I’m delighted to welcome the very talented, and long time friend of the blog, AND all round short story good person, Carys Bray to the blog today, to talk about her debut collection, Sweet Home. I’ve yet to read it, but knowing her work (which I’m lucky to) I know it’ll be rather splendid. So. On we go…
Hi there, Carys, and welcome to the blog. It’s a thrill to have you here. So, your first book’s just come out. Congratulations! Could you tell us a little about it? Who’s it for and what’s it about?
It’s a collection of stories about families. Some of the stories are funny, some are sad and there’s a couple of modern fairy tales, too.
The book includes stories about a father who is reminded of his son as he watches the rescue of a group of Chilean miners, a mother who buys special-offer babies at the supermarket, a carpenter who sculpts a baby out of ice and a little boy who tries to engineer a happily ever after following the death of his sister.
‘Sweet Home’ is a lovely title. How did that come about?
I couldn’t decide whether to give the collection its own name or to name it after one of the stories. Eventually, I decided to name it after one of the stories. The story ‘Sweet Home’ is a story about an old woman who builds a gingerbread house at the edge of an English village, but I think the ‘Sweet Home’ title also works for the whole collection as most of the stories are about family and home.
What would you say all the stories in there have in common?
I think most of the stories are about the things that go wrong and right when people live together. I think fresh language is really important in short stories so I hope I’ve managed to tell the stories in an interesting way. I have quite a dark sense of humour which is probably evident in several of the stories – I like stories that are funny and sad, just like real life.
How long did it take you to write?
I started writing the stories when I began my MA in October 2009 and I finished writing them in the spring of 2011.
What’s your process?
When I was doing the MA I had to work to deadlines, so I used to stay up all night and force myself to keep writing. When I finished the MA I allowed myself to take a little longer. I also allowed myself to leave stories that weren’t working and come back to them later.
I usually start with one idea or image and then see if it’s got legs. I’ve got about half a dozen stories on the go at the moment, but I’m too busy to finish them, which is really frustrating!
What’s been the highlight of being a real, proper, genuine, author so far? (Is it cake?)
I do love cake (probably too much), but making little book cupcakes for my launch was probably not the highlight of being a real, proper author so far! I think the highlight has been the fact that I can hold the book now and know it’s full of words I arranged and ordered.
Read. That’s my tip. Reading is one of the best things in the world (along with cake) AND you can learn loads of really interesting stuff about writing when you read.
What’s next for you?
I’m working on a PhD and I’ve almost finished the first draft of a novel which doesn’t have a name yet. It’s a bit of a monster at around 120,000 words – the second draft may require a significant word cull.
Anything you’d like to add?
Yes! I really enjoyed Not So Perfect. And thank you for having me.
That’s very kind of you! Thanks. Wishing you all the best with it (and looking forward to giving it a read once I’ve got all this work off my desk!).