How to Write About Love Like a Man: Dan Rhodes and Flash Fiction

Posted by February 13th, 2014

I read Women’s Fiction more ardently than almost any genre, but even I sometimes get tired of the pink frilly covers that come with it. That’s what makes the cover of Dan Rhodes’s story collection MARRY ME feel fun and a little subversive: It plays on a lot of the Women’s Fiction (or chick lit) tropes and turns them on their head.

Spend an evening–perhaps tomorrow evening, if you don’t have other plans–with this book, and you’ll be delighted to read about marriage and domestic coupling from a fresh–if often rather cynical–perspective. Dan writes “short shorts” or “flash fiction”–extremely brief stories not much longer than a page, even just a paragraph. In honor of Valentine’s Day, Dan shares my favorite of his stories with the Book Country community, and stays for a chat about how to write about love like a man. Read his story “Science,” and try writing your own short short to share on this Book Country Discussion Board or in the comment section below.

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Science

I was delighted when my scientist girlfriend agreed to become my fiancée. “This is the happiest moment of my life,” I said.

“Mine too,” she replied. “I’m experiencing an unprecedented rush of dopamine and norepinephrine. Of course the production of these particular neurotransmitters will decrease over time, but I have a pretty good feeling that our vasopressin levels will remain adequate, and we’ll be fine for the long haul. But never mind all that,” she said, taking off her goggles and unbuttoning her lab coat. “What do you say we release a bit of the old oxytocin?”

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Dan RhodesLS: MARRY ME is a collection of short shorts about marriage—and almost all of them (spoiler alert!) have unhappy endings. Anyone going through a breakup this Valentine’s Day will gladly embrace the book, but give us your best pitch why the romantics among us might want to read your book, too.

DR: Even the most happily coupled people tend to have excruciating romantic histories, so even if you live in a world of hearts and flowers it won’t do you any harm to be reminded of what might have been. But quite honestly, this book is more likely to be appreciated by those who find Valentine’s Day to be a crushing ordeal. Thwarted romantics, in other words. I was one for years, and I still harbor a residual dislike for February 14th – a day when incredibly fortunate people are further rewarded with pink treats.

Marry Me CoverLS: I’m so used to the “Big Books” we usually see on “must read” lists. What draws you to short shorts? How did you get started writing them?

Years ago I picked up a book called THE SADNESS OF SEX by Barry Yourgrau, and learned that it was possible to write very short stories about girls. This coincided with the crushing realization that I had no musical talent and would never write a decent song, so I decided to try and bring fiction as close to the three minute pop song as I could. That resulted in my book ANTHROPOLOGY, and with Marry Me I’ve returned to that ground. I think it helped that I wrote this one in a year when I was moving house and we had our second baby on the way so it was hard to concentrate on anything for longer than a few minutes at a time.

LS: Your cover is pink, which is rare for male writers of Literary Fiction. Why does this work for your book?

DR: At first glance it might appear to be a thoroughly nauseating cover, but closer inspection reveals it to have its tongue in its cheek. I really like it. I tend to avoid both the “guns ‘n’ ammo” and the “searching for Mr. Right” ends of the reading spectrum, so to me there’s no dramatic gender divide.

Dan Rhodes getting marriedDan Rhodes got married in San Francisco City Hall in 2004. They said it wouldn’t last, but so far so good. He tells us that he has written seven other books and won a bunch of prizes. He lives in Derbyshire, England. You can connect with Dan via his author website, on Twitter, on Goodreads, and on Facebook. MARRY ME is available in the US from Europa Editions. You can also listen to a selection of the stories being read here.

Want to share a “short short” on the Book Country Discussion Boards? Do so here.

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