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Kathy Page

Website: KathyPage.info

Kathy Page has written six novels and is also an accomplished writer of short fiction. Her story, The Second Spring After Liberation, won the 1994 Bridport Prize. Her most recent novel, Alphabet, was nominated for the Governor-General's Award in 2005. She has taught writing in Estonia, Finland, the U.K and Canada and now lives on Salt Spring Island (Canada) with her family.

Short story collections

As In Music (Phoenix Books, 2008) 

Reviewed by Carol Reid

Interview with Kathy Page

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

Kathy Page: This is a reissue, so I 'm having to delve back two decades! I think they were written over about three years, and it was at a time when I was very interested in non-realist forms - myth, fairy tales, science fiction, magical realism and so on. And of course I still am exited by all those things, though it's not my only interest and currently I think it shows much less in my work - it's all been displaced down to the structural level, and this fascination of mine with radical transformation. But the focus on realism, on verisimilitude in literary fiction and especially in the North American Short Story (brilliant as many of them are) can still drive me nuts (less so if it deals with about experiences and places I'm unfamiliar with). But if you look around, there are some encouraging signs - for example, Deepa Mehta's powerful new film Heaven on Earth, where the real and unreal are blended deliciously together, is very exciting to see (it's a different medium, I know, but I saw it last night and can think of nothing else right now).

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

KP: I pretty much wrote each one for itself as it came.

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

KP: I have strong, almost physical feelings about structure. I listen to it and I think of a book in a way that's perhaps similar to the way a musical composer works. The title story of the collection is similarly composed, using more points of view than would normally be recommended for such a tale - an experiment really, but if you hear it, I think it works.

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

KP:  It's a shared dream... But here's a lovely quote from Robert Bringhurst's study of Haida myth A Story as Sharp as a Knife: "A story is in fact a sentence: a big sentence, saying, or revealing, many things that a full list of its components cannot say." Many writers have said similar things (for example Flannery O'Connor "A story is a way to say something that can't be said any other way.."), but his dry, technical take on it makes a change.

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

DH: The idea of the reader (or audience - one of the things I like about short fiction is that it can work so well read aloud) is very important - not necessarily in the early drafts, but certainly later on. I know that many - or even most - writers say that they write for themselves and wouldn't dream of taking a reader into account, but that seems odd to me. I think there's a fear that you might be seen as pandering to the reader if you think of him or her, but really the writer-reader relationship is far more complex than that. It's not having your dad, or your favourite writer or Ms Average sitting on your shoulder and you thinking "Oh, dear, s/he won't like this" or the opposite; it's more a matter of taking a group of people you don't know well, but happen to be with, on a journey: you invite them to come with you, persuade them, even - yet how it will be along the way is not entirely within your control and nor should it be. And it's different every time. So it's great when you hear from readers by email or in person and find out what it was like for them. I live in a small community now, and people regularly come up to me in the supermarket as I'm feeling the tomatoes, and say "Hey, I just read your book! And the thing about it was..." This is great, even when, as recently happened, the conversation took place when I had just emerged puffy and drooling from an hour with the dentist.

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

KP: Apart from the obvious, craven things such as did you like even one of them, I'm very curious a) to know whether you read it front to back (see 3, above) some other way, and b) if you had any favourites?

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

KP: I really like that they are reading it. It's great to have As in Music back in print.

TSR: What are you working on now?

KP: I'm very busy. I'm just finishing the hopefully final rewrite of my seventh novel, I have two non-fiction projects and a collection of linked stories on the go... and, as of last week, it looks as if I'll be writing a screenplay for my novel The Story of My Face.

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

KP: Natasha, by David Bezmozgis (all good, but the title story is my favourite), On the Golden Porch by Tatiana Tolstoya (this is a re-read) and The Safety of Objects by A.M. Holmes