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Patrick Chapman

Website: PatrickChapman.net

Patrick Chapman lives in Dublin; he is the author of the poetry collections Jazztown, The New Pornography and Breaking Hearts and Traffic Lights. He co-founded the Irish Literary Revival website. He is also a screenwriter, and has won a Cinescape Award, and his film Burning the Bed won Best Narrative Short at a film festival in Oklahoma.

Short story collections

The Wow Signal (Bluechrome, 2007) 

Reviewed by Nuala Ní Chonchúir

Interview with Patrick Chapman

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

Patrick Chapman: More or less all of the first drafts were written fairly fast, with lots of revision and rewriting later. The first to be written was Wake, in 1992. The rest of them followed at various times during the nineties, with the exception of Return of the Empress which I wrote in 2005, in response to a request from Richard Peabody, who was editing an anthology called Sex and Chocolate. That story was pretty much done by the time it appeared in Richard's book. Still, I didn't stop writing them just because they were "finished", so to speak. Every so often, I'd take one or another of them out and do a polish. Burning the Bed came pretty quickly, over a weekend in 1998, and it was published in 2001 in the Irish Times. However, that got redrafted a little even after that. It was filmed, from my script, in 2003, with Gina McKee and Aidan Gillen. That was an interesting experience, seeing how the story became something else in another medium. In fact, most of these stories were published in various places over the years, but I still continued to revise. When Bluechrome took the collection, I spent another year polishing and editing. I think they're done now.

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

PC: At first, no. I was simply trying to make each story as an object in itself. I didn't think about a book until later. The collection as such began to evolve in the late nineties.

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

PC: By the time it came to do a collection, it was pretty obvious which stories were working better than others. Also, many of these pieces seem to be about relationships of one kind or another: lovers breaking up, a father with his daughter, a painting with its creator, a boy and his strange, mystical uncle, and so on. Burning the Bed felt like a good story to open with, and Return of the Empress seemed to give a pretty emphatic ending.

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

PC: Not really, at least not on a conscious level.

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

PC: I'd like that someone who reads one of my books gets a kick out of it.

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

PC: It's a good feeling that people are buying them and reading them. A writer doesn't work in isolation in the sense that, although the work is done alone, when it goes out there to the reader, whoever that may be, it becomes something else. All pieces of fiction are eventually a collaboration between the writer and the reader in the sense that the reader brings his or her own life to the experience of the story.

TSR: What are you working on now?

PC: I've just finished two collections of poetry, which I worked on during the same period in which I wrote these stories. The first, Breaking Hearts and Traffic Lights, came out in October from Salmon Poetry. The second, A Shopping Mall on Mars, will appear from BlazeVOX this Spring. I'm writing a novel, now in its final draft (so far), which I've been doing for the last five years or so. It's a romantic comedy about suicide.

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

PC: Sarah Salway's Leading the Dance is pretty impressive. She's a fellow Bluechrome author. I recently reread Night in Tunisia, Neil Jordan's collection from 1975. It's a remarkable book, published when Jordan was in his mid-twenties. He doesn't put a word wrong, and it shows all the promise he was later to fulfill. Finally, I've been going back to JG Ballard's Complete Stories, a wonder of a book, gathering all his short fiction from a period of about forty-five years. I had read all of those collections individually and it was lovely to return to that universe, especially the pieces from Vermilion Sands, which is one of my favourite books ever.