A J Kirby is an award winning writer of two published novels: Bully and The Magpie Trap
with A J Kirby
How long did it take you to write all the stories in your collection?
A J Kirby: The stories in Mix Tape
have all been previously published apart from one bonus track. They
were published on-line, in periodicals, journals and magazines, but
this is the first time they have appeared in one volume. They form
approximately 80% of my short story output over the past four years
(the rest is under contract still) and trace a path from my very early
writings to my more polished later stuff. I used to make mix tapes all
the time (still do, and not on iPod) and in putting this collection
together, it really felt like I was going back into the archives trying
to find the right "tracks" for each section of the book. Putting the
stories into a coherent structure was great fun and I hope that is
reflected in the reading. There's ups and downs in there, but I think
that reflects the fact I initially started writing to forcibly drag
myself out of one of life's ruts. The culmination of all the struggle
was the eventual publication of the book.
have a collection in mind when you were writing them?
Most of the pieces were written specifically for various short story
titles, many of them on-line, or in the US. I'd never actually thought
of publishing them all in one collection until it was brought up in a
book-signing session for my last novel, so in a way, I can say they are
here, inside one cover "due to popular demand", although it sounds
rather less impressive when I qualify that with a brief note about the
audience at that book-signing; mainly friends and family. There's a
real mix-bag of stories here which showcase my literary fiction as well
as my genre stuff. But if there's a common theme, and I'd like to think
there is, it's an exploration of various forms of being trapped and the
desire to escape, be it through serendipity, when an old man finds his
lost wedding ring growing within a cabbage in the allotment, through a
bizarre lottery, through murder, swapping identity or drink and drugs.
you choose which stories to include and in what order?
I've said, I'm something of a technophobe, so the stories here are
arranged like an old-school mix-tape, or a "Greatest Hits" catalogue.
And like all good mix-tapes, they chart the mood of the party, from the
excitable, laughable and crazy-ass to bitter-sweet and then maudlin,
and finally chilled out... I didn't want them to jar together in terms
of mood, so I've grouped them into a more coherent format.
does the word "story"
mean to you?
For me, your story is your voice; how you explain yourself to the
world. At the same time, it is an attempt to understand the world, and
your role within it, through your words. It's a way of working things
out, of attaining empathy, and of ultimately trying to entertain in so
Do you have a reader in mind when you write stories?
Most definitely. I used to run every single one of my stories past an
online writing partner. We have still never met, but instinctively, I
seem to know the types of thing she'd like to read. I like to imagine
how this electronic muse will react; will her face collapse into a
smile, a grimace, a frown?
anything you'd like to ask someone who has read your collection, anything at all?
AJK: Is there too much of a mix in this Mix Tape?
Does the genre fiction jar with the literary fiction? I like to think I
have a bit of a punk writing style which is evidenced in all the
different forms of my writing, but is this evident for the reader?
TSR: How does
it feel knowing that people are buying your book?
Wonderful and worrying at the same time. I suppose all writers must
feel a glow to know their stories are being read, and that's why the
majority of us write in the first place. But that emotion is quickly
superseded by worry. What if nobody likes the stories? Wouldn't they be
better still stuck on my overloaded hard drive where they won't bother
anyone? That being said, I'd like to thank every single person who's
bought one of my books, and also apologise to those of my friends and
family who receive marketing bumf for the latest release inside their
What are you working on now?
AJK: I'm currently working on a novel, provisionally entitled Moonwalking on Shingle.
It's a comic novel set on the north east coast but it's looking pretty
bloated at the moment and could do with a massive amount of editing.
I'm also working on a new short story which I hope to be able to submit
to the next Nemonymous collection, although I won't be able to give you
the title of that one for obvious reasons. This Nemonymous will be the
final one in the series, and, having appeared in the past two
collections I'll have all my fingers and toes crossed that my story
gets in. It's also rather sad that the collection is coming to an end.
the three most recent short story collections you've read?