CourttiaNewland.com

Courttia Newland published his first novel, The Scholar, in 1997. Further critically acclaimed work includes Society Within (1999) and Snakeskin (2002). He was the co-editor of IC3: The Penguin Book of New Black Writing in Britain (2000) and has short stories featured in many anthologies. Other books are The Dying Wish and a collection of stories, Music For the Off-Key (both 2006) and The Global Village (2009)


Short Story Collections

A Book of Blues
(Flambard Press, 2011)

reviewed by Arja Salafranca

Music for the Off-Key (2006)

reviewed by Sheila Cornelius

Interview with Courttia Newland (2011)

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

Courttia Newland: The stories took about four years. I'm not sure about that, but I know by 2008 I was thinking of a collection. I read the first story, Spider Man in Washington DC in 2007 so I'm counting from there. A lot of the stories were written in the last year or so.

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

CN: Not at first, but I quickly saw a common thread that ran through them. And once I had that it all came together. Stories came with the express purpose of fitting my theme. And once the book was sent to publishers and accepted, when there were ten, I was inspired enough to be able to see gaps and very write three before the book was edited. In the early days the stories were only meant as an aside from a novel, so I'm surprised they've been published first.

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

CN: They seemed to choose me. I heard voices! And they kept on repeating first lines until I wrote them! Because I had a theme, anything that wasn't about love in times of trauma was kept out. Though I left out some that followed the theme but were written for later collections, mainly because they were finished when many of the Blues stories were complete and it just didn't "feel" right to include them. Like it would throw things off. The order seemed to work itself out, though my fantastic editor Will Mackie thought we should move Miami Heat - the longest story - to the center, instead of second where I'd placed it. Barring that it's pretty much the same as when I submitted.

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

CN: A crystal I can hold in my hands, turn left and right to reflect the sun. Seen from different angles, the crystal seems to change colour, properties, even weight. No two sides are the same.

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

CN: Not really, just someone who enjoys stories like I do.

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

CN: What do you think?

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

CN: Like a warm bath.

TSR: What are you working on now?

CN: A novel first and foremost, a play, many stories, still trying to raise money for my film script (ho-hum)...

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

CN: The Big Picture, Percival Everett, Slap Boxing with Jesus, Victor Lavelle, The Knife Thrower, Stephen Millhauser. And I know you said three but can I give a special mention to Cannery Row, John Steinbeck? Not sure if it counts but I consider that one life changing.




Interview with Courttia Newland (2007)

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

Courttia Newland: The collection had many guises and titles. I've effectively been writing it from the late nineties (the oldest story was written in '98). It was called West Side Stories, When Gods Lived, then Music For The Off-Key. I finished the last story in 2005.


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

CN: Always! But it was difficult getting the stories published - they are few short story collections by Black British writers, notwithstanding Jackie Kay, and to propose a collection where I wasn't doing my usual 'urban' thing was near enough unthinkable for publishers. So it took a lot longer before Peepal Tree took it on. I ended up swapping older stories for more recent, better crafted ones. It certainly made the collection stronger!


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

CN: I usually go by a gut instinct - the ones I like best - when choosing what to include. One got dropped when I talked with my editor and we realised there were flaws in the story too great to rectify. I tried to make each one completely different from the last so that it showed the diversity of the character's experiences. My fiancee chose the order of the stories, as I needed an outside eye and I think she was spot on!


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

CN: Not in particular, just anyone who loves a good story.

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

CN: Am I making any sense? lol... Seriously, I'd like to know if there seems to be an overall theme emerging; and if the books are getting better of course!

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

CN: It is, and shall always be, one of the best feelings in the world.

TSR: What are you working on now?

CN: I've just finished a novel called Minx, the screen adaptation of The Scholar, and I'm finishing up a new collection of shorts, The Book of Blue(s). The theme of the collection is sex, love and relationships.

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

CN: Babylon by Alix Ohlin, Bronx Biannual Vol.1 edited by Miles Marshall Lewis, and Roman Tales by Albert Morvania

 
                     
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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 >>>