John Saul is the author of a forthcoming novel from Salt Publishing, and two previous short story collections, Call it Tender and The Most Serene Republic He was born in Liverpool, was educated in Oxford and Paris and now lives in Suffolk.

Short Story Collections

As Rivers Flow
(Salt Publishing, 2009)

reviewed by Melissa Lee-Houghton

Call it Tender
(Salt Publishing, 2007)

The Most Serene republic
(Salt Publishing, 2007)

Interview with John Saul

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

John Saul: Making time to write can involve huge amounts of time. I might write two stories in eight days but I will have spent six months making the space for those eight days. In that sense this collection probably took me two to three years. My two previous collections each took about five years.

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

JS: With regard to most of the stories in As Rivers Flow, yes. Three of the twelve were already written. I had an idea in mind as much as a "collection". This, thanks to the confidence put in me by Salt, was possible for me for the first time.

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

JS: I had my theme and I chose the best. I also consulted several friends who read the stories. As to the order, I put a fairly accessible, particularly short, story first. The first stories in the book are three of the best, or most solid. Here I followed best rock band practice: start with a good song then play another then another. After that I sought contrasts between successive stories.3

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

JS: I'm wary of the word "story" when focused on in a question; I prefer "fiction". "Story" too easily implies a certain conservative idea of how things should be (beginning, middle, end; characters; plots) and this is anathema to me. I want to move as freely as possible when I write, at least in the initial stages.

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

JS: Almost never. It is difficult enough listening to your own stories as you write them. To imagine someone else's reaction would make the writing more difficult and complicated still. Very, very occasionally I will have someone in mind - when I'm writing something humorous and can imagine them being amused.

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

JS: Did you enjoy it? What did you like and what not?

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

JS: If I knew they were I would feel good about it.

TSR: What are you working on now?

JS: I have just been writing three short stories, almost the first I've written since the stories in As Rivers Flow.

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

JS:  For the work I've just done I looked back at Around the Day in Eighty Worlds by Julio Cortázar, Stories of Happy People by Lars Gustaffson and Clarice Lispector's Selected Crônicas. Since these are books you either have or else are unlikely to find, let me mention How to Breathe Underwater by Julie Orringer, easily obtainable and marvellous. I read a lot of short stories; there is generally much more to a book of short stories than there is to a novel.
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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 >>>