Carol Farrelly reads from ‘Wolf in the Ultraviolet’, published in Issue Thirteen of The Lonely Crowd. Carol Farrelly is a fiction writer, living in Scotland. She is the regional winner (Canada and Europe) of the 2021 Commonwealth Short Story Prize. Her stories have been published in journals such as Granta, Irish Times, New Writing Scotland…
Our Winter Readings series continues with an extract from Emma Venables’ brilliant Issue Thirteen short story: ‘A Conversation with Oma, 1968’. Emma Venables is a writer and academic, currently residing in the North-West of England. Her short and flash fiction has been widely published in places such as Mslexia, The Lonely Crowd, Ellipsis Zine, and The Forge Literary Magazine. Her short story, ‘Woman at Gunpoint, 1945’, came runner-up (3rd) in the Alpine Fellowship Writing Prize 2020. Her debut novel, Fragments of a Woman, will be published by Aderyn Press in June 2023. You can follow Emma on Twitter @EmmaMVenables
Watch Jane Fraser (Guest Fiction Editor of Issue Thirteen) read from the title story of her short story collection, Connective Tissue. You can purchase Issue Thirteen here and Connective Tissue here.
Contributors to The Lonely Crowd choose the books they have most enjoyed this year. Jo Mazelis It seems I am always catching up with myself, so the books I read are often lagging behind the times. For example, in 2022 I finally read The Driver’s Seat by Muriel Spark perhaps it was, by then, too late…
Contributors to The Lonely Crowd choose the books they have most enjoyed this year. Part Three follows later this week. Livi Michael Manchester Uncanny is the fifth collection of short stories from master craftsman Nicholas Royle. As suggested by the title, all the stories are set in Manchester, although it is a Manchester made…
Contributors to The Lonely Crowd choose the books they have most enjoyed this year. Part Two follows next week.
After reading each story once from beginning to end, I collated a list of sixty ‘maybes’. These were stories that would be read time and time again, though even at the early stages, there were some works that lingered long in the mind. Stories that would not go away. Even now, I have one particular story that rises to the fore, when I think of the whole batch I received. Whether readers would agree, I don’t know. That again, is the nature of this role, and the luxury of subjectivity. At this point, I had to become ruthless in terms of a writer’s control of the form, and also address how the fourteen stories would sit together as an anthology. I had to reject some stories, that although were good and would have otherwise made the cut, were too similar in theme with others that I deemed ‘better’.
In Death & Love on the Prairie, I wanted to encapsulate the vastness and unpredictability of nature by echoing the distinct feeling of expansiveness in my prose. With long, meandering sentences, I wanted the writing to mirror the ceaseless undulation of the story’s environment: the mighty plains and rolling valleys of the American West.
I don’t tend to make copious notes when writing short stories, and the notes I do have are often abstract. For example, one of the few points I’ve written about this story in my notebook is: ‘Granddaughter questions grandmother re: actions under Nazism.’ I prefer to meet and question the characters, the story, the setting, on the page. Often I’m surprised by what I learn – the granddaughter’s binge eating of potatoes, the grandmother storing photographs of her son beneath a cushion, the steps it takes to navigate from living room to apartment door – and enjoy the texture they add to the world of the story and the dynamics between characters. These details take the reader on detours, but I’m always conscious of bringing the focus back to the present moment of the story: a granddaughter and grandmother, a difficult conversation, in an apartment in West Berlin. I look for the lapses – the needless journeys – when editing.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.