Erinna Mettler was born in Yeovil but lived in Wakefield West Yorkshire for most of her childhood. She studied Film at the University of Kent before working at the British Film Institute for thirteen years. Erinna left the BFI in 2004 to move to Brighton and raise a family, and, in 2007, just after the birth of her second son, took the certificate of creative writing at Sussex University to give her something to do that wasn't associated with housework or childcare. Most of Starlings was written during the course. She is currently studying for the MA, as well as working on her second novel Pamela's Dream. She was one of the founding members of Rattle Tales.

Short Story Collections

(Revenge Ink, 2011)

reviewed by A J Kirby

Interview with Erinna Mettler

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

Erinna Mettler: It took 9 months from writing the first story to getting a reasonable first draft that could be sent out to publishers, but while I was sending it out I was constantly reviewing it and then prior to publication it went through a couple of edits. All in all it was exactly two years from my first rejection letter to the publication date.

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

EM: The first one was just a story but then the second I wrote linked in with it and by the third or fourth I knew they belonged together.

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

EM: I didn't reject any stories. The first and last story were always very much that, but the ones in between are much more flexible. Some of them have to appear early in the narrative because they impart a knowledge that helps with later episodes, but there is no linear chronology in the book so you could dip in and out if you wanted to. I tried to mix things up a bit, not have sad stories next to each other or characters appearing in several stories in a row, I wanted readers to make connections for themselves.

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

EM: Well it doesn't mean beginning middle and end. Form is important to me but I like to play with it, to involve the reader in making sense of it. I think a story should always create a strong emotional response in the reader; happiness, sadness, anger, unease, anything but indifference.

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

EM: Yes - It's me. Essentially I write what I want to read and I don't really care about anyone else. Of course if other people like it too then that makes me very happy but if I'm honest I'm always slightly surprised when they do.

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

EM: I'd like to ask them if it made them think about the assumptions they make about other people. That's what the book is about, how people don't really know anything about the people who live in the same town but make judgements anyway. Everyone has an internal life and nobody but them can even guess at what's inside.

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

EM: Terrifying! And exciting. I went into my local Waterstones and there it was on the shelf, it's a wierd experience. I feel a bit detached from it like it has nothing to do with me. I'm not sure what people are going to make of it, I think it's probably a love or hate thing. In general I am filled with anxiety about it.

TSR: What are you working on now?

EM: A novel. It's called Pamela's Dream and it's about a woman who hasn't dreamt for a year and on the day she wakes up from her first dream she meets a palmist at a party who tells her she's going to go to sleep and never wake up. It's about destiny and how she copes with knowing her time is running out. I've written the beginning and the end. It's got a very ambiguous ending.

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

EM: The Biting Point by Catherine Smith, one of my tutors at Sussex, brilliant and heartfelt, especially The Ascension of Mary which is seemingly very funny until you realise what it's about. My Mistress's Sparrow Is Dead: Great Love Stories From Chekow To Munro, edited by Jeffrey Eugenides - "love" is applied loosely but it contains every type of love story you could possibly want, which then led me onto Collected Stories by William Trevor, which is heavy enough to kill someone with and so full of poetic longing it makes you ache. This might make me sound a bit soppy but actually all three collections have moments that are extremely dark and I like those bits the best.
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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 >>>