Regi Claire lives in Edinburgh with her husband, the writer Ron Butlin. Her mother tongue is Swiss German but she writes in English. Her previous books are Inside-Outside (shortlisted for the Saltire First Book Award) and The Beauty Room (longlisted for the MIND Book of the Year Award)

Short Story Collections

Fighting It
(Two Ravens Press, 2009)

Reviewed by Sarah Salway

(Scottish Cultural Press, 1998)

Interview with Regi Claire

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

Regi Claire: To be honest, quite a few years (my guess is six)! I’m a rather slow writer – English is my fourth language by acquisition – and I wrote them in between working on a new novel, which I’m now finally and for the last time revising.

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

RC: Not exactly. It was more a vague hope that as I’d already had a collection published previously (Inside~Outside), the new stories would at some point also turn into a book. They all appeared (with one exception) in various anthologies and magazines, sometimes even twice and in translation, but having a collection out really is the icing on the cake!

I never thought of interlinking the stories or giving them a unified theme. Still, having finished about four or five of them, I found they all seemed to focus, in one way or another, on the idea of fighting something, be it an obsession, a desire, age, love or even death. Once I realised this, I tried to explore the theme further. Frankly, though, it didn’t require too much of an effort as at the time of writing them I was struggling myself – with a protracted phase of self-doubt and then with illness: for at least two years, my husband suffered from heart problems and needed repeated medical treatment (he’s fine now, thank God). Oddly enough, the theme and title of the collection proved prophetic: shortly after the book was accepted last summer by Two Ravens Press, I was diagnosed with bowel cancer (sorted now, I’m glad to say), and the collection became my talisman, my very own call to battle. 

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

RC: I excluded a few very short pieces, a couple of them sci-fi horror, which just didn’t seem to quite fit – despite the fact that they all encapsulated the idea of fighting something.

I tried to vary female and male narrators, POV, setting, mood and style. Of course, as my husband, who is also a writer, keeps reminding me, most people don’t read a collection from cover to cover anyway, but pick out stories because of length, title or sheer whim. A case in point is a friend of mine who emailed yesterday to say she’d started my book – with a story right from the middle!

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

RC:  Anything that’s shorter than a novella (though we’d have to define that first!) and has some kind of narrative, some sort of resolution. I don’t think having a clear beginning, middle and end is a prerequisite.

Slices-of-life type of fictions or snapshots can also work as stories.

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

RC:  Not at first. I believe that having a reader in mind too soon destroys the true imaginative flow, replacing it with mere competence. But it’s vital to think of a reader later on, at the revising stage. After all, that’s what we do: we write so our work will be read!

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

RC: The obvious question would be: "Have you enjoyed my book?" But enjoyment comes in many forms. So I might simply ask: "Did the stories resonate with you?"

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

RC: I always find it amazing and wonderful, and humbling.

TSR: What are you working on now?

RC: I’ve just received a Writer’s Bursary from the Scottish Arts Council to finalise my second novel and research and write a new one. I’m well into the revising stage and am keen to get on with the next book.

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

RC: Flannery O’Connor’s Complete Stories, also The Short Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Somerset Maugham’s Complete Short Stories. The latter two were read to me by my husband over many evenings while I prepared dinner. In the course of our marriage, we have enjoyed dozens of books in this way, including some hefty tomes by Dickens. In fact, we’ve just promised some friends that they could come along to listen (and watch the cooking process), and then share dinner with us. Thanks to The Short Review, we’ll be able to select many more short story collections!
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