Ryan O'Neill was born in Scotland in 1975. He lived and worked as an English teacher in Rwanda, Lithuania, and China, before finally settling in Australia. His stories have appeared in various literary magazines and anthologies including Best Australian Stories 2007, Sleepers Almanac, Meanjin, Wet Ink and Westerly. He has had two short story collections published by Ginninderra Press, Six Tenses and A Famine in Newcastle, the latter of which was shortlisted for the 2007 Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards. He lives in Newcastle, New South Wales with his wife and two daughters. 

Short Story Collections

A Famine in Newcastle
(Ginninderra Press, 2007)

reviewed by Majella Cullinane

Six Tenses

(Ginninderra Press, 2005)

Interview with Ryan O'Neill

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

RON: I wrote the stories on and off over a number of years, and in a number of different countries, so it's difficult to remember exactly how long it took. Usually, a story will take me three weeks to a month to write, or less if I'm lucky. I think the six stories in this collection probably took about four or five months.

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

RON: No.

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

RON: I'd like to say that I carefully considered the overall theme of the collection, but the truth is that my selection process was much more random. I just thought that it might be interesting to have a couple of stories from each of the different places I had lived and worked (Africa, Scotland and Australia) and to mix first and third person narration.  Personally, I love short story collections that aren't restricted to one location or one point of view, or one theme. One of the things I love most about writing and reading short stories is how different each one can be. And so I tried to have quite different stories in my collection. 

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

RON:  The King died and then the Queen died of grief.

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

RON: No. If I had a reader in mind when I write, I'd be too crippled by self-doubt to get past the first line.

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

RO: What parts did you think didn't work?

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

RON: To be honest, I've never thought about it.

TSR: What are you working on now?

RON: At the moment I'm working on another collection. I've been writing short stories seriously for nearly a decade now, so I have quite a few to draw from. I'm very much enjoying experimenting with form, and trying to explore the limits of what a short story can be, in the same way that JG Ballard did in many of his short stories, such as The Index and Answers to a Questionnaire.

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

RO: Kolyma Tales by Varlam Shalamov, a fascinating and heartbreaking collection of stories set in the Russian Gulags. What Came Between by Patrick Cullen, a brilliant and moving collection of linked storie by one of Australia's most exciting new writers. Legends of a Suicide by David Vann, a beautifully written meditation on a father's death and a son's life.
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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 >>>