A former bookseller and editor, Stuart Evers now writes about books for
the Guardian, Independent, New Statesman, Time Out and many other
publications. His fiction has appeared in 3:AM Magazine, Litro, The Book
Club Boutique Magazine and on EverydayGenius.com. He lives in London.
with Stuart Evers
How long did it take you to write all the stories in your collection?
From starting the first one by hand in a bar one afternoon to finishing
the last, took about eighteen months. I tend to write quickly and then
spend a lot of time editing; the first drafts didn’t take long at all,
it was getting them to where I wanted them to be that took the time.
have a collection in mind when you were writing them?
The idea came to me after writing the first story; and was probably
inspired by Georges Perec. I love the complicated strictures he placed
on his writing, from the mathematic in Life: a User’s Manual to the ridiculous in A Void
(famously written without using the letter E). So the stories were
planned to stand alone, but also to be read as part of something
you choose which stories to include and in what order?
stories didn’t make it in to the final book: one because I wasn’t
happy with it, the other was dropped in favour of a story I wrote
after I’d already submitted to my editor at Picador.
for the order, that was a long, involved and fraught process. How
bands select an album’s running order is beyond me: I couldn’t
agree with myself most of the time, let alone with a bunch of other
people. My editor and I looked at the stories individually, then as a
whole. We knew that the last story would be The Final Cigarette,
but everything else was moveable. We tried to balance out the stories
in the first and third person, and separate the ones that have
similar themes. Eventually we agreed on the way it would run, though
it changed right up until the last moment.
does the word "story"
mean to you?
me, story – or at least short stories – mean possibility. You can
do things with
them that you simply can’t get away with in a novel. I’m
interested in the way a story can end in the most unusual place, or
follow one character or narrative arc even though another may appears
to be a more obvious. Carver was a master of that; Richard Yates and
John Cheever too.
Do you have a reader in mind when you write stories?
always try and write what I’d like to read myself. I finished my
first (unpublished and unpublishable) novel in 2006. When I read it
back a month later I knew that it didn’t work. Had I picked it up
in a bookshop, it would have bored me – so I knew that I’d
failed. Even with that in mind, I try not to obsess over it: your
ideal reader can be in the room when you write, but you don’t want
them looking over your shoulder.
anything you'd like to ask someone who has read your collection,
anything at all?
think I’d ask them about the story Eclipse. It seems to
provoke different readings and interpretations and I’m fascinated
by what people read into it.
TSR: How does
it feel knowing that people are buying your book?
been a bookseller and an editor, worked for the Book Club Association
and now write reviews, which should have prepared me for all of
this: but it hasn’t. In fact it just makes me more paranoid as I
know exactly what’s going on behind the scenes. It is the best
feeling, however, to know that people are actually reading your
stuff, actually holding it in their hands, turning pages that you
wrote. It’s pretty much all I’ve ever wanted and now it’s
happening, it’s hard to believe, really.
What are you working on now?
I’m in the latter stages of editing my novel, The Carnival’s Tattoo.
It’s a novel about love, self delusion and loss, set in Las Vegas, New
York and a small suburban town in the North West of England.
the three most recent short story collections you've read?
The last three – Liars in Love, Richard Yates; American Ghosts and Old World Wonders, Angela Carter; Will You Please Be Quiet, Please, Raymond Carver – were re-reads for an article I was writing; but in terms of recent publications, the most recent were Hearts Wings and Other Stories by Gabriel Josipovici; If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This by Robin Black; and Saints and Sinners by Edna O’Brien. I would enthusiastically recommend all three.