Flash Frontier

Book: Heather McQuillan, Where Oceans Meet

Interviews and Features

About the book

Where Oceans Meet is a collection of stories in which characters yearn for connection but sometimes find, as in the title story, that “when the vectors of the oceans’ wave fronts meet at an angle sometimes they cancel each other, sometimes they compound with spectacular results”. The collection is built around restrained, suppressed and faltering voices. Flash fiction, with its constraints, compression of language, and the need to build what is not said into the writing, offered a compelling device through which to explore this theme.

Read more about the book at Reflex Fiction.

Available from September 3rd
Available from Reflex Press (International) or email Heather (NZ)

Quiet and deeply absorbing, these stories creep under your skin with their pressing sense of longing.

Michelle Elvy

Excerpts from the collection


From Blessings

I slipped from my mum like a jellyfish. Membrane covered my mouth and nose, and I was silent. The midwife split my cocoon, and when I cried that first breath, she praised the Lord for the miracle I was. Mum never believed in miracles or lucky charms, but all the same, she dried my caul on a sheet of paper above the coal range, then flattened it between the pages of the only bible in the house: a battered King James Dad’s aunt had left behind when she shuffled off this mortal coil. When I was six, I called it my ‘mortal caul’ until Mum put me right on that.

From There’s Always Tomorrow

Elegance was not her forte. Her fingers thudded the piano keys, challenging her young giddy-throated singers to keep up with her. Then Miss Simmon’s heart gave out. It wasn’t a sudden thing to her. It took an age for the tingle, the tiny spot of heat to flow and spread, to bud off into petals of explosion, the heat and then the cooling as breath seeped through teeth, sweat through pores, and urine through pantyhose.

Ralph Kidman sat in the recess beneath the piano, his knees touching the wooden leg. Vibrations coursed through timber to make his skin cells dance. When the others stopped, he carried on in solo…

From She Asked to Be Swathed in Purple and Orange

My favourite picture in the album is of Pam straddling a motorbike pressed against a broad leather back. A bowling- ball helmet dangles from her hand. Pam said she couldn’t remember his name, ‘But he had a gorgeous big bike.’

Uncle Hoani peels out the photo. ‘It’s all yours. I don’t need reminding she knew men with bigger bikes than me.’ His hand trembles with a wiri like shimmering water.

‘I get the joke,’ I say.

He grins, even on a day like this.

From Misspoken

It had never occurred to me until this morning that objects could abandon their true names, relocate, and pick up where they left off. I’ve just picked a lovely bunch of dolphins, named and arranged them in a vase on the kitchen bench, where they exude mammalian saltiness.

Heather McQuillan is a writer and teacher based in Christchurch, New Zealand. She has featured in Flash Frontier regularly since her first story was published in 2014. In 2016 she was placed first in both the NZ National Flash Fiction Day prize and the Micro Madness prize. Her work has been selected for publication in Best Small Fictions 2017 and 2019, Best Microfiction 2019, Meniscus, Bonsai, Takehē, Reflex Fiction, Blue Fifth Review and the UK National Flash Fiction Day and the Bath Flash Fiction anthologies. She has a Masters of Creative Writing with Distinction from Massey University.
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