short story collections step into the

find something to read by:

Carys Davies

Carys Davies won second prize in the inaugural 2002 Orange Harpers & Queen Short Story Competition, second prize in the 2005 Asham Award, and runner-up in the 2005 Bridport Prize and the 2006 Fish Short Histories Prize. Her stories have appeared in prize anthologies and a variety of literary magazines.

Short story collections

Some New Ambush (Salt Publishing, Sept 2007) 

Reviewed by Mark Brown

Interview with Carys Davies

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

Carys Davies: I wrote most of the stories in Some New Ambush over a period of about five years, between 2001 and 2006, though a couple were written earlier. Perhaps it’s the same for all writers, but for me, writing short stories feels like panning for gold; I have to do an awful lot of writing before I have something worth keeping.

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

CD: No, not at all. I just tried to write every story as it came as best I possibly could. But as the stories began slowly piling up on my desk I began to see that even though they were all very different (some contemporary, some historical, some almost like fairy tales) they were all, in some way, about the way the unexpected rips into our lives, and how we respond when that happens to us.

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

CD: I just chose my favourites, though I did end up excluding a few because when I came to putting them in some kind of order I couldn’t seem to fit them in. Somehow wherever I put them they were always in the wrong place. Of course the reality is that some readers won't even read the stories in the order in which they appear, but many will, and I do think the order is very important in a collection – it has its own structure and you have to think about that very carefully. You want the whole to be somehow greater than the sum of the parts, so you’re looking at the effect each story might have on the others, at all the different narrative voices and how they follow on from each other, at moments when you want things to speed up or slow down, and of course you’re looking for the right beginning and the right ending.

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

CD: Not so much when I’m writing the first draft, because at that stage I’m invariably not even sure myself what the story is yet. But after that – yes, definitely, in the sense that I’m very aware that I’m telling this story to some one – not a particular kind of person but some one I want to understand the story, to be intrigued and entertained and in some way moved by it. I always read everything aloud and I’m always looking for the places in the story where I’m in danger of losing or confusing the reader.

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

CD: If I get the chance, I always like to hear which story was their favourite, and if anything made them laugh or cry.

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

CD: It’s very exciting. The short story form has to fight so hard in this country for attention, so it’s great to know that people really do have an appetite for them.

TSR: What are you working on now?

CD: More stories, which I hope will eventually shape themselves into a second collection.

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

CD: The Unfinished Novel and other stories by Valerie Martin; The Falling Woman by Sheena Lambert; The Old Forest and other stories by Peter Taylor