Mark Staniforth is a writer from North Yorkshire, England. His short stories have appeared in internet magazines including Night Train, Eclectica and Southpaw. He has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize.

Short Story Collections

(Smashwords, August 2010)

reviewed by A J Kirby

XXXmas Box
(Smashwords, Dec 2010)

Interview with Mark Staniforth

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

Mark Staniforth: I wrote the first piece, Carnival Queen, around three years ago. The others followed at random points after that.

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

MS: I liked the idea of grouping a collection in a specific location ever since reading Donald Ray Pollock's Knockemstiff. That was a definite inspiration - I loved it. But the idea never really took hold until I'd done four or five stories. That's when I consciously established the common theme. By the end, I was very much working towards a series of loosely inter-linked short stories. The intention was that through them I would reveal the broader story of the particular place, ie. Fryupdale.

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

MS: Most of the stories I chose involve single, strong, flawed characters. I wanted them to be the story-tellers. Through their narratives, I wanted to expose the raw, unflinching character of the place. Stuff that didn't dig deep enough or wasn't blunt or revealing enough had to go. I lost some of what I thought were some of my favourite stories that way. It turned out some of them were just too nice.

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

MS: A means of self-expression and a form of inspiration. Nothing more formulaic than that. Although I wouldn't necessarily put my own stuff in this category, I love work that really seeks to challenge the common 'beginning, middle and end' convention of what a story is about. To me, it can be just about anything, so long as it expresses and inspires.

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

MS: Because Fryupdale is modelled loosely on the place I grew up, I feel I'm writing from within that community. So in some sense I'm acting as a guide for those readers for whom the idea of heading out to shoot pheasants or tip cows or whatever is entirely alien. I'm asking them to pop in and pay us a visit and see how we live. I love the idea of a sharp-suited business guy high in some Manhattan office block reading Loonies in his lunch break. Eating a foccacia and furrowing his brow.

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

MS: I'd ask them to be as blunt as the characters in the book when they tell me what they think. I'd like to know in particular which stories they think work and which don't, and why. I don't encourage them, but I relish constructive bad reviews more than anodyne average ones. I hope I haven't just dug myself in a big hole saying that.

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

MS: It's like I've declared an open day on my own mind, and people are rolling up to camp out inside my brain. It's not an all together unpleasant feeling. It's a little weird, though.

TSR: What are you working on now?

MS: I've expanded one of the stories from Fryupdale into a novel. I'm editing it now. I may be some time. After that, I want to write another loosely connected short story collection. It's definitely my first love and I'm convinced it's where the future is at. It won't be another Fryupdale though. I need to stretch my boundaries.

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

MS: The Universe in Miniature in Miniature by Patrick Somerville; Miracle Boy and Other Stories by Pinckney Benedict; and the superb Daddy's by Lindsay Hunter - probably the best thing I read all last year and again, like Knockemstiff, a major source of inspiration.
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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 >>>