London-born Nina Allan is the
author of a previous story collection A Thread of Truth
(Eibonvale Press). Two of her stories have been shortlisted for the
British Fantasy Award and selected for Year’s Best anthologies.
The Silver Wind
(Eibonvale Press, 2011)
by Mario Guslandi
A Thread of Truth
(Eibonvale Press, 2007)
with Nina Allan
How long did it take you to write all the stories in your collection?
Nina Allan: These
stories were actually written over a period of four years. I loved the
idea of a clock or watch as a time machine in the literal sense of the
word, and I decided very early on that there would be a set of linked
stories using the same set of characters and situations. So although as
much as a year might elapse between writing one story and the next,
they were always intended to go together. I wrote the final story, Rewind, in August of this year, which gave me a wonderful sense of completion.
have a collection in mind when you were writing them?
NA: As above, yes, very much so!
you choose which stories to include and in what order?
stories selected themselves, really. There are another two "Martin"
stories on my hard drive (one a substantial novella) but they’re
digressions rather than progressions and I decided to keep them back,
though I might decide to redraft them as standalones at some later
date. The running order also was pretty much predetermined by the
content of each piece; the stories (apart from Timelines, which I first drafted in 2009) were actually written in the order in which they appear.
does the word "story"
mean to you?
personalised narrative relating to a specific occurrence. Yes, I like
that. I think I’ll keep it in mind the next time I open a new document
Do you have a reader in mind when you write stories?
you mean a specific ‘ideal reader’ then no I don’t – but I do
increasingly try to be aware of readers plural, and I think it would be
bad manners not to. Especially when I am working on the second draft of
a piece I ask myself questions constantly: have I actually said what I
meant to say? Are my intentions clear at a sentence level? A reader
should be in no doubt as to what is going on in the story at all times,
even if the full implications of what has happened are not revealed
until the end. A writer should respect the reader and part of that
means making a story readable – if it is not then that writer has
anything you'd like to ask someone who has read your collection,
anything at all?
first question I would always ask is: did you identify with it? Did it
move you? I like it when people latch on to one or other of the
characters, or better still imagine themselves in that character’s
situation. Books that do that for readers will always last longest,
because they add up to far more than the sum of the plot.
it feel knowing that people are buying your book?
NA: Terribly, terribly humbling. An immense honour.
What are you working on now?
NA: I’ve just started writing a novel. In a sense both The Silver Wind and Stardust
(out from PS Publishing next autumn) were both "dry runs" for this. Now
I have to sit down and create 120,000 words of continuous narrative. It
is daunting perhaps, but also the most exciting feeling in the world.
It also means that having spent almost all of 2011 writing short
fiction I won’t be writing any new short stories for a while – I need
to get the first draft of this novel under my belt!
the three most recent short story collections you've read?
NA: Most recently Zoo
by the young Japanese writer Otsuischi. I was reading this in bed the
other day and when my partner asked me what I was laughing at I said "A
plane hijack!" If I tell you that I’m not exactly relaxed around
aircraft this incident might help illustrate just how great this
collection is. To call it "off-the-wall horror" would be to do it the
injustice of not commenting on the writing, which is serious, sensuous,
considered. Yet this is also horror like no other, and Zoo is a scintillating achievement.
Immediately before Zoo I had the pleasure of rereading James Cooper’s The Beautiful Red.
James Cooper is one of those writers we simply do not hear enough about
– which considering he is producing some of the finest weird fiction in
Britain today is a situation that needs remedying. The stories in The Beautiful Red
are dark, frightening and highly original. They are also beautifully
written, as well crafted as a Sheraton bureau. Discovering a collection
like this is a profound joy and a huge excitement.
Towards the end
of summer I read and adored Robert Shearman’s most recent collection, Everyone’s Just So So Special.
Rob is a major talent and I honestly think I can say there is no other
writer out there remotely like him. His stories manage to be
horrifying, moving and laugh-out-loud funny all at the same time, and
the sheer immediacy of his writing style bursts upon the reader like an
adrenalin rush. This guy has more ideas than can possibly be good for