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Sarah Salway

Website: SarahSalway.com

Sarah Salway is the author of Something Beginning With (2004), Tell Me Everything (2006), and Leading the Dance (2006). She teaches on the Creative Writing MA in the University of Sussex. Short short review – sum up how you felt about this book in 25 words: Raw and edgy fiction, tackling modern subjects of love, sensuality and betrayal in appealing, stylistic language.

Short story collections

Leading the Dance (Bluechrome, 2006)

Reviewed by Nuala Ní Chonchúir

Interview with Sarah Salway

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

Sarah Salway:They were started during my MA in Writing in 1998, and then written over roughly a four year period. Most were published in magazines or anthologies during this time.

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

SS: Not initially, although a few of the stories included were written for a particular themed collection which I didn’t complete in the end. This is because one of the stories from this collection took off and became the basis of my first novel, Something Beginning With. I didn’t want to lose the other stories I’d already written though, and besides I like the idea of revisiting characters in different situations. I’ve been doing this with some of my recent stuff. Little Malcolm in The Quiet Hour, for instance, now has his own story when he’s all grown up! I think I’d been reluctant to do this in case it showed I had run out of ideas, but it feels like the opposite. There’s a sense of knowing someone which is freeing for writing.

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

SS: It was hard – I veered from wanting to include everything I’ve ever written to thinking that nothing I’d produced was good enough! Eventually, I picked the stories I was still interested in reading myself. Some seemed to be complete and finished. As for order, I tried to include a variety of pov’s, lengths and styles. It’s funny because I never read the stories in a collection one after the other, but I definitely spent a long time working out how it would work if someone read it that way.

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

SS: It depends. A very few of my stories are written for different people – maybe because of something they’ve said that’s triggered an idea or because they’ve asked me to, but most times I don’t think consciously about the ‘reader’ during the writing process. That would be too inhibiting. I do show my stories to trusted readers though after I’ve finished them, and value their comments, but the editing process is completely different from writing.

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

SS:I went through a stage of feeling sick when I knew someone had read my work in case they didn’t like it, or thought I was ‘odd’. But now I’ve come to terms with the fact that there will always be some people who won’t like my stuff and also that I am definitely ‘odd’ ! There’s not much I can do about it, so am just happy when people tell me they’ve enjoyed and/or got something out of reading my stories. Mind you, I’ve recently come back from a residency in America, and met a writer there who I immensely admire. She read my stories, and I was desperate to ask her how she thought my new work – currently unpublished – was developing in comparison to my old stuff. Sometimes it’s good to have this kind of outside eye.

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

SS: Amazing. What more of a privilege is there than someone not just spending their money on your work but their time too? I’m very grateful.

TSR: What are you working on now?

SS: I’ve just had a break from novel 3 to work on a radio play and some short pieces. I’ve also been trying my hand at creative non-fiction, and am really excited by this – it seems a good hybrid between my journalism background and my fiction writing. But for now, it’s back to the novel.

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

SS: No-one Belongs Here More than You, by Miranda July. Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman – Haruki Murakami, The Best American Short Stories 2007, ed Stephen King – T C Boyle’s Balto in this collection has to be one of the best stories I’ve ever read. It sent electric shivers down my spine.