Back This Way at FRiGG Magazine

I’m delighted that FRiGG Magazine have published what is (at least for now) my favourite story – “Back This Way”.

Massive thanks to FRiGG’s editor, Ellen Parker, for just getting it. She made a few suggestions for edits which so improved the story that if I were given three wishes my first would be that Ellen Parker would read everything I ever write and perform the same magic. (My second and third would be, y’know, world peace and all that.)

The Fall issue looks ace. I’ve already checked out some really good words by Chris Garson and an intriguing story by Kevin Spaide, and am looking forward to reading more.

Nuala Ní Chonchúir HERE at A Salted for her Nude not naked tour (and I have an exclusive!)

I am delighted to welcome Nuala Ní Chonchúir to my humble blog. She is dropping by to answer some questions as part of her tour promoting “Nude” her third collection of short stories. Nuala is an Irish fiction writer and poet. Her short fiction collections The Wind Across the Grass (2004) and To the World of Men, Welcome (2005) were published by Arlen House. Her poetry collections Tattoo:Tatú (2007) and Molly’s Daughter (2003) appeared from the same publisher. She has won many literary prizes, including RTÉ Radio’s Francis MacManus Award and the Cecil Day-Lewis Award. Nuala lives in Galway with her partner and children.

Welcome Nuala.

Hi Sara and thanks for having me here at A Salted.

Right, questions coming atcha!

1) I was struck throughout by your wonderfully strong opening lines:

“The outflow on the bath is like a keyhole; you stopper it with your toe and let the water lap in your ears, to block out the house.” (Unmothered)

“The air slung like a noose around my nose and mouth, then slipped down to settle on my neck.” (To drift and to lift)

“She has a doughy face and bulging, raisin eyes; her belly-folds flop one over another in a fleshy heap.” (Ekphrasis)

“You died today.” (Mademoisele O’Murphy)

(I could quote from any one of them but chose a few of my favourites.)

How do you choose your first lines? Do you write them first or do you figure out the best opening when the story is complete?

A lot of my stories actually start from the fact that I have an opening line. So, I’m pottering or walking or whatever, and some words occur to me and, if I like them, I write them down. Those words might collide with something that’s been stewing – a character, maybe. My stories rarely spring from one thing (say, a situation or idea); it’s more like a meeting of a vague sense of a character in a situation, then a first line comes, and I’m off.

2) Early, Lamb, Grace, Cowboy and Nelly are just some of the names you use. Glorious names that fit the characters perfectly. How do you choose them? Where do they come from?

I love naming; it’s one of the most joyous parts of writing. Annie Proulx is a favourite writer of mine and she has a lot of fun with names too.
I pick up names everywhere: from spam, death notices, graveyards, magazine articles. I always split the first name from the surname before using it.
Early is a surname in Ireland and I made it a first name in the story ‘Amazing Grace’. Names became integral in that story in the end.
Lamb I nicked from Lamb Gaede, one half of twin racist pop outfit Prussian Blue. (Her twin sis is called Lynx).
Cowboy and Nelly are the doggy parents of my friend Marcella’s dog, Rosa. I thought the names sounded great together – like a real couple – so I stole them for two characters.

3) Do you have a favourite character that you have created? Why?

I like some characters for different reasons. I quite fancy Loveday, a character from my second collection. In Nude I like Magda Bolding (name found in spam!) because she’s in two of the stories and you see her develop from tentative young artist/model, to strong, successful woman artist in her own right.

4) You are a poet and short story writer. The inevitable question therefore is: are you planning on writing a novel? (Oh, and what makes an idea a poem instead of a story and vice versa?)

I have written a novel and, here’s an exclusive, Sara, I’ve just had it accepted by a wonderful Irish publisher, New Island. The novel is called You, it’s set in Dublin in 1980 and will be published in April 2010. I’m thrilled!
As for poem vs short story, my themes/passions can be similar in both: women’s lives, sex, love breaking down, art. My poems tend to be more personal, my fiction is more…fictional.

5) You refer throughout to works of art. How important is it that your reader is familiar with the art in question?

I don’t think they have to be familiar with them – some of the paintings in Nude are not real anyway. I guess readers could google the images if they felt the need.

6) I loved Smash Hits irreverent style of questioning when younger so to finish up I thought we’d have some fun!

Yay, I loved Smash Hits too!

What’s your favourite biscuit?

Tesco’s Finest dark chocolate gingers. Drooooolll.

Who is your favourite Sesame Street character?

Grover. I love sweet, sensitive guys.

Cheese or chocolate?

Cheese – I’m a sucker for Emmenthal.

Who is the most famous person you have ever met?

Literary-wise: Richard Ford. Star-wise: Rufus Wainwright.

Whose poster did you have on your teenaged bedroom wall?

Paul Young. I was going to marry him until that Stacey got her claws in…

Best milkshake flavour?


Sara, I LOVED your questions, thanks a mill for having me here! As a former bookseller I always enjoy your posts about bookshop life.
Next Tuesday my virtual tour takes me back across the Irish Sea to wonder woman writer Barbara Smyth’s blog:BARBARA’S BLEEUUGH! in Dundalk.

Thanks you so much Nuala, and wow, what fabulous news about your novel. Congratulations!

Nude is available to buy directly from Salt or from Waterstones of course!

It’s a lovely collection with stories full of art, sensuous women, disappointment, yearning, travel and hopes. Go get it!

"My" short story display case!

I thought it’d be cool to show you a recent photo from the short story display case at work. There seems to have been a sudden flurry of very good short story collections being published. Hurray!

Starting from the top we have Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie “The Thing Around Your Neck”, “Midsummer Nights” edited by Jeanette Winterson, and James Lasdun “It’s Beginning to Hurt”(which looks excellent, though I haven’t read it yet.)

First shelf we have Tania Hershman’s “The White Road and other stories”. Tania was recently commended by the Chair of Judges of the Orange Award for New Writers who said “(her) work stood out for its remarkable quality. We look forward to seeing more of (her) writing in the future.”, then a really interesting anthology called “Punk Fiction” which features stories from a diverse range of people who were inspired by punk – amongst them Billy Bragg and Billy Childish, Kate Pullinger and Lane Ashfeldt. Next there is “An Elegy for Easterly” by Petina Gappah. You can read Vanessa Gebbie’s review of the book in this months Pulp Net. Also there is Wells Tower’s much written about/hyped collection “Everything Ravaged, everything Burned”

Second shelf features Eliazabeth Baines “Balancing on the Edge of the World”, Sylvia Plath’s “Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams” which sells well when in a prominent place. Perhaps people think Plath = poetry and The Bell Jar (incidentally, there is a new edition of The Bell Jar from Faber, it’s part of their 80th celebration, and I had to buy it just because it is so gorgeous. All of the Faber 80’s covers are scrummy.) Janice Galloway’s superb “Where You Find It” and “The Book of Other People”

The third shelf has “Let’s Call the Whole thing off: Love quarrels from Anton Chekov to ZZ Packer” – and includes a tiny piece from a writer I adore – Frances Gapper, as well as Ali Smith, Jackie Kay and Dorothy Parker, then deliciously quirky “No One Belongs Here More Than You” by Miranda July, “In Bed With…” full of anonymous sexy stories by well known authors including Ali Smith, Stella Duffy, Fay Weldon and Emma Darwin, and “The Pleasant Light of Day” by Phillip O’Ceallaigh.

The last shelf is rather cool, with “Everyday” by Lee Rourke, “The Loudest Sound and Nothing” by Clare Wigfall, “One World – a Global anthology” which I blogged about here, and Four Letter Word, which if I’m honest is the only thing not picked by me and has been replaced by
Lorrie Moore’s “Collected Stories” (a must) which is now available in paperback.

Phew – I have link fatigue.

"My" short story display case, and Janice Galloway, Tania Hershman and others…

Lee Rourke blogged yesterday about his book “Everyday” being sold in a branch of Waterstones. And he had the photo to prove it!

Yay! It’s “my” short story display case.

Today Tania Hershman also blogged about it, because her fantastic collection The White Road and Other Stories is there too.

I love the fact that I get to maintain a short story section in the shop. I change it often, try to keep it fresh and enticing, but I always keep Janice Galloway‘s collection “Where you find it” in there. You may or may not recall me blogging about how much I LOVE this book here and here. I am delighted to say that we have now sold 50 copies. How cool is that!

I also keep Sylvia Plath’s “Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams” there, because, well, it’s Sylvia.

You will currently find Tania Hershman, Lee Rourke, Claire Wigfall, William Trevor, Charles Bukowski, Katherine Mansfield, Richard Yates, Miranda July, Vanessa Gebbie, Ali Smith, Alison MacLeod, Neil Smith, Tao Lin, Sara Maitland, Jhumpa Lahri and Jay McInerney in the case. We have sold out of Lorrie Moore for now.

Short stories are coooool.

I wanted to do a clever title for this post about teaching grandma to suck eggs or something but it didn’t work out

Surprise! I love short stories. Yup. And I have a short story display case at work which I refresh every week, putting in my favourites, trying to make it enticing and irresistible. A woman came into the shop and asked where the short stories were, so I was yay and delighted, and showed her “my” selection, and then showed her the shelves where other anthologies are and so on. And I couldn’t resist asking if she was a short story buff as she ended up buying six or seven books. And she said no, she wasn’t, didn’t read them, didn’t know anything about them, but she has to teach the subject at Uni this term.


See You Next Tuesday – The second coming

I have a story in this new anthology published by Better Non Sequitur. These are fifty 1,000 word stories with a sex theme. (Mine is definitely not erotica) – in the words of the publisher:

Not only are people all around the world having lots of sex, but they are also writing about it. See You Next Tuesday: The Second Coming is the second compilation of 50 sex-riddled (first-published) short fictions that try to transcend perhaps the most universal subject in existence.

Writing from across the globe, each 1,000-word text promises to evoke and provoke the existential and thoughtful corners of your most erotic of organs (namely the one in your head). In other words, the rumors are true, the waiting has ended: The Second Coming is here!