Wednesday, June 10, 2015

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY: Francis H. Powell, Author, Artist, Musician

Francis H. Powell, Musician, Artist,
Francis H. Powell offers us 22 short stories in FLIGHT OF DESTINY about “misfortune” with “unexpected final twists.” He does not supply heroes –rather “particularly odious characters or the downtrodden, the freaks, outsiders of this world” –but with a sense of humor. He likes to “poke fun at the establishment.”

Originally from the U.K., Powell attended Art Schools and received a degree in painting and MA in printmaking. A published author, he currently lives in Paris – having spent time also working and living in Austria. He teaches a variety of topics, and is also a composer of music. He is looking forward to publishing a second book of short stories.  

Q: FLIGHT OF DESTINY includes 22 short stories that you describe as stories about misfortune with “unexpected final twists.” What drove you to write what appears to be dark fiction? And what genre would you place them in?

Francis H. Powell: I became a dedicated “short story writer”, after I saw an advertisement in a magazine, which was looking for short stories.  It took a while but I finally connected with the originator of this magazine, Alan Clark, who like me is from the UK.  The name of the magazine was “Rat Mort” (dead rat).  I was encouraged to write more stories similar to the one I submitted and over the passing of time I began to develop a style.  The fact that I aimed to produce “stories with an unexpected twist” is a result of reading a book of short stories by Roald Dahl” called “Kiss Kiss” which I read as a child, but obviously a book that resonated long after in my mind.

Q: Is it difficult when writing short stories to develop characters? How do you entice readers to engage with your characters?

Francis H. Powell: I write about particularly odious characters or the downtrodden, the freaks, outsiders of this world.  I establish what a character is about very early in the story.  Sometimes the names of the characters say a lot about them, for example “Bugeyes” is a character cruelly mocked, rejected at birth, denied his inheritance, due to large eyes, a genetic disorder passed on by his inbred aristocratic family.

Q: What roles, if any, do villains and heroes play in your stories?

Francis H. Powell: I am not sure that I could say there is a hero in any of my stories…most of my characters are flawed in some way or other.  There are certainly a number of villainous characters, for example a character called “Maggot” who tries to sell his daughter, because he needs money for his ailing circus.  I like to turn things on their head, so characters normally deemed virtuous, such as preachers and religious types, come across  in a bad light, inhumane, and a Gangster, (who features in my story “Opium”) comes across as being wise and more humane.

Q: How helpful is humor to telling your stories in FLIGHT OF DESTINY?

Francis H. Powell: It is vital. Hopefully this comes across. I am mocking the establishment. Humor adds another tone to my work. I like my characters to say witty and wise remarks.  There is quite a lot of verbal jousting.  My favorite line comes from the gangster called “Gecko” who says to his adversary Preacher Moon, “ belief in a cruel God makes a cruel man”.

Q: Do you intend to deliver any messages in your stories? Or are you writing to entertain your readers?

Francis H. Powell: I suppose a bit of both.  I guess one of my messages is, we live in such a cruel and unjust world.

Q: You also write poetry. Do you choose the same topics for poetry as for short stories? When do you prefer poetry over prose?

Francis H. Powell: I have written poems that perhaps are in the same vain as my short stories.  Some of these poems would work alongside some of my short stories. I am not sure I have preference.

Q: You are also a musician who composes music. Do you connect with the same kind of emotional or creative characteristics to write as you do to compose? Does your music have “unexpected final twists?” (unlike Beethoven whose endings tend to go on a bit.)

Francis H. Powell: I am not sure I could say my music has unexpected twists…it is not part of my thought process when I write music. However I am sure there are lots of links with the creative things I do. I went to art school, and this has influenced me in a big way.

Q:  You were born in England, lived in Austria, and now in France. Do you believe that your living in several countries influenced your writing? For example, I associate dark stories and movies and Debussy with the French; Shakespearean drama/comedy, Monty Python, and Elgar with the British; and, great sachertorte and the waltz with the Austrians.

Francis H. Powell: There is definitely a big chunk of “Britishness” in my stories. I am poking fun at the establishment. Living abroad makes you an “outsider”. Maybe also you think back to your home country and think of it in a different light.  I think I am still very much traumatized by my British upbringing and time spent in an austere boarding school, which happened to be located in a rather picturesque part of the English countryside. 

My time in Austria was a real eye opener to me.  I was living in a remote village, but worked and often travelled to Vienna.  It wasn’t the most friendly of environments and I was involved in a very complicated and traumatic relationship at the time, with a beautiful but also emotionally unbalanced Austrian woman.   We moved to the UK, and I found it very hard to reintegrate.  Our relationship got more and more strained.  She then fell in love with a student at the school she was working in.  “Betrayal” is a theme that runs through some of my stories.  I have included a reference to Paris in one of my stories. There is a womanizing French waiter and a character gets pushed onto the metro line, in the same story. I have accumulated a lot of unusual experiences while living abroad.

Q:  What’s next?

Francis H. Powell: I would love to have a second book of short stories published.

Q: Tell us about Francis H. Powell. What do you like to do when you’re not writing or composing music?

Francis H. Powell: I am a teacher, I teach in a number of places. My most pleasant teaching jobs, involve teaching young architects. I am far from being an expert on architecture, however thankfully Fine Art is also a big part of their course so I can talk about art and artists.

I also teach in some public universities and teach both British and American culture. I am as I mentioned an “artist” so when I have the time I paint and make sculptures from “objet trouv√©” …you would be surprised what people throw out…

About Francis H. Powell

Born in 1961, in Reading, England Francis H. Powell attended Art Schools, receiving a degree in painting and an MA in printmaking. In 1995, Powell moved to Austria, teaching English as a foreign language while pursuing his varied artistic interests adding music and writing. He currently lives in Paris, songwriting, doing concerts, writing both prose and poetry. Powell has published short stories in the magazine, “Rat Mort” and other works on the internet site "Multi-dimensions.”

FLIGHT OF DESTINY is a collection of short stories about misfortune. They are characterized by unexpected final twists that come at the end of each tale. They are dark and surreal tales, set around the world, at different time periods. They show a world in which anything can happen. It is hard to determine reality and what is going on in a disturbed mind. People’s conceptions about morality are turned upside down. A good person can be transformed by an unexpected event into a bad person and then back again to their former state The high and mighty often deliver flawed arguments, those considred wicked make good representations of themselves. Revenge is often a subject explored.



The task of placing a name, can be niggling, but what if this task becomes an obsession and the person behind the name a dark specter?

“Mr. Weisler is coming! Mr. Weisler is coming! Mr. Weisler is coming!” The words swirled around in his head like a rampant tornado, scooping up all his thoughts, amplifying them until the mixture seemed ready to devour him. Yet, what was vexing him was that he could neither connect to nor put a fact to the name.


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