Hobbs was born in 1973 and grew up in Cornwall and North Yorkshire. His
first novel, The Short Day Dying, was shortlisted for the Whitbread
First Book Award, the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and the IMPAC award,
and won a Betty Trask Award. The first story in this collection
appeared in the British Council/Picador anthology New Writing 13.
with Peter Hobbs
How long did it take you to write all the stories in your collection?
Peter Hobbs: Most
of them were written in a period of two or three years (2000-2),
probably the most productive time I’ve had as a writer. I guess I wrote
around 40 stories, of which roughly half made the collection. After
that I took a break from stories to write The Short Day Dying.
Then I spent a few months editing and organising the stories, and
writing one or two new ones. So about three years, in all (and the same
for the novel).
TSR: Did you
have a collection in mind when you were writing them?
PH: Not at all – I was
writing partly as a direct response to deal with my situation back then
(a long illness), and partly just to experiment with different styles
and ways of story telling. I was getting a lot of ideas for stories,
and ideas of how to do them, and I’d just sit down in the afternoons
and try to get some of them out.
TSR: How did
you choose which stories to include and in what order?
PH: Due to the
variety of styles I’d been writing in, it did look like it would be a
problematic process. More of a mess than a collection. But there were
underlying themes that recurred in many of the stories – some of which
I was completely unaware of as I wrote – and after we (my editor Lee
Brackstone and I) looked at what I had, it became clear we were pretty
much agreed on which pieces worked, and the collection itself came
together. Once they were collected it began to look almost organic, as
though they’d always been designed that way. Ordering them was
entertaining – it’s an odd art, and was mostly done by instinct.
TSR: What does the word "story"
mean to you?
can’t think of any way of answering that short of a long conversation.
TSR: Do you
have a "reader" in mind when you write stories?
I’m writing, just myself and my friends. But writing’s an odd thing,
and as you’re engaged in it you don’t necessarily have a clear idea of
how a story actually reads. So for me the editing process is about
trying to think more as a reader than a writer, trying to see what
works on the page, what doesn’t work, and how to fix it.
TSR: Is there
anything you'd like to ask someone who has read your collection,
anything at all?
PH:If they’ve read
it, it’s not really my book any more. But I’d ask what they made of it.
I’d be prepared for the worst.
TSR: How does it feel knowing that people are buying your book?
haven’t seen any sales figures for short story collections lately… But
knowing that one or two people who I don’t actually know are buying my
book is both unnerving and pleasing.
TSR: What are
you working on now?
PH:A novel… Just
enough time had passed since the last one that I’d begun to forget how
hard it was. Writing another one seemed almost like a good idea. I
won’t make that mistake again.
TSR: What are
the three most recent short story collections you've read?
just finished reading a couple anthologies – the shortlist for the 2008
National Short Story Award (won by Clare Wigfall – I couldn’t recommend
her collection, The Loudest Sound and Nothing, highly enough), and Tell Tales 4 (edited by Monique Roffey and Courttia Newland). Before that, the last was the excellent Constitutional by Helen Simpson.