An award winning poet and fiction writer, Catherine Smith teaches creative writing at the University of Sussex and for the Arvon foundation. Her poetry has been shortlisted for The Forward Prize and she is currently working on her next collection.

Short Story Collections

Book Title
(Publisher, Date)

reviewed by Melissa Lee-Houghton

Interview with Catherine Smith

The Short Review: How long did it take you to write all the stories in your collection?

Catherine Smith: I suppose in total about 13 years! - in that some were originally written on my MA at Sussex, many moons ago. I re-wrote several, though, when I knew they were going to be "collected". The most recent were written last year.

TSR: Did you have a collection in mind when you were writing them?

CS: When I started writing short stories, I was practising my craft and was just delighted when they started being published in short story journals. About six years ago I began to seriously consider the prospect of a collection. I had a contract with Bluechrome originally....but sadly Bluechrome folded. However, I think this collection is stronger, because it's been more rigorously edited and has had a longer and more thoughtful gestation.

TSR: How did you choose which stories to include and in what order?

CS: I chose the ones I thought worked best; the ones which seemed to say something that needed saying. The ones where I felt a real fondness for the characters, even the really naughty ones. The order was tricky. My wonderful editor, Vicky Wilson, suggested we start with Every Seven Seconds, as it's quite an edgy story and pulls the reader in (kicking and screaming?!)

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

CS: "Story" to me means digging under the surface of the action to find out what's really happening.

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

CS: Not specifically. I write to please myself, certainly for the first draft. I'm pretty broad minded, so I don't censor what I write. I really hope men as well as women enjoy the stories; I don't want to only write for one gender, or one age group.

TSR: Is there anything you'd like to ask someone who has read your collection, anything at all?

CS: Er...did you find any of the stories funny? I think some of them are darkly funny but that might just be my warped sense of humour!

TSR: How does it feel knowing that people are buying your book?

CS: It feels very gratifying and humbling. I hope they feel they've had good value for money!

TSR: What are you working on now?

CS: I'm editing some poems for my next poetry collection, Otherwhere, which will be published by Smith/Doorstop (The Poetry Business)....some time. I'm co-writing a radio play with a writing friend. I have a novel roughly planned and I'd like to write some new short stories with a linking theme. I do love short stories and the more time I spend reading/writing them, the more I enjoy and am excited by this genre.

TSR: What are the three most recent short story collections you've read?

CS: Vanessa Gebbie's Storm Warning (Salt) , Stuart Evers Ten Stories About Smoking (Picador), Alasdair Campbell's Visiting the Bard and Other Stories (Polygon)
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Find out what other authors, from Aimee Bender to Sana Krasikov, said about their collections, what the word "story" means to them, and how it feels to know that people are buying your books! More interviews >>>