Peter Wild comes from a music
journalism background.Peter is the co-founder of Bookmunch.
and fiction have appeared in Noo
Journal, Word Riot, The Big Issue, Nude magazine, Alt Sounds, City
Life, 3AM magazine and Eyeballkid. He
lives in Stockport.
Serpent's Tail, 2009
Vulgar Picture: Fiction Inspired by The Smiths
Serpent's Tail, 2007
by Language: Fiction Inspired by The Fall
Serpent's Tail, 2008
Page: Fiction Inspired by Sonic Youth
with Peter Wild
Where and when did you get the idea for the anthologies you edit??
Peter Wild: Well…
I’d long thought that the titles of Fall songs would make interesting
hooks. My original intention (one of those "ideas for things" that
tends to lurk in the back of the old noggin) was to have a novel that
had Fall songs, obtusely, as chapter heads. Then, about six years ago,
a friend of mine suggested we start a publishing house and so I dusted
off the Fall songs idea and said, what about a collection of short
stories taking Fall songs as jumping off points? Two or three pints
later, the Fall anthology gave rise to "The Fall aren’t the only band
that you could do an anthology around…" and hey presto! We had the
genesis for a series of books in which various writers take songs by a
particular band as the inspiration for a short story… The "start up a
publishing house" idea fell by the wayside but the anthologies had a
bit of a life of their own.
TSR: Do you
commission stories or ask writers to submit?
PW: There tends to be a
mixture of different styles for each book. At the beginning, I have a
wish list. So, for Perverted by Language: Fiction inspired by The Fall,
I had writers such as Michel Faber, Jeff VanderMeer, Niall Griffiths,
Helen Walsh, Stewart Lee and Andrew Holmes, all of whom were on board
very quickly. Shortly after securing my wish list, I had contributors
suggesting other contributors (Jeff VanderMeer, for example, suggested
Clare Dudman, Niall Griffiths suggested Matthew David Scott) and I
started to be approached by writers who were keen to submit something
for consideration. Inevitably there are writers you want who for
whatever reason can't contribute (I was massively keen, for example, to
have Sarah Waters "cover" Spoilt Victorian Child but Sarah doesn't
write short stories). Ultimately you just try your best to get a broad
range of different writers. I always wanted the anthologies to feel
like a various artists compilation – you aren't guaranteed to like
everything but you may read something that turns you on to a new
TSR: How did
you choose which stories to include and in what order?
PW: This was always
the most problematic part of the process, really. The fact is, as
you're putting the book together, you get stories in (in dribs and
drabs) and you might read a particular story and enjoy it – but then
find, as you put the book together and try and arrange things (in much
the same way as you might "arrange" songs on a mix cd for someone),
there are inevitably stories (and good stories at that) that no longer "fit". The "fit" tends to be intensely problematic because you have
stories that you've liked – stories you've more than likely responded
to the authors of enthusiastically – that suddenly you're forced to
re-examine and, oftentimes, reject. Both The Empty Page: Fiction
inspired by Sonic Youth & Paint a Vulgar Picture: Fiction
inspired by The Smiths had great stories that were dropped at the
eleventh hour in order to achieve a sort of aesthetic "wholeness". When
I have between 20-25 stories, I play around with ordering for about
four or five months (ordering, reading through, leaving to rest,
re-ordering, tweaking, leaving to bed down etc).
does the word "story"
mean to you?
Do you have a "reader" in mind when you put together an anthology?
things at different times, rather unhelpfully! When I'm reading short
stories, I want precision and beauty, I suppose – the kinds of
precision and beauty you find in Raymond Carver and William Trevor and
up and coming writers like Simon Van Booy
. When it comes to editing
anthologies (or indeed writing my own stories, some of which are
available in the recent Flax collection Before the Rain
), I don't need
a beginning, middle and an end so much as I need something that packs a
punch or something oblique that leaves me puzzled and wondering or
something that offers a glimpse into another fully realised world (a
fully realised world that I either desperately want more of or
desperately want to get away from at the climax). This may sound a
little banal but stories are windows – I don't mind if I'm offered the
chance for a good long look through a window or if I'm offered the
briefest of glimpses through some crack or other as long as whatever
I'm being asked to look at rewards the time and the effort!
Not so much a reader as an enthusiast. I'm the sort of person who
really chomps at the bit when it comes to new books by certain writers.
I search out anthologies featuring contributions by writers I like. I
tend to get wildly excited by writing, by good writing. There are
inevitably highs and lows with enthusiasm (if a writer doesn't deliver
for whatever reason, you can feel awfully let down; but when a book
lives up to your expectations, there's nothing like it – the pleasures
of a good book are second to none). Short stories seem to encourage
this enthusiasm. It may be that the majority of people don't like or
buy or indeed get short stories – but those who do, those people, I
want those people to be able to read my anthologies and maybe discover
a new writer. Because discovering a new writer is a tremendous thrill,
TSR: Is there
anything you'd like to ask someone who has read your anthologies,
anything at all?
I'd like to know if there is a Smiths fan (or a Fall fan or a Sonic
Youth fan) who picked up one of the books and got turned on to short
stories in general or a new writer, in particular – or a short story
fan who picked up the books and got turned on to The Smiths or The Fall
or Sonic Youth. That would make me happy.
TSR: How does it feel knowing that people are buying your book?
PW: For the most part, it feels great. We sold over 5,000 copies of the Sonic Youth anthology (rechristened Noise)
in the US earlier this year and that makes me really proud. I really
worked at my own contribution to that book and I've had lots of people
write to me and say they "dug" my story, which is nice and heartening.
The only problem I have (and I think it's sort of unique to these
anthologies) is that there are people who get incredibly cross about
these books because either their view of the band doesn't tally with
"my" view (or the view of a particular contributor) or they think I/we
are "making our fortunes" off the back of a band.
own view about bands and perceptions is that there is no single
"correct" view. So, for example, if you think The Smiths are miserable,
yes, I agree, they can be. But they're also funny, parochial,
political, arch, literate and a hundred other things (often at the same
time). There seems to be a critical unwillingness to follow a writer
wherever the song took them (because, as a reader, these people were
taken on a different journey by the song and therefore the writer's
journey is "wrong" – and how can it be?). I should also add, on the
fortunes front – as anyone who is involved with publishing short story
collections will tell you, nobody is making a fortune from a short
story collection. What rewards there are are purely aesthetic.
TSR: What are
you working on now?
I should say – after the critical kicking I tend to receive on
publication of each anthology – I'm working on my self-esteem… But I
don't want to appear like some whiney idiot. Soooo. I am still working
on the next (and final) three anthologies in this series – which will
feature a mixture of prose contributions and comic contributions (and
when I say "comic" I mean "comic"
in terms of sequential art rather than humour, although some of them
are funny). I have a novel that is currently being considered by Tindal
Street and another novel that is currently being considered by Old
Street and I'm currently writing a brisk, flash fiction-y novel that
attempts to give life to George Grosz's Riot of the Insane… which is a lot of fun to write (and will hopefully be a lot of fun to read, when I'm done and if it gets seen!).
TSR: What are
the three most recent short story collections you've read?
I've just read the first two short story one-shots from Nicholas Royle's new imprint, Nightjar Press – What Happens When You Wake Up At Night
by Michael Marshall Smith & The Safe Children
by Tom Fletcher – both of which I would wholeheartedly recommend.
They're both absolutely stop-you-in-your-tracks great! I read a new
collection of short stories by Brian Evenson called Fugue State
recently (published by Coffeehouse Press) which was really satisfying.
(You know when you read a collection of stories in which each story
feels as filling as a novel? That's what Fugue State
is like.) I should also say – this lunchtime I started reading the new collection of short stories by David Gaffney.
I'm a big fan of David Gaffney, really liked Sawn Off Tales
and his novel Never Never
The new collection is set to be published by Salt next summer so I'm
very privileged to get a sneaky advanced peak. So far, it's even better
than Sawn Off Tales…