Tom Vowler studied Creative Writing at the University of Plymouth after working in offices and newsrooms. His work is widely published, and The Method was winner of The Scott Prize. He is currently writing his second novel.

Short Story Collections

The Method
(Salt, 2010)

reviewed by Melissa Lee-Houghton

Interview with Tom Vowler

The Short Review: How long did it take you to write all the stories in your collection?

Tom Vowler: Half of them came together in six months for my MA dissertation, probably doubling in length in the following year. Composition of stories is, for me, very much like waiting for a bus…

TSR: Did you have a collection in mind when you were writing them?

TV: Not particularly. A couple had done well in competitions, which spurred me on to write more. When I saw the Scott Prize call for entries, I realised I had a collection-length book.

TSR: How did you choose which stories to include and in what order?

TV: I included those that already had some critical success, plus a few I felt came off the page well. Thematically, the collection is quite disparate – dark, comic, tender – so I wanted them interspersed, lest the reader became too comfortable. Not that I like to manipulate readers’ moods, you understand.

TSR: What does the word "story" mean to you?

TV:  The illumination of some small human truth. That is, it must resonate somehow with me, touching a universal essence so that I experience the character’s love or pain or fear alongside them. But more than the novel, a story should be transcendent, the whole greater than the sum of the parts. Epiphanies that "can slice the top of your head off", as the TLS describe William Trevor’s latest collection, are important to me, though I respect writers brave enough to resist them. A good story tells me something about myself, perhaps something I didn’t want to know.

TSR: Do you have a reader in mind when you write stories?

TV:  Only in the sense of making the work as best I can. Aesthetically I’m generally guided by the sort of fiction I like to read. I suppose on final edits, when I’m reading my prose aloud, I imagine someone "hearing" it for the first time.

TSR: Is there anything you'd like to ask someone who has read your collection, anything at all?

TV: I’m often intrigued to discover the stories they’ve enjoyed the most. And to point out to them that very little of the book is autobiographical. In case they’re worried.

TSR: How does it feel knowing that people are buying your book?

TV: Humbling. Especially as so many people have said such lovely things about it. As a writer, that’s all you can ask.

TSR: What are you working on now?

TV: I’ve just finished a novel that I began writing once the collection was complete, so I’m having a month or so off from fiction. That’s not say I’m not being awoken each night at 4am, ideas for the Next Big Thing quietly grumbling. I’m thinking of something with a scene in each of Devon’s pubs, meticulously researched.

TSR: What are the three most recent short story collections you've read?

TV: There Are Little Kingdoms – Kevin Barry; Notes from a Turkish Whorehouse – Philip Ceallaigh; The Loudest Sound and Nothing – Clare Wigfall. Hard to think of three more exciting new voices.
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Find out what other authors, from Aimee Bender to Sana Krasikov, said about their collections, what the word "story" means to them, and how it feels to know that people are buying your books! More interviews >>>