Jay Merill’s first short story collection Astral Bodies was nominated for the Frank O’Connor Award. She lives in central London and is the recipient of an Arts Council England Award allowing her to devote more time to writing.

Short Story Collections

God of the Pigeons
(Salt Publishing, 2010)

reviewed by Elizabeth Rutherford-Johnson

Astral Bodies
(Salt Publishing, 2007)

reviewed by Zoe King

Interview with Jay Merill

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

Jay Merill: There’s a huge variation. God of the Pigeons for example, evolved over a number of years, the focus changing several times. Gullies and Time was the first focus, the final one was the symbol of the pigeon’s wing. Beauty Queens was written very quickly, in about a week, and had hardly any changes; and the same with Riddle.

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

JM: I didn’t write the stories as a collection as such, but it felt that they belonged together.

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

JM: The stories seemed connected and I had little doubt about forming a collection with them. Again, the order seemed obvious. I knew that God of the Pigeons with its easy answer should come first and lead on to the rest of the flock of stories and that Riddle, with its existential question, would be the final story. And the stories in between followed from one to the other in some kind of organic way.

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

JM:  The word Story suggests a crystal to me. It evokes the idea of symmetry. I think of a central point; I think of mirror images; twinning. Something is concluded. But there is more than one model perhaps. I’ve thought of saw-like edges, serrated and ragged, maybe finer at one end, bolder at the other. A coming closer to; a moving away from; final severance. Aesthetically pleasing or aesthetically disturbing.

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

JM:   No. Stories are my way of working through ideas.

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

JM:  I’d be happy to have a dialogue with anyone who wants to talk to me about any of the stories. I don’t have anything specific I’d like to ask them.

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

JM: I’d be delighted to know people were buying my books. I’d be interested in hearing their thoughts.

TSR: What are you working on now?

JM: Another short story collection.

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

JM: Balancing on the Edge of the World by Elizabeth Baines, Cheating at Canasta by William Trevor , Midnight All Day by Hanif Kureishi
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