Hi! I’m K E Hubbard, a native Ohioan and a lifelong Cleveland Browns fan, despite the fact that they haven’t won a game in two years. When I’m not doing research and development for my day job in emergency management, I’m writing fiction. I never knew what I wanted to be when I grew up, so I’ve been a little of everything. I’m married to my college sweetheart, an auntie to two (soon to be three), a pianist, a terrible gardener, and dog mama to the sassiest little schnoodle named Georgia.
MM: What do you love most about writing? What speaks to you?
KH: My writing takes me places I’ve never been and transfers me into worlds of my own creation. I’ve lived vicariously as an actor, a soldier, a CEO, a thief in a post-apocalyptic Las Vegas, and a guy who sees ghosts. I like when my characters shake me awake at night and beg me to tell their stories. I’m terribly introverted in real life, but I’m bold in my writing. I’m have no fear taking risks and traipsing into dangerous territory or shining a light on a social issue. I may not have the same traits as my characters, but I get to be every one of them. My favorite thing is when my words get a reaction from someone else, especially when they yell at me for twisting them into an emotional pretzel. That’s the best.
MM: So, what have you written?
KH: I’ve completed four novels with many little plot bunnies and half-finished works sitting idly in Google Drive. I recently finished a round of beta reader edits on a manuscript and I’m tidying it up to query for agent representation. I write flash fiction and short non-fiction pieces for my blog.
MM: When did you know writing was for you?
KH: I’ve always loved making up stories. I have an unbridled imagination and I played pretend for way longer than is socially acceptable. I went through a really hard time about five years ago where I felt like I’d lost myself, and one day this story slammed me in the face and demanded to be written. With absolutely no writing experience aside from what I learned in school, I put a pen to paper. I was hooked. It provided a creative outlet for me and I’ve never been prouder of anything I’ve done.
MM: What are you working on at this minute? What was the inspiration for it?
KH: My current work is Call When You Land, a story about Carson Kent, a celebrity actor who falls asleep on a flight and wakes up in one of his films. For seven days, he lives the lives of seven different characters, an escape from his hectic life. Problem is, he’s the only one who knows it’s a work of fiction, and the world he’s in may not be what it seems.
This story came into my life a couple years ago when I was in a music video rabbit hole on YouTube. A Duran Duran video came on called Girl Panic. Did you know they were still making music? I didn’t. The video featured supermodels being bad, partying in hotels, hanging out of sunroofs in ridiculously expensive cars. In one part, a model walks out into a crowd of fans, spots a woman, and goes up and plants a big kiss on her lips. I thought, wow, celebrity is really strange. We let famous people get away with things no one else would be allowed to do. From there emerged an idea about a celebrity who needs a bit of a perspective shift. By midnight that night, Carson Kent’s story was born and it flew off my fingertips.
MM: What was the first story you ever remember writing, and what was it about? How does it compare to your writing now?
KH: The first story I remember physically writing down was about a ladybug that gets washed away in the rain and ends up in a city park. That’s about the extent of my memory of it. In elementary school, I won a contest with a picture book I’d made and got to go to an event featuring the author Jack Prelutsky. Writing has always been in my blood and it took me until I was twenty-seven to consider it as more than a hobby. My first novel was so badly written I’m embarrassed I let anyone read it. I apologize to those beta readers often. They’re still my friends, so I guess that’s a good thing.
MM: Do you work to an outline or do you prefer to just see where an idea takes you? Plotter or Pantser?
KH: I’m a total pantser, both in writing and in life. I create a basic, mental outline and start a new idea in the place where it came to me. I tend to research as I go to fill in gaps or verify accuracy, and I write scenes out of sequence and piece them together. Things get a little tangled for me about three-quarters of the way through the draft and I create a roadmap for myself to bring all the plot lines together. I enjoy going on a ride with my characters and hanging out in their heads as they reveal their truth to me. They never cease to make my life difficult with their terrible choices. In my last manuscript, I had to step away because Carson decided to steal a police car. He left me a mess to clean up!
MM: What draws you to flash-fiction, to #FP? What do you love and hate about it?
KH: I’m an over-writer, and I usually cut at least 10,000-15,000 words out of a first draft. I can often be found frolicking through fields of purple prose, so flash fiction forces me to be concise and stick to the parameters of the theme. It’s a really great exercise for combatting writer’s block, because managing 85,000 words can sometimes rust out my creativity. #FP and other writer hashtags have connected me to an amazing world of talented authors. It’s a privilege to be among them.
MM: Who are your writing inspirations? How do they influence your creativity?
KH: My inspiration is everywhere. Books, movies, TV shows, music even overheard conversations can spark a fresh new idea in my mind. One of the most vital things for my writing is to step away from the computer and get out into the world, watch people, listen, eavesdrop a little. I force myself out of my bubble so I can observe my surroundings and write about them on a deeper level. Immersing yourself in the universe brings the words out.
MM: What is your favorite motivational phrase or musing on writing, and …why? What about it really hits home? 🙂
KH: My absolute favorite piece of advice is this: The character always wants to relieve tension, so do the opposite of what would achieve that. It’s a great method for building conflict, and especially helpful when a scene simply isn’t working. If I’m stuck, I ask myself, what would this character want to happen in this situation? What would force them into a corner and elicit a response? In my last draft, my critique partner pointed out I’d let my main character get away with his bad behavior in his exchanges with the supporting characters. I rewrote three scenes where the others around him reacted to his nonsense and it made for funnier, more realistic action.
MM: What is the hardest thing about writing for you?
KH: It has taken me years to learn patience in regards to writing. Like any other skill, writing is a craft, and you have to rewrite and rewrite and edit and cut and bleed a little bit to get better. That process takes time and effort. It’s sometimes disheartening to see people in the place I long to be, but it’s up to me to work toward that goal and achieve it. As they say, publishing is a marathon, not a sprint.
MM: What do you tell yourself every time it gets hard? Every time the stars stop aligning? What do you do when writer’s block knocks on your creative door?
KH: Sometimes I just have to push through it. I always try to look forward to the next opportunity, the next story needing told, the next connection that might help make my writing spectacular. When I’m stuck, I’ll write a thousand words of trash no one will ever see, allowing my brain to spill out without stopping to judge myself. Sharing my work with others and collaborating with writers always helps shake things loose. Connecting with writers and commiserating about the craft has been the biggest blessing to my writing. Another pair of eyes gives me a perspective I hadn’t considered before.
MM: Do you have any secret and wacky writing rituals that help the words flow?
KH: I rehearse all of my dialogue out loud and act out most of my stories first before I do anything else. The physicality of acting something out, combined with getting the beat and cadence of dialogue just right, helps me visualize the scene, the nuances, the character quirks, and the underlying themes. All my characters have voices (done poorly, I’m sure) and I would die a thousand deaths before I let anyone see or hear me do this.
MM: As a writer, what would you choose as your spirit animal or avatar? We’ve heard the craziest things, and we’re curious!
KH: I have an affinity for pink flamingos. They are ridiculous, stand out from a crowd, and they are proud of who they are.
MM: What advice would you give to aspiring writers and poets, anyone who wants to free the art within? What helped you make it to this point?
KH: Just do it. I know that seems simple, but if you have a story, write it. Don’t worry about what anyone thinks about what stirs your passions. At the end of the day, you can’t write for a market, an agent, a publisher, or your family. You have to do it for yourself.
MM: What genres do you find yourself most drawn to? In your books and in your #FP’s?
KH: I’m attracted to character driven stories, both on screen and in print. I tend to read across genres and I’m not loyal to anything in particular. I read what grabs my interest and I love being surprised. I like books that take something familiar and put a unique spin on it.
MM: Sooo … reading anything good lately? Any recommendations?
KH: I was fortunate to beta read for a wonderful writer named Evie Drae, who I met serendipitously through Twitter and happens to live a few miles from me! Her story is addicting and full of heart and I can’t wait to share it with others when it comes out. I’m in the middle of As Bright as Heaven, a story of a woman and her three daughters who help run a funeral parlor in Philadelphia during the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918. Though I don’t typically read historical fiction, this is a time period I’m not familiar with, and I’m captivated by the characters. For research for my last novel, I read Skinny Boy by Gary Grahl, about a young man’s experience with anorexia. It’s raw and honest and his narration of his eating disorder’s voice is brilliant.
MM: Any last thoughts for our readers?
KH: It’s a tough world out there. You will face rejection and criticism. Your writing won’t be for everyone. They always say you have to develop a thick skin, but I think what you need to do more than that is believe in yourself and what you do. Best of luck to everyone wherever they are in their journey!
MM: How can readers discover more about you and you work?
The Pain Collector
By Karen Hubbard
They said her name was perfect for a Pain Collector, because Tuesday was the worst day of the week. She wasn’t bothered by the joke. It was impossible to rattle someone who spent most of her waking hours among the hardest moments of other people’s lives.
Tuesday passed through the hallowed halls of the trophy room where the most prized shards were housed, observing all the colors of pain. The sparkling golds of the Ultimate Sacrifice. The cool jades of Misplaced Expectations. The deep blue of Heartbreak. There was a gap in the display case, and it was her mission to leave the largest shard of pain there, solidifying her as a legend among her peers.
The opening bell rang and she hurried into the conference room, sliding in next to her competitor, Reese. He grinned at Tuesday. “Daydreaming in the trophy room again?”
“You know that space is mine,” she said.
He rolled his eyes. “We’ll see about that. I have a good feeling about today.”
Naima, her supervisor, brought the room to attention, and the cadets quieted. A familiar rush of excitement swept over Tuesday. She’d requested more challenging assignments and knew today was her day. She hid her hands under the table to keep her anxious fidgeting from catching Reese’s attention.
Tuesday held her breath as Naima doled out assignments. Gunshot victims. Home invasion. Terminal illness. All the misery of humanity.
“Wounded veteran returning from combat. Left leg amputation, shrapnel wounds, and a traumatic brain injury,” said Naima to Reese.
Reese slugged Tuesday in the thigh. Sheshook her head, wracked with envy. No doubt he’d return to base with the highest collection and the most points. Not only could he collect the pain from the soldier, but everyone who came in the room. Tuesday prayed her assignment at least leveled them up.
Naima’s eyes landed on her. “Tuesday, I’d like you to attend a second trimester miscarriage in progress.”
Tuesday swallowed a gasp. That was it? Nothing more? She avoided Reese’s sideways stare and forced a smile on her lips.
When Naima dismissed the cadets for deployment, Tuesday loitered until the room was nearly empty. She didn’t get a chance to speak before Naima approached and said, “I know this isn’t your usual assignment, but I think it’s crucial for someone as skilled as you to be there.”
“But there won’t be anything to collect,” Tuesday protested.
The wise supervisor gave her a soft smile. “Do your best.”
Tuesday reeled as she transferred to the hospital. She fingered the buckle on her satchel. She was better than this. She’d return to post before anyone else with a half empty bag and nothing to show for her efforts.
A mournful scream pricked her ear. She followed the sound, wiggling her fingers into her protective gloves. No collector could risk getting injured by the sharp side of someone else’s pain. It was too dangerous.
Tuesday laced her boots to the knee, unprepared for what she’d walk into. Stealing a breath, she opened the door to the patient’s room and had to scramble on top of the counter. Ruby red pain poured from the mother’s chest, flowing onto the floor, several inches thick. At her core was a black void, a permanent wound Tuesday would never be able to remove.
Pain flooded the room. It crept up the colorful scrubs of the nurses attending her. It stained their gloved hands. Fear gripped Tuesday’s throat. In all her years, she’d never seen anything like it.
The father-who-should’ve-been wrapped himself around his wife. A bright, thrumming orb nestled in near his heart, but it didn’t leave his body. He insulated it from her.
As the pain cooled and hardened, Tuesday jumped down from her perch and stabbed a heel into the sheath. She lifted the broken fragments with their toothed edges and filled her satchel. The shards rubbed together, the grinding sound making Tuesday’s jaw tighten.
No sooner did she clean all the pieces from the floor, another fresh round exploded from the mother. The others did their best to comfort her, but their words fell flat and expired against the swirling embers of her pain. Tuesday worked at the glowing edge inside the father, but he wouldn’t release it, as if he wanted to keep it for himself.
The loss was over in seconds, it seemed, but emotions strangled the room. Tuesday followed a nurse down the hall. The woman doubled over against the gurney, and Tuesday rushed to scrape off the pain clinging to the nurse’s back. Tuesday knew the nurse had a job to do, so she freed her from it—at least for now.
Her satchel bulged. She rearranged the shards to fit more. The weight of it nearly broke her shoulder as she carted it around.
It seemed like days passed before Tuesday ambled back to headquarters with her collection. The clunk her satchel made when she handed it over for processing stayed in the bottom of her belly. Normally, she’d be thrilled with her achievement, finding Reese to brag about it, but today, she wanted to be left alone.
As Tuesday removed her protective outerwear,her blood turned to slush. A nick in her glove revealed a small slice across the fold of her palm. She closed her hand up. This had to be documented immediately. Her carelessness would negate her pain haul.
She paced the floor, unable to think. A sudden ache seized her heart. She went to her knees. A hollow emptiness tore apart her insides. Tears welled in her eyes and she wept until she gagged.
Tuesday composed herself when the door opened. She brushed the tears from her eyes and kept her back to the entrant.
“Hiding out because you’re embarrassed at how bad you did today?” Reese chided.His footfalls slapped the concrete floor as he rounded the room. “What are you doing?”
“Nothing.” Tuesday rose, and a smile betrayed the grief snaking through her body.
Reese studied her. “You look terrible. Are you sick?”
She clasped her hands to hide her mistake. “I feel great.”
His gaze fell to her middle. Before she could stop him, he reached out and wrenched her hand forward, exposing her cut. Reese shivered and dropped her hand.
“You got nicked?” he said, eyes wide. “You have to report it.”
Tuesday brought her fist to her chest. “No way. I’m going to lose all my points. I don’t feel anything, anyway.”
Reese carded his fingers through his hair. “If anyone finds out—”
“No one will find out,” Tuesday snapped. “And you’re not going to tell anyone.”
She fled the room, avoiding everyone in her path. Naima tried to borrow a moment to congratulate her, but her feet didn’t stop moving until she arrived home.
Tuesday dove into her bed, wriggling down under the blankets until she was completely cocooned. She massaged the throbbing place in her palm. She shook to the bedrock of her soul. She had never known pain like this. In her imagination came the things that were, the places that mattered, the skeletons of what could be and never materialized. Her chest caved with the weight of the failure and disappointment.
Darkness descended with the setting sun and Tuesday’s faith in the world was shattered. She tried to block it out, to shield herself from feeling someone else’s pain, but it burrowed into her.
Sleep was her only escape from the thoughts plaguing her.
When her eyes fluttered open, sadness found her quickly. She pushed herself up, feeling everything at once, then nothing at all. A heavy longing clung to something deep in her, something granular she’d never accessed before.
In the early morning light, she made her way back to headquarters, dreading her usual gentle teasing with Reese. Pain was different now, real and alive and flowing through her body. Tuesday hesitated outside the trophy room. She placed her hand on the knob but couldn’t twist it. She wasn’t the person she was yesterday.
She forced herself to enter and stopped just inside the door. The once shimmering, spectacular colors were dull. Ugly. Razor sharp and jagged. She hugged herself and advanced, wanting to rip it all down and smash it into thousands of pieces.
Tuesday gasped when she saw it. A shard of the mother’s thick red pain. On a pedestal. Grief stabbed through her like the pointed end glistening in the case’s spotlight. She considered punching the glass and stealing it, letting it cut her so she could take what she knew she could never remove.
Her skin iced over when the bell rang. She slogged to her place next to Reese, heartbroken.
Keeping his eyes forward, he said, “Did you make a report?”
She shook her head, stomach curdling.
He blew out a breath. “This is bad. Real bad.”
“I know,” Tuesday whispered. “I feel…”
Naima barked a command, and Tuesday knew exactly where her leader’s gaze rested. Tuesday’s temples pounded during assignments. She glanced around in horror at the collector’s jostling, the smug comments about gaining the highest score, the biggest shard, setting a record. It was so much more than this. More than their flippant comments.
“Tuesday, you’re going to—”
“No!” Tuesday cried, cutting Naima off.
The room fell silent, all eyes on her. Naima placed her hand on her chest in offense.
“What are you doing?” Reese said through his teeth.
Tuesday stood, throwing her chair back. She slammed her fist on the table. “You don’t understand. It’s real. The pain is real. And it…” She didn’t have the vocabulary. “It hurts.”
“What are you talking about?” Naima asked, eyes narrowed in concern.
Agony coiled around Tuesday, squeezing her heart and constricting her lungs. She bolted out the door, past the trophy room, running until she couldn’t catch her breath. It didn’t matter if she stole the shard of pain on the stand. The pain stayed with her.
She streamed across town, through busy intersections and around people who gaped at her, until she arrived in a place distant from headquarters. Tuesday screamed until she feared her throat would tear. Her face was soaked with bitter tears.
It wasn’t fair. She had taken the pain, but it would never leave the woman, the husband, the nurses who did their duties that day. It would never leave Tuesday, either.
A little red rock formed inside her, growing, burning. Nothing soothed or relieved it. It seemed lost, like it didn’t have a home, banging around without direction, yearning to be free.
It was then she knew. She knew the mother’s pain, and why it was different than anything she’d seen in all her years of collection.
It was love with nowhere to go.