Today, I’m delighted to welcome Rebecca Lloyd to my blog to answer a few questions as part of the tour for her new short story collection; The View From Endless Street, published by WiDo Publishing on April 8th this year. Rebecca won the 2008 Bristol Short Story Prize and reached the semi-finals in the Paul Bowles Award For Short Fiction this year with Whelp And Other Stories. She has also been a semi-finalist in the Dundee International Book Prize for her novel Under The Exquisite Gaze and in the Hudson Prize for another short story collection.
The stories in The View From Endless Street explore a myriad of relationships; often with humour but always with candour. They range from tales of murder and obsession to arson, and abound with a wealth of fascinating characters – though none of them financially wealthy! – offering a rich seam of reading, from ‘Castle Street in June’; a poignant story about moving on, to ‘The River’; her gripping story which won the Bristol Short Story Prize. Joe Melia, of The Bristol Prize, says; “Rebecca’s prolific output continues to demonstrate her great versatility as a writer”.
Hi, Rebecca and welcome. First I’d like to ask; I notice you’re more likely to write from the POV of a male character in your stories – do you find this easier?
Thank you, and thanks for having me. I used to find it easier to write male characters, and I think that was because they somehow ‘weren’t me,’ so I was able to be more objective about them; they couldn’t get mixed up with who I am myself, if that makes sense? But as I went on writing, it became easier for me to write females, and now all that matters is to choose the right character to be in charge of the story, be it female or male. At the moment I’m working on five stories and four of those have main characters who are women. I think my initial hesitation about writing women was to do with a slight fear that readers might have certain expectations about how women should be portrayed in fiction, and I wouldn’t be able to manage it, as the characters would have to be a bit ‘lady-like’ and therefore not remotely interesting to me. I think I was being unnecessarily neurotic however. Although, I have to admit, in real life when I get called a ‘lady’ I always suggest the person thinks about using the word ‘woman’ instead.
It makes a lot of sense, Becca, and I think it’s a process a lot of writers must go through. I’ve certainly found writing from a male POV provides an exciting creative freedom. I also notice a lot of your stories are about people with low self-esteem. What interests you about that?
Yes, this is true. It’s because I’m interested in human vulnerabilities and all the myriads of ways they are expressed in our lives – some of which we might recognise in ourselves and others which might be fascinatingly alien to us. When people are vulnerable or have low self-esteem, they can’t help being more open than people who are in control of their lives and destinies, or imagine they are at least. In the vulnerable, more depths about who they really are become exposed.
I’m intrigued by your comment that those in control of their lives manage to hide it, or “imagine they are”, because I’m sure it’s true that everyone has insecurities of one sort or another, which leads me to ask; do you ever write about wealthy people?
No. Because I have no interest in wealth myself in real life I would find it deeply boing to write about wealthy people. The wealthy very often ‘immunise’ themselves against the ordinary stream of human life which goes on around them by using their wealth and power to become separate. It’s not that I care what the wealthy do or don’t do so much; it’s more that their life styles and choices are not interesting to me.
Fair enough – though I can’t help thinking it might be interesting to see what you’d make of their vulnerabilities!
Perhaps I should explain a bit more about what I mean. People who exist on the fringes of society, and they do so for a hundred different reasons, are not able so easily to surround themselves with the armoury of social pretensions and all the flotsam and jetsam that goes with wealth, and for that reason a writer is able to ‘see’ them much more clearly, has got better access. So if I was given a choice of writing about a white South African family living in a protected compound, or writing about the black family up the road who were finding it hard to get water, I’d think the black family had to be more ingenious and inventive, and so, for me, more interesting.
So, tell me, what writers do you read yourself?
At the moment, I’m reading some modern writers of literary horror, or the ‘new black’ such as Nik Korpon, Stephen Graham Jones and Craig Clevenger, but at the same time, I’m reading some Walter de la Mare and Arthur Machen, oh and I came across Andrew Apter who I think is a thrilling writer, he was one of the contributors to the Tartarus anthology Strange Tales volume IV, in which I also had a story.
And what do you think the commonest mistake made by new writers is?
Oh, that’s such a difficult question because there are lots of stylistic problems that a new writer might have to deal with, things like learning to avoid exposition in a story. I think I’d settle for the commonest mistake being the idea that writing and living a writing life is an easy one, and that’s linked up with the ‘best seller’ dream, a fantasy in which all you have to do is write a best seller and you’re famous, adored, and set up for life. But if people become interested in being a writer because they think they’re going to make money from it, they are probably doomed from the start because the only real ‘fuel’ for a writer is love of the craft.
I’d certainly agree with that! And finally, do you have another short story collection planned?
I do have one unpublished collection out there, and yes, I am working towards another one. The five stories I mentioned earlier belong to it. I’m hoping that one of the independent publishers of literary dark works will pick it up because this is the first time I’ve allowed myself to be unrestrained in my writing about peculiarities in human experience. I’d never really realised that I wrote strange material, but with WiDo Publishing likening me to Roald Dahl in The View From Endless Street and at the same time, Tartarus Press publishing Mercy, another of my short story collections, I’ve finally decided to accept that I write weird material.
Thanks very much, Rebecca. Weird or dark – your stories are certainly extremely engrossing and thought provoking!