Boot Camp Keegan.blogspot.com
Alex Keegan began writing
seriously in 1992, publishing five mystery novels before switching to
serious short fiction. He has been published widely in print and on the
web and been awarded more than a dozen first prizes for his fiction as
well as three Bridport Prizes. Born in Wales with an Irish mother, he
now lives and writes in Newbury, England where he lives with his second
wife and two teenage children. He runs a tough internet writing school,
"Boot Camp Keegan."
with Alex Keegan
How long did it take you to write all the stories in your collection?
Alex Keegan: Tricky question! Individual stories take not so long to write (I write quickly) but this set (except for Happy as Larry)
were produced over many of my earlier years as a writer. Without doing
a lot of digging to search out first-written
dates I would say there must be a MINIMUM of ten years between the
oldest and newest (could be longer!!)
The reason for that is the nature of this collection (that is how we
chose the stories)
I'm quite prolific and have published probably 100 short stories. In
the end we decided to collect the major prize-winners to give the
collection a theme.
(I use Ballistics as a teaching vehicle.)
TSR: Did you
have a collection in mind when you were writing them?
When I first started I wrote five crime novels which did quite well,
but I felt I was still learning to write
I started to write serious shorts and was much happier (and paid even
less) doing that.
But I was just writing, running Boot Camp. If I asked people to write a
story, then I had to. Every one of these stories was a Boot Camp story.
Just this story, then another, was my motto.
Collections were a long way off.
TSR: How did
you choose which stories to include and in what order?
AK: With great difficulty! Ballistics was first because that was a good title for the collection.
Happy as Larry was last for two reasons. First it has its own "close" which also closes the book.
Second it represents where I'm writing NOW.
All bar Larry are earlier, prize-winning stories. I think I've moved on from then
although these are more popular...
does the word "story"
mean to you?
am answering to the question SHORT-story, not novel (or a story-line of
a play or film)
A story is something which wobbles reality, affects a change in the
reader, shakes things enough that we see anew. I do not much care for
the American style "condensed novel" sometimes called
a short-story. Shortness (under 10K) is not my definition of a short
story. A short-story should, I think,
have poetic elements and should think of itself as an extended poem,
not necessarily poetically languaged
but trying to unseat the reader, with a single insight, a beautiful
phrase or the perfectly placed punctuation mark
have a "reader" in mind when you write stories?
Yes, an intelligent woman I'd like to sleep with.
I find expressing myself (especially nowadays (example, Larry) as extremely intimate.
I often feel I "go naked" when I write, and for me writing is very similar to being with someone
and trying to get them to understand what it's like inside my head.
(To be Frank, a lot of these stories are NOT like that, but that's another, um, story.)
TSR: Is there
anything you'd like to ask someone who has read your collection,
anything at all?
AK: Are you very rich? Can you send me money?
I sincerely wish readers challenged authors more, asked questions, wondered about this and that.
I do think we have a tendency to passively absorb
TSR: How does it feel knowing that people are buying your book?
AK: Nice. But I have no idea how many strangers buy a book of short-stories!
TSR: What are
you working on now?
AK: NOW (in June) I am "blasting" trying to write 100,000 words. I have completed
The Ballistics Handbook I and have three-quarters finished The Ballistics Handbook II.
They are Craft of Writing books but there will need to be at least three volumes, maybe four.
I've just finished putting together two collections, one of shorter flashes (up to 900 words but mostly shorter)
and a second collection of longer flashes 850-1100 words.
I am one story away from finishing a third collection of shorts called War Stories.
I have a novel in the pipeline based in World War II (but not much of a war story) and another
based around my young life, my mother, and The Profumo Affair (but it's a novel.)
TSR: What are
the three most recent short story collections you've read?
don't read collections in one go. I savour them. All I can tell you
(and it's more than three) is that I have a pile of books
and I choose to read ONE story from ONE book, then another. There are
good reasons for this. I write every day (and copiously)
and I don't want one author getting in my head.
I have a pile always nearby. In particular Saul Bellow, Alice Munro,
, Hemingway, Best American Short Stories of the
Century, John Cheever, F Scott Fitzgerald, Steve Almond,
Rachel Trezise, Helen Simpson, Denis Johnson, Gina Ochsner and five
SALT Books, Charles Lambert
, Vanessa Gebbie
, Tania Hershman
, Elizabeth Baines
and I've just bought In Other Rooms, Other Wonders
But honestly, a month from now it would be a very different list