Interview with Melissa Llanes Brownlee

Hawaiian settings and characters dominate your work. Readers would love to know about your earliest experiences and your inspiration to become a writer.

I read so much as a kid that I’m not surprised I’m now a writer. I wrote my first short story about a diamond heist (the diamonds were hidden in paint cans) in a creative writing class when I was twelve. It was not based in Hawai’i—that came later when I left home to go to university.

Theme, plot, imagery, dialogue: in what order do you think they’re important to your stories?

I start from image and work from there. Plot and theme are usually the last things I think about.

Weaving in Hawaiian Pidgin Creole language with standard English lends a great authentic voice to your narratives. What advice would you give other writers hoping to use their mother tongue?

Learning to use contextual clues in your narrative is really important. Also, choose words that enhance your story rather than using them as window dressing.

We publish flash fiction under 500 words. As a writer who has published great micros, what do you think makes stories that short click with the reader?

There are so many well-done micros and flash that offer so many ways to entice or enchant a reader, from a long title which is almost a story in itself, to a great opening line that welcomes a reader into the narrative, from a hermit crab format that not only frames the story but also adds to it, to embedded dialogue that further condenses the narrative. All of these and more play with a reader’s expectations.

You read fiction for various literary magazines. What themes or narratives do you enjoy the most, and what would you like to see more of?

I’m a huge fan of speculative fiction and myth. I also love narratives with strong voices or POVs, especially from BIPOC writers.

Evidently you’re committed to the flash form and writing in general. If you were to say one thing to writers struggling to devote time to art because of pressing work routines, what would it be?

Don’t get mad at yourself if you aren’t creating. You’ll find space for it in your life when you need it.

Please guide us to two or three stories that you think readers who want to sample your work must read.

That’s tough! I think my recent publication “Or Else” in Five South, which was chosen by Kathy Fish, would be a good start. “Kona Boy Made Good” in Milk Candy Review makes me cry every time I read it, and finally, “in ache” from SmokeLong Quarterly.

Melissa Llanes Brownlee
Melissa Llanes Brownlee

Born and raised in Hawai’i, Melissa Llanes Brownlee has had flash fiction in SmokeLong Quarterly, Superstition Review, NFFR, JMWW, Milk Candy Review, trampset, Best Small Fictions 2021, and Best Microfiction 2022, among others. She is the author of two fiction collections, Hard Skin (Juventud Press) and Kahi and Lua (Alien Buddha Press). Website | Twitter | Instagram

Mandira Pattnaik
Mandira Pattnaik

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