Rathlin is beautiful. It is a wild and battered beauty, craggy and stark. It’s an island off an island, a remote corner of a remote corner. There is a lonesome quality to the place, a sense of outpost in its lighthouses, its seabirds who come and go with the seasons.
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On Writing ‘Wolf in the Ultraviolet’ / Carol Farrelly
I think this was the start of Sam’s story, ‘Wolf in the Ultraviolet’. Here is a girl who doesn’t want to cry because of the cost. I decided she must already know the cost. She’s suffered a traumatic loss; she’s seen her world turn dark; she’s felt herself prey. And so, Sam wants to be able to see in the dark, sense any attack, like a horse.
On writing ‘Easter’ / Livi Michael
I have noticed this trend in a few of my short stories recently, a tendency to point to a different layer of self, operating below the surface. The short story is a better vehicle for this unpicking or unravelling process than the novel because of its compression, which allows for the kind of intensity that generates these moments of awareness, or recognition.
Writing ‘OREOS’ / Tim MacGabhann
I hate cruelty. It’s why I became a reporter: I thought writing about cruelty would do something. It’s also why I stopped: writing about cruelty doesn’t do anything. There seemed to be no space in news to write about things in a way that would really transport readers into the lives, minds, and nerves of the people they were seeing in the news. I think only fiction can do that, really, so I started writing novels and stories again in 2015 or so. Whether or not it’s politically useful to write about anything is an open question, but I think crime gets closest.
Glitter in the wreckage: short fiction, collective grief, and remote connection / Claire Carroll
In spring 2020, I developed an obsession with the idea of collective grief. This is probably not surprising, given that we were in the midst of a global pandemic. I was supposed to be using this time to plan and write a series of short stories set in a dystopian British Isles of the near future. My collection of short stories was intended to imagine the future of our country as it further subsided, both ecologically and politically. I wanted to explore climate fiction from a geographically British perspective; interrogating the possibilities for writing that reflected the experience of living here as the world changes. But before I had made much progress with the project, the real world collapsed into my speculative pitch. My plan for spring 2020 had been to visit locations to research settings for my stories, instead I found myself wandering along country lanes on Google Earth or descending Wikipedia rabbit holes.
Growing Chestnuts / Dave Wakely
This sub-text of violence and hostility runs throughout the story, from the blood-red of the pomegranate juice staining neighbours’ hand as they share a meal in a garden to the conker dust that gets into eyes like “shrapnel from an exploding shell.” The language of war arrives in the story before the bullet, just as the other-ing rhetoric of conflict and difference arrives in communities before fists and bullets. Even the jocularity comes with a threat: “The way Adrijan hugged him and laughed, spilling his wine, I thought he’d break my father’s ribs.”
On Writing ‘The Mansion House’ / Elaine Canning
The interplay between the real and fantastical as a conduit for self-discovery is something which I explore within the broader parameters of my writing. In Carlos’ case, this is encapsulated in his encounter with the old man of the mansion house and his subsequent undertaking of three challenges; challenges fused with a darker side of his day to day reality and the unreal, with three doors, three sightings of his sister and the transformation of the three adults who care for him.
ON ANECDOTES AND HUMAN SOUP / Madeleine D’Arcy
An anecdote, in itself, is not enough to create a work of fiction. However, I disagree with the fictional Uncle Sima. For me, anecdotes are jumping off points, thought-provoking fodder and inspiration for my work. Of course, an anecdote has to be twisted and turned, stretched, recalibrated, reinterpreted and wrought into a piece of fiction that works. What I am always trying to achieve is a story that has resonance, subtext, emotional heft, significance of some kind; an insight into why people are the way they are and why they do the things they do. My fiction is mostly realistic and character-driven, so the anecdotes and throw away lines I hear on a bus or a train or in the supermarket or the pub are essential and without them, I don’t have a stepping-off point that leads me into something else.
Writing Bathsheba / Tracey Rhys
Tracey Rhys on the impetus for her four Bathsheba poems in Issue Twelve. There has only been one dream in my life that I have ever written about, although I’ve often woken up convinced that I’d dreamt the best plot ever, only to realise … well, it was a bit shit really. This one was…
In Conversation with Horatio Clare / Catherine Wilkinson
My best writing however, comes from a place of contentment, a place in nature – a calm sort of high is what drives my pen. So as to mania and creativity, I would concur with Jeanette Winterson – in Why be Happy when you could be Normal? – that madness does not inspire, but that creativity is the means by which one defeats madness. Creativity was a slow ladder out of it all.
An Interview with Catherine McNamara / Rachael Smart
Rachael Smart: Firstly, congratulations on Love Stories for Hectic People, a collection which excavates love in all of its forms. It is tender and wounding, erotic and transporting, it takes both regular and extraordinary moments in love and offers up brief narratives that are oblique and always unflinching. Your former collections, Pelt and The Cartography…
So, Did This Really Happen to You? / Catherine McNamara
Truth and Fiction in Story-Telling When I was a young, confused graphic design student, in the long-ago days of collage and drawing boards, I remember train rides across Sydney to art college. I remember the obsessions of a late, damaged teenagehood involving the death of a child, years of classical piano, Tchaikovsky LPs, warped discotheques…
As far as I’m concerned, this experiment is over & you can come home now… / Lauren Mackenzie
Lauren Mackenzie discusses ‘Free Love’, her short story in Issue Twelve. You can listen to Lauren read the story here. ‘Free Love’ is one story from an interconnected collection called That Sky That Sky which I am currently writing about a family set in Australia and Ireland over the last fifty years. The idea for…
On Writing ‘The Words He Said’ / Elizabeth Baines
Elizabeth Baines reads an extract from her short story, ‘The Words He Said’, published in Issue Twelve. See the site tomorrow for Elizabeth’s short essay on the composition of the story. Listen to Elizabeth read an extract from the story here. ‘The Words He Said’ is a story about the years-long consequences of a single…