any way?
Most of my professional writing experience has been as a marketing writer. So, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to describe products and services in an interesting way but in a short amount of space. I think that’s what attracts me to flash fiction. I love the challenge of telling a complete and compelling story in a few pages (or even in a single page).
I’ll also say that my creative writing style has been shaped by my professional writing experience. Again, thinking about the marketing projects I’ve worked on, I generally don’t have much space to work with — and the audience tends to have a short attention span. Everything is about getting to the point quickly and clearly, yet in a way that engages and entices the reader. In both my creative and professional writing, I spend a lot of time trimming excess fat. I enjoy this part of the writing craft.
Would you say there were any common themes or motifs in your writing?
I tend to quirky tales, many of which feature characters who’ve fallen on hard times or who make bad choices. There’s a fair amount of betrayal and revenge in my stories. Dead-end streets and apocalyptic landscapes. Sounds pretty bleak, right? Well, not exactly. I also like to sprinkle my stories with humor — even if it’s dark humor — to counter the doom and gloom.
Many readers have commented that my story collections remind them of The Twilight Zone. That’s high praise indeed, and I’m humbled by the comparison. Like The Twilight Zone, I look to tell tales in a variety of settings. But if you look deeply, you’ll find a common thread of humanity that weaves through the collection.
Why do you write short stories instead of novels, or did that just happen?
I like to juggle many projects at once, whether that’s in my professional or creative writing life. In addition to writing flash fiction, I like to write songs and poetry. And I’ve recently started to make short films. Maybe I’ll write a novel someday, but up to this point in my writing journey, I enjoy the challenge of telling complete and compelling stories in bite-size chunks.
How do you write an effective short story and develop characters, show not tell, etc. while keeping it short?
I think of writing flash fiction as a partnership between my writing ability and the reader’s imagination. So, I love the idea of providing the reader with just enough detail (and plot) to engage their imagination and invite them to envision aspects of the characters and the action for themselves. I guess it’s a minimalist approach to writing when I think about it, but I love it when readers tell me they can really see and hear my characters in stories that are so short.
Do you think we will ever really find aliens, or that they will find us? What might the encounter be like?
I hope aliens will visit us someday. More importantly, I hope they won’t run screaming back to their home planet when they see what a mess we’ve made of things on Earth. Seriously, if you were an alien what would you think about our hostile politics, our climate crisis, our handling of the pandemic — the list goes on. My greatest hope is that any alien visitors will be benevolent beings who inspire us with their humanity and enlighten us with their wisdom. Then again, maybe they’ll just come to rip our guts out.
Greg Roensch’s Lunch with the Alien and Other Short, Short Stories is available for pre-order here. You can also request the book from your local bookstore when it becomes available on May 4, 2021.