Jo Cannon is
a G.P in inner-city Sheffield. She has worked in Malawi, Tasmania and
an ex-mining town in Derbyshire. Her stories have been
published in literary magazines and anthologies, most recently
Route’s Book at Bedtime, and successful in competitions
including Fish International and Brit Writers Award.
with Jo Cannon
How long did it take you to write all the stories in your collection?
Jo Cannon: About five years.
I spent almost a year rewriting and editing them all.
have a collection in mind when you were writing them?
I never really believed they would be published as a collection. Many
stories are linked, though. While writing from the point of view of
one character, I would feel curious about a minor or "off-stage"
character, and want to tell that story too. I was interested in the
things my characters, linked by bonds of love or family, weren’t
able to tell each other, but that I could reveal to the reader. One
character, Eve, kept popping up – perhaps because we have a lot in
common. I was possibly influenced by Doris Lessing’s Martha
Quest series, where Martha appears, at different stages of her
life, through a series of novels.
you choose which stories to include and in what order?
JC: The collection contains about two thirds of my work. Some earlier
stories seem clumsy now, and I discarded them. When I considered that
they might have a wider readership, some seemed too exposing of real
people’s lives, or my own. My publisher rejected a few, chose which
story to go first, and also decided on the collection’s title. I tried
not to have too many first person narratives together, and alternated
sad stories with upbeat ones. I separated linked stories, but not too
far, hoping the reader might be surprised to recognise the character
from a previous incarnation. Eve appears at different ages and her
stories are in chronological order, scattered through the collection,
ending with her death. The book ends with Jam, which is a metaphor for Eve’s life, and life in general.
does the word "story"
mean to you?
JC: At the simplest level a story is a tale made up to entertain others.
Ideally a short story should be intense and complete. It must be
authentic, so that the reader understands how it feels to be someone
else. The language should add depth of meaning, for example, through
metaphor. I admire this in other writers, but still have a long way to
Do you have a reader in mind when you write stories?
the conception and first draft, I am engrossed and for a while
believe I am the protagonist. At this stage I have no reader in mind,
and just write for fun. Later, when I am rewriting, I try to imagine
a discerning critic. I am fortunate to belong to an on-line writing
community who give accurate, honest but supportive feedback – so I
possibly have this audience in mind at the editing stage.
anything you'd like to ask someone who has read your collection, anything at all?
like to know which story they liked best, and why. If a story moved
them, or made them laugh, or reflected their own emotions or
experiences accurately, I’d be delighted to know.
TSR: How does
it feel knowing that people are buying your book?
over-awed! And thrilled, of course. The book has already sold more
than I, or my publisher, expected. I’m aware that a reader has
expended a few hours of his or her life, and some hard earned dosh,
on my book and I sincerely hope they feel it was worth it.
What are you working on now?
JC: My "other" job is really busy just now, so writing time is limited.
And book promotion activities are surprisingly time-consuming. I feel
the collection should get my best boot out into the world. But when
all this settles down, I hope to get back to writing short stories
again. I’ve learned so much in the last five years, I’m excited
to think where the next five will take me.
the three most recent short story collections you've read?
DH: Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout; The Method by Tom Vowler; and Eva Luna by Isabel Allende.