shining the spotlight on short story collections
author of Mother America, reviewed by Susan Haigh
How long did it take to write all the stories in your collection?
About three years – my last collection came out in 2009.
Did you have a collection in mind when you were writing them?
Yes and no. It’s hard at this point in my writing life not to imagine stories being collected. Once the theme of mothers and sons seemed to emerge, I found myself being influenced a bit by that (for better or worse).
How did you choose which stories to include and in what order?
I left out any recent stories that didn’t fit with the others – ones that didn’t have much to say about motherhood one way or another. Order-wise – this is something I agonise over. I put stories I am fond of first and last. Then I do up a chart of the stories, listing POV, sex of the main character/narrator, setting etc. and I try to mix it up in terms of all of that, while also trying to achieve a change in tone from story to story. It’s tricky.
What does the word “story” mean to you?
When I come to read someone else’s story I want to be transported as much by what is going on as by the language used to tell the story. A story is a thing of many parts, rather than something as clear as beginning, middle, end. Something must happen and I want that something to be told to me in interesting language.
Do you have a “reader” in mind when you write stories?
No. I don’t write for other people. I aim for clarity (for the reader’s sake) but I don’t have an ideal reader in mind.
Is there anything you’d like to ask someone who has read your collection, anything at all?
Did you enjoy it? If so, in what way(s)?
How does it feel knowing that people are buying your books?
Fantastic, a privilege. It still amazes me when strangers say they have read one of my books. It’s a thrill.
What are you working on now?
Another novel (historical), stories, poems.
What are the last three short story collections you read?
Dubliners – James Joyce. The Shelter of Neighbours – Éilís Ní Dhuibhne. Memory Wall – Anthony Doerr. All of them fantastic in their own special ways. Joyce was in his early twenties when he wrote Dubliners – genius!