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Alex Keegan 


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Website: 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."

Short Story Collections

 Ballistics
Salt Modern Fiction, 2008

Longlisted, 2009 Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award

Reviewed by Majella Cullinane

 Interview with Alex Keegan

The Short Review: 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?

AK: No. 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...

TSR: What does the word "story" mean to you?

AK:  I 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

TSR: Do you have a "reader" in mind when you write stories?

AK:  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?

AKI 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, Nathan Englander, 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, Carys Davies, Elizabeth Baines and I've just bought In Other Rooms, Other Wonders by Daniyal Mueenuddin But honestly, a month from now it would be a very different list