short story collections step into the

find something to read by:

Brian George

Brian George was born in South Wales. He studied French and English at University, and has a Ph.D in contemporary French literature. He has written articles on French theatre and pop music. His poetry and short fiction have appeared in literary journals, and he was a prizewinner in the 2001 Rhys Davies Competition.


Short story collections

Walking the Labyrinth (Stonebridge Press 2005)


Reviewed by Vanessa Gebbie

Interview with Brian George

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

Brian George: About 12 years. There are 17 stories in the book, so that comes in at about one and a half publishable stories a year! Not a great strike rate. I tend to write very slowly, always changing things as I’m going, putting stories away for some time after I’ve ‘finished’ them, then coming back, discarding things or radically revising.

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

BG: Not at first. As more stories came along, I was aware that there were certain settings, themes, obsessions, which kept cropping up in different guises, but this certainly wasn’t something I consciously tried to achieve. After a certain number of the stories had been published in half-decent magazines I began to think it might be worth putting a collection together.

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

BG: After Stonebridge agreed to publish a collection, I had a good look at everything I had. I soon decided some weren’t good enough to go in a book, so those went to the great rejection pile in the sky. Of the others, I pulled some apart, tweaked the rest, then had another cull, until I was left with the ones that eventually made it into the collection. As for the running order, I was torn between grouping the stories with similar themes together, or keeping them apart. In the end I decided to try to mix things up a bit, to achieve a bit of variety. I tried to begin and end with two of the stories I was happiest with. Don’t know whether any readers agree!

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

BG: No, definitely not when I first start writing a story. It’s usually some idea, character, or even a phrase, a string of words, which gets into my head and I have to try to explore it in a piece of fiction. Later, when I’m revising and polishing, I do try to take account of how it reads, how it feels in the mouth, so in that sense I suppose I’m conscious of a reader, but I don’t have some mental image of who that reader might be.

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

BG: Which story worked best for you, and why?

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

BG: Well, I’m certainly not relying on sales of the book to pay the mortgage, so I’m pretty relaxed about whether it’s flying off the shelves or not! But the idea that even just a few people I’ve never met are reading that crazy stuff I wrote and maybe ‘getting’ what I was trying to say – now that’s something else, perhaps the best feeling you can have as a writer.

TSR: What are you working on now?

BG: Still writing short stories, getting feedback from other writers whose opinions I trust – especially in the Fiction Workhouse – and trying to put this new batch together to make up a second collection. This time I’m trying to make it more consciously a collection, with characters cropping up in more than one story, some pieces acting as a sort of echo to others, plus the fact that most of these stories are set in a particular district of Cardiff, so that – hopefully – there’ll be a sort of coherence to it. But I’m still some distance from finishing that, yet. After that, who knows? People keep telling me I need to expand some of my stories into a novel, so maybe I’ll give that a go. Perhaps I’ll have retired from my job by then, and have enough time to do it!

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

BG: Alentejo Blue by Monica Ali, Circle Games by Jo Mazelis, and The Whole story and other stories by Ali Smith.