AW I understand you have a new anthology that is to be published this week, Vanessa. Can you tell me a little about it?
VC First, thank you very much for hosting me on your blog again, Angela.
French Collection: Twelve Short Stories will be published on Thursday, 9th November. The stories are all set in France. My husband and I moved to southwest France 20 years ago. When I took up writing fiction, it seemed natural to set many of my short stories here. French history, culture and art have provided a lot of inspiration.
AW I know exactly what you mean. For me it was the fabulous scenery that I could not leave out my own books.
VC Most of the stories are historical fiction. So, for example, one is about a 17th-century pedlar who is chased out of an Aveyron village for greatly inflating the death toll from the plague in the town of Villefranche-de-Rouergue. Another concerns a young woman near Cahors who finds herself pregnant by her lover who is fighting in the WWI trenches.
|Market day in Villefranche|
AW Villefranche... a fabulous old bastide town that is a favourite of mine! But back to the book. Hardy, Dickens, Joyce, Dahl and M R James are just a few of my favourite short story writers, which means that this type of writing has a long and well established history. With the advent of e-books, novels seem to me to be getting longer rather than shorter. Is short-story writing for adults a bit old hat now, do you think?
VC To paraphrase Mark Twain, “Reports of the short story’s death are premature.” I don’t think it’s an advantage that novels are getting longer. At the risk of being unpopular, I have found some recently-published novels in need of an additional pruning.
However, I think publishers generally find novels more commercially attractive than short story collections. That said, many modern novelists come to mind who have published anthologies. Also, last year I was involved in a collection of short stories set around the time of Pearl Harbour in December 1941. That has been very successful, especially in the States.
The advantage of shorts is that they are complete stories that can be read at one sitting. So if you don’t feel like getting immersed in a much longer work, or don’t have the time, short stories provide a satisfying alternative. They also give you a chance to enjoy new genres that you might not otherwise read.
AW Easier or more difficult? You have a number of full-length books to your name, so how do the two very different forms compare?
VC I cut my writing teeth on short stories but I think they are more difficult to write well than novels. In a novel you have some leeway for additional description or to elaborate on a scene. In a short story, every single word has to count. There is no room at all for extraneous material. You need to grip the reader’s attention immediately. And you have to get the main character from A to Z (problem to resolution) in a very short space. That said, I enjoy writing short stories and use them to hone my writing skills.
AW Lastly, Vanessa, with yet another book about to hit the streets, what would your eight-year-old self, make of you today?
VC When I was eight, I enjoyed writing stories. You think you can do anything at that age, so I would have felt it a natural progression to become a published author later. In reality, education and a career stifled my creativity and I didn’t take up writing fiction again until 10 years ago. I would have been disappointed if I had known that at eight years old. But I am trying to make up for lost time!
...about the author Vanessa Couchman is a British novelist and short story writer who has lived in southwest France since 1997. She has written two novels, The House at Zaronza and The Corsican Widow, and is working on a third. Her short stories have been placed in competitions and published in anthologies.
Thank you Vanessa and there will be more about Villefranche from yours truly in the next few weeks... watch this space!