lives in Edinburgh with her husband, the writer Ron Butlin. Her mother
tongue is Swiss German but she writes in English. Her previous books
(shortlisted for the Saltire First Book Award) and The Beauty Room (longlisted for the
MIND Book of the Year Award)
(Two Ravens Press, 2009)
by Sarah Salway
(Scottish Cultural Press, 1998)
with Regi Claire
How long did it take you to write all the stories in your collection?
Regi Claire: To
be honest, quite a few years (my guess is six)! I’m a rather slow
writer – English is my fourth language by acquisition – and I wrote
them in between working on a new novel, which I’m now finally and for
the last time revising.
have a collection in mind when you were writing them?
RC: Not exactly. It was more a vague
hope that as I’d already had a collection published previously (Inside~Outside),
the new stories would at some point also turn into a book. They all
appeared (with one exception) in various anthologies and magazines,
sometimes even twice and in translation, but having a collection out
really is the icing on the cake!
I never thought of interlinking
the stories or giving them a unified theme. Still, having finished
about four or five of them, I found they all seemed to focus, in one
way or another, on the idea of fighting something, be it an obsession,
a desire, age, love or even death. Once I realised this, I tried to
explore the theme further. Frankly, though, it didn’t require too much
of an effort as at the time of writing them I was struggling myself –
with a protracted phase of self-doubt and then with illness: for at
least two years, my husband suffered from heart problems and needed
repeated medical treatment (he’s fine now, thank God). Oddly enough,
the theme and title of the collection proved prophetic: shortly after
the book was accepted last summer by Two Ravens Press, I was diagnosed
with bowel cancer (sorted now, I’m glad to say), and the collection
became my talisman, my very own call to battle.
you choose which stories to include and in what order?
excluded a few very short pieces, a couple of them sci-fi horror, which
just didn’t seem to quite fit – despite the fact that they all
encapsulated the idea of fighting something.
I tried to vary
female and male narrators, POV, setting, mood and style. Of course, as
my husband, who is also a writer, keeps reminding me, most people don’t
read a collection from cover to cover anyway, but pick out stories
because of length, title or sheer whim. A case in point is a friend of
mine who emailed yesterday to say she’d started my book – with a story
right from the middle!
does the word "story"
mean to you?
Anything that’s shorter than a novella (though we’d have to define that
first!) and has some kind of narrative, some sort of resolution. I
don’t think having a clear beginning, middle and end is a prerequisite.
Do you have a reader in mind when you write stories?
Slices-of-life type of fictions or snapshots can also work as stories.
Not at first. I believe that having a reader in mind too soon destroys
the true imaginative flow, replacing it with mere competence. But it’s
vital to think of a reader later on, at the revising stage. After all,
that’s what we do: we write so our work will be read!
anything you'd like to ask someone who has read your collection,
anything at all?
The obvious question would be: "Have you enjoyed my book?" But
enjoyment comes in many forms. So I might simply ask: "Did the stories
resonate with you?"
How does it feel knowing that people are buying your book?
RC: I always find it amazing and
wonderful, and humbling.
What are you working on now?
I’ve just received a Writer’s Bursary from the Scottish Arts Council to
finalise my second novel and research and write a new one. I’m well
into the revising stage and am keen to get on with the next book.
the three most recent short story collections you've read?
RC: Flannery O’Connor’s Complete Stories, also The Short Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald
and Somerset Maugham’s Complete
The latter two were read to me by my husband over many evenings while I
prepared dinner. In the course of our marriage, we have enjoyed dozens
of books in this way, including some hefty tomes by Dickens. In fact,
we’ve just promised some friends that they could come along to listen
(and watch the cooking process), and then share dinner with us. Thanks
to The Short Review, we’ll be
able to select many more short story