was born in Yeovil but
lived in Wakefield West Yorkshire for most of her childhood. She
studied Film at the University of Kent before working at the British
Film Institute for thirteen years.
Erinna left the BFI in 2004 to
move to Brighton and raise a family, and, in 2007, just after the
birth of her second son, took the certificate of creative writing at
Sussex University to give her something to do that wasn't associated
with housework or childcare. Most of Starlings was written during the
She is currently studying for the
MA, as well as working on her second novel Pamela's Dream. She was
one of the founding members of Rattle Tales.
with Erinna Mettler
How long did it take you to write all the stories in your collection?
Erinna Mettler: It took 9 months from writing the first story to getting a
reasonable first draft that could be sent out to publishers, but
while I was sending it out I was constantly reviewing it and then
prior to publication it went through a couple of edits. All in all
it was exactly two years from my first rejection letter to the
have a collection in mind when you were writing them?
EM: The first one was just a story but then the second I wrote linked in
with it and by the third or fourth I knew they belonged together.
you choose which stories to include and in what order?
EM: I didn't reject any stories. The first and last story were always
very much that, but the ones in between are much more flexible. Some
of them have to appear early in the narrative because they impart a
knowledge that helps with later episodes, but there is no linear
chronology in the book so you could dip in and out if you wanted to.
I tried to mix things up a bit, not have sad stories next to each
other or characters appearing in several stories in a row, I wanted
readers to make connections for themselves.
does the word "story"
mean to you?
EM: Well it doesn't mean beginning middle and end. Form is important to
me but I like to play with it, to involve the reader in making sense
of it. I think a story should always create a strong emotional
response in the reader; happiness, sadness, anger, unease, anything
Do you have a reader in mind when you write stories?
EM: Yes - It's me. Essentially I write what I want to read and I don't
really care about anyone else. Of course if other people like it too
then that makes me very happy but if I'm honest I'm always slightly
surprised when they do.
anything you'd like to ask someone who has read your collection, anything at all?
EM: I'd like to ask them if it made them think about the assumptions
they make about other people. That's what the book is about, how
people don't really know anything about the people who live in the
same town but make judgements anyway. Everyone has an internal life
and nobody but them can even guess at what's inside.
TSR: How does
it feel knowing that people are buying your book?
EM: Terrifying! And exciting. I went into my local Waterstones and there
it was on the shelf, it's a wierd experience. I feel a bit detached
from it like it has nothing to do with me. I'm not sure what people
are going to make of it, I think it's probably a love or hate thing.
In general I am filled with anxiety about it.
What are you working on now?
EM: A novel. It's called Pamela's Dream and it's about a woman who
hasn't dreamt for a year and on the day she wakes up from her first
dream she meets a palmist at a party who tells her she's going to go
to sleep and never wake up. It's about destiny and how she copes
with knowing her time is running out. I've written the beginning and
the end. It's got a very ambiguous ending.
the three most recent short story collections you've read?
EM: The Biting Point by Catherine Smith, one of my tutors at Sussex,
brilliant and heartfelt, especially The Ascension of Mary which is
seemingly very funny until you realise what it's about. My
Mistress's Sparrow Is Dead: Great Love Stories From Chekow To Munro,
edited by Jeffrey Eugenides - "love" is applied loosely but it
contains every type of love story you could possibly want, which
then led me onto Collected Stories by William Trevor, which is heavy
enough to kill someone with and so full of poetic longing it makes
you ache. This might make me sound a bit soppy but actually all
three collections have moments that are extremely dark and I like
those bits the best.