Tim Jones has published two volumes of
poetry, a novel and an earlier collection of short stories, Extreme Weather Events.
He is a writer, editor, web-content manager, husband, father, political
activist and lover of cricket, music and many other fine things. He
lives in Wellington, New Zealand.
Transported (Vintage, June 2008)
for the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award 2008
Extreme Weather Events (Headworx,
with Tim Jones
How long did it take you to write all the stories in your collection?
Tim Jones: The
literal answer is, 22 years. That’s because one of the stories in Transported, Going to the People,
was written in 1986. But most of the stories in this collection date
from the period 2000-2007. (This is my second published collection; my
first, Extreme Weather
Events, was published in 2001. Going to the People
didn’t fit with the theme of that collection.)
TSR: Did you
have a collection in mind when you were writing them?
TJ: Not at first —
except in the sense that I enjoyed having my first collection
published, and thought I’d rather like to have another one published in
due course. The theme, or at least motif, of transport which runs
through these stories presented itself over time, rather than being
chosen in advance – but then again, most of the stories in Extreme Weather Events
features journeys of one sort or another, so perhaps that is simply my
TSR: How did
you choose which stories to include and in what order?
TJ: Answering that
requires a bit of back-story. I was already thinking about putting a
collection together and submitting it to publishers when a story of
mine, Win a Day
with Mikhail Gorbachev! (included in Transported), was
selected for Volume 4 of the annual Best New Zealand Fiction
asked Random House New Zealand, the publishers of Best New
Zealand Fiction, if they’d be interested in looking at a
collection from me.
They said Yes, and I put together an initial selection and sent it to
publisher Harriet Allan.
She said Yes again – a magic moment! – and then we got down to some
serious negotiation over the composition and ordering of the book. My
initial selection was a bit shorter than Random House wanted, and they
didn’t think a couple of the stories included in it worked, so I ended
up by adding some extra stories and writing two new ones: Jim
and “Going Under”.
It’s a diverse collection, but the order we chose is designed to
highlight the inter-relationships between the stories as well as their
TSR: What does the word "story"
mean to you?
straight-faced answer is, a fictional prose narrative. Soon after I
started to write fiction, a friend called Dan McCarthy commented that I
wrote two sorts of fiction: stories, which were character-driven
narratives, and “stroys”, which were short, strange, sometimes surreal
pieces in which character took a back seat to the joys of pure
narrative. I still like writing both types of short fiction.
TSR: Do you
have a "reader" in mind when you write stories?
No. Funnily enough, I often have a reader — or perhaps, rather, a
listener — in mind when I write poetry. When I write stories, it’s
often in response to a little voice inside my head which says “what
sort of story would it make if you put this idea and that idea together
and shook them up a bit?”, or “this is so bizarre you have to write it
down”; yet some of them aren’t like that at all, and arise from that
old staple, emotion recollected in tranquility.
TSR: Is there
anything you'd like to ask someone who has read your
anything at all?
TJ: Did you laugh?
TSR: How does it feel knowing that people are buying your books?
TJ: To quote C.
Montgomery Burns, “Excellent!” I go past Unity Books, a fine bookshop
here in Wellington (NZ), and it’s a great feeling when I see that their
pile of signed copies of Transported
has got smaller. Mind you, I’m also very happy when I see Transported making
its way into libraries. It’s the reading, as well as the buying, that I
TSR: What are
you working on now?
TJ: I’ve returned to
an unpublished novel I completed in 2004. I’ve concluded that the first
half of it needs only cosmetic changes, but the second half requires
major surgery. I’m nipping and tucking the first half at present.
TSR: What are
the three most recent short story collections you've read?
TJ: Alice Munro, Something I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You. Alice Munro never fails.
Tatiana Tolstaia, On the Golden Porch.
One of the books I first read for my Russian literature degree.
Irrelevant fact: the band Okkervil River is named after one of the
stories in this collection.
James Tiptree, Jnr. (aka Alice B. Sheldon), Her Smoke Rose Up Forever. A collection of her greatest stories. Marvellous, despairing.