George was born in South Wales. He studied French and English at
University, and has a Ph.D in contemporary French literature. He has
written articles on French theatre and pop music. His poetry and short
fiction have appeared in literary journals, and he was a prizewinner in
the 2001 Rhys Davies Competition.
with Brian George
How long did it take you to write all the stories in your collection?
George: About 12 years. There are 17 stories in the book,
so that comes in at about one and a half publishable stories a year!
Not a great strike rate. I tend to write very slowly, always changing
things as I’m going, putting stories away for some time after
I’ve ‘finished’ them, then coming back,
discarding things or radically revising.
TSR: Did you
have a collection in mind when you were writing them?
Not at first. As more stories came along, I
was aware that there were certain settings, themes, obsessions, which
kept cropping up in different guises, but this certainly
wasn’t something I consciously tried to achieve. After a
certain number of the stories had been published in half-decent
magazines I began to think it might be worth putting a collection
TSR: How did
you choose which stories to include and in what order?
After Stonebridge agreed to publish a
collection, I had a good look at everything I had. I soon decided some
weren’t good enough to go in a book, so those went to the
great rejection pile in the sky. Of the others, I pulled some apart,
tweaked the rest, then had another cull, until I was left with the ones
that eventually made it into the collection.
As for the running order, I was torn between grouping the stories with
similar themes together, or keeping them apart. In the end I decided to
try to mix things up a bit, to achieve a bit of variety. I tried to
begin and end with two of the stories I was happiest with.
Don’t know whether any readers agree!
TSR: Do you
have a "reader" in mind when you write stories?
No, definitely not when I first start writing a story. It’s
usually some idea, character, or even a phrase, a string of words,
which gets into my head and I have to try to explore it in a piece of
fiction. Later, when I’m revising and polishing, I do try to
take account of how it reads, how it feels in the mouth, so in that
sense I suppose I’m conscious of a reader, but I
don’t have some mental image of who that reader might be.
TSR: Is there
anything you'd like to ask someone who has read your
anything at all?
Which story worked best for you, and why?
TSR: How does it feel knowing that people are buying your book?
Well, I’m certainly not relying on sales of the book to pay
the mortgage, so I’m pretty relaxed about whether
it’s flying off the shelves or not! But the idea that even
just a few people I’ve never met are reading that crazy stuff
I wrote and maybe ‘getting’ what I was trying to
say – now that’s something else, perhaps the best
feeling you can have as a writer.
TSR: What are
you working on now?
Still writing short stories, getting feedback from other writers whose
opinions I trust – especially in the Fiction Workhouse
– and trying to put this new batch together to make up a
second collection. This time I’m trying to make it more
consciously a collection, with characters cropping up in more than one
story, some pieces acting as a sort of echo to others, plus the fact
that most of these stories are set in a particular district of Cardiff,
so that – hopefully – there’ll be a sort
of coherence to it. But I’m still some distance from
finishing that, yet. After that, who knows? People keep telling me I
need to expand some of my stories into a novel, so maybe I’ll
give that a go. Perhaps I’ll have retired from my job by
then, and have enough time to do it!
TSR: What are
the three most recent short story collections you've read?
Alentejo Blue by Monica Ali,
Circle Games by Jo Mazelis, and
The Whole story and other stories by Ali Smith.