London-born Nina Allan is the author of a previous story collection A Thread of Truth (Eibonvale Press). Two of her stories have been shortlisted for the British Fantasy Award and selected for Year’s Best anthologies.

Short Story Collections

The Silver Wind
(Eibonvale Press, 2011)

reviewed by Mario Guslandi

A Thread of Truth
(Eibonvale Press, 2007)

Interview with Nina Allan

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

Nina Allan: These stories were actually written over a period of four years. I loved the idea of a clock or watch as a time machine in the literal sense of the word, and I decided very early on that there would be a set of linked stories using the same set of characters and situations. So although as much as a year might elapse between writing one story and the next, they were always intended to go together. I wrote the final story, Rewind, in August of this year, which gave me a wonderful sense of completion.

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

NA: As above, yes, very much so!

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

NA: The stories selected themselves, really. There are another two "Martin" stories on my hard drive (one a substantial novella) but they’re digressions rather than progressions and I decided to keep them back, though I might decide to redraft them as standalones at some later date. The running order also was pretty much predetermined by the content of each piece; the stories (apart from Timelines, which I first drafted in 2009) were actually written in the order in which they appear.

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

NA: A personalised narrative relating to a specific occurrence. Yes, I like that. I think I’ll keep it in mind the next time I open a new document ...

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

NA: If you mean a specific ‘ideal reader’ then no I don’t – but I do increasingly try to be aware of readers plural, and I think it would be bad manners not to. Especially when I am working on the second draft of a piece I ask myself questions constantly: have I actually said what I meant to say? Are my intentions clear at a sentence level? A reader should be in no doubt as to what is going on in the story at all times, even if the full implications of what has happened are not revealed until the end. A writer should respect the reader and part of that means making a story readable – if it is not then that writer has failed.

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

NA: The first question I would always ask is: did you identify with it? Did it move you? I like it when people latch on to one or other of the characters, or better still imagine themselves in that character’s situation. Books that do that for readers will always last longest, because they add up to far more than the sum of the plot.

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

NA: Terribly, terribly humbling. An immense honour.

TSR: What are you working on now?

NA: I’ve just started writing a novel. In a sense both The Silver Wind and Stardust (out from PS Publishing next autumn) were both "dry runs" for this. Now I have to sit down and create 120,000 words of continuous narrative. It is daunting perhaps, but also the most exciting feeling in the world. It also means that having spent almost all of 2011 writing short fiction I won’t be writing any new short stories for a while – I need to get the first draft of this novel under my belt! 

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

NA: Most recently Zoo by the young Japanese writer Otsuischi. I was reading this in bed the other day and when my partner asked me what I was laughing at I said "A plane hijack!" If I tell you that I’m not exactly relaxed around aircraft this incident might help illustrate just how great this collection is. To call it "off-the-wall horror" would be to do it the injustice of not commenting on the writing, which is serious, sensuous, considered. Yet this is also horror like no other, and Zoo is a scintillating achievement.
   Immediately before Zoo I had the pleasure of rereading James Cooper’s The Beautiful Red. James Cooper is one of those writers we simply do not hear enough about – which considering he is producing some of the finest weird fiction in Britain today is a situation that needs remedying. The stories in The Beautiful Red are dark, frightening and highly original. They are also beautifully written, as well crafted as a Sheraton bureau. Discovering a collection like this is a profound joy and a huge excitement.
   Towards the end of summer I read and adored Robert Shearman’s most recent collection, Everyone’s Just So So Special. Rob is a major talent and I honestly think I can say there is no other writer out there remotely like him. His stories manage to be horrifying, moving and laugh-out-loud funny all at the same time, and the sheer immediacy of his writing style bursts upon the reader like an adrenalin rush. This guy has more ideas than can possibly be good for him...
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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 >>>