What motivates you to write?
For the most part, it is a compulsion. Stories rattle around in my head, taking up all my mental capacity. The only to deal with it is to get the damn thing down on paper. Once that is done I can get on with things like making coffee or tying my shoelaces.
What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
Getting the first draft down. As I write I can usually hear that the words are not as clear or beautiful as they were in my head. The key is to quash the doubts and keep writing. But that first moment of fingers on keyboard: terrifying.
Do you use beta readers, and if so, roughly how many?
Oh yes. I’m part of an online writing group. They are fellow story writers, and lovers of words. Over the years they have also become dear friends. We tend to enter the same competitions, submit to the same markets, but there is a never a hint of needle or envy – if one succeeds we all rejoice. Alongside getting published it is the best thing about my writing life. What’s great is that they all bring different things to the table, be it grammar, structure, specialist topic knowledge and so on. A short piece may get half a dozen reviewers, more if we’re in the midst of a competition, longer works typically get fewer. And sorry, membership is very tightly controlled.
From “Désolé Habibti” by Ali Abbas
He let the tears take their course. When she looked up, she saw the passing shoppers pretending not to look into the car, voyeurs to her tragedy. “Take me away from here.”
She sensed no motion. A grey void replaced the car but lasted no more than a second. Her eyes burned with the brightness of the moon reflected in water and the taste of salt in the air. Her legs were still in the sitting position from the car. She fell into the sea, her hands sinking wrist-deep in soft sand. Surf rustled up the beach behind her. The water was night cold, shocking and reviving. He held out a cotton-sleeved hand to haul her up, and she took it, laughing with abandon.
The moon caught against his white teeth when he smiled.
This was a seduction. Not planned, but he had lived among humans for a thousand years, and no doubt, he had perfected the art. It was a seduction, and she did not care. After almost a year of withdrawal and worry, and the knowledge of sorrow to come, this was something she would have for herself. But she wanted something first.
She pushed away gently. “Show me your true form.”
He took two more steps back, surefooted in the waves that lapped up to his knees and soaked the linen of his trousers. Then the clothes and the long hair and the perfect teeth were gone, and before her stood a figure of fire, a lean man caught in an inferno. The water hissed and steamed; the sea around her thighs grew warm.
She reached out a hand towards him, feeling the heat radiating. The fire drew back from his hand, red and smooth. He led her to the beach, leaving a trail of glass footprints in the sand. They cracked and shattered with the cold water, the shards dragged out to sea with the tide.
Ali Abbas is a writer, carpenter and photographer born and bred in London. He is the author of Like Clockwork, a steampunk mystery published by Transmundane Press; Image and Other Stories, a collection of seven short stories that examine themes of love, loss and the haunting nature of bad decisions; and Hajj – My Pilgrimage, a light-hearted and secular look at the pilgrimage to Mecca that is at the heart of the Islamic faith.
His short story / love letter to London, “An Absolute Amount of Sadness,” was published by Mad Scientist Journal in their Fitting In anthology, and his ghost story “The Girl Who Gives Me Sunsets” will be published in their forthcoming Utter Fabrication anthology.