Beautiful Trees by Nik Perring

Roast Books have just published another of Nik Perring’s intriguing fictions.


It’s the second in a trilogy of stories following the lives of Alexander, Lucy and Lily. Just like the first, Beautiful Words, it resembles a children’s book. (The third will be Beautiful Shapes.)


Nik is a flash fiction magician conjuring whole lives with small, careful details. He goes back and forth in Alexander, Lucy and Lily’s timelines and whilst describing various trees gently relates moments to it. For a book so brief it’s surprisingly moving, but that’s because Perring is extraordinarily good at this. A written review can’t quite explain how this all works. Suffice to say it is all very uniquely Perring. His words are accompanied and enhanced by illustrations by Miranda Sofroniou, and you should probably buy a copy for yourself and one for your favourite person too.


This is Nik Perring –


and this is his new book –

Cover 180x180-2


Published by Roastbooks it’s gorgeous and different. It looks like a children’s picture alphabet book, except A is not for Apple, it’s for Appalachian, and F is not for Frog, but Fuck. Each word has been collected by Nik because he finds it beautiful in some way. Through his descriptions of the words we glimpse a relationship between Alexander and Lucy. It’s really a lovely book to give someone (or to treat yourself to).

Rightio, it’s time for the questions:

1) Have you ever seen a ghost?

Actually, I think I have. He was in my bedroom one night, looking through my drawers. He was slim and middle-aged – greying hair and in a baggy red sweater. I looked at him, he looked at me, and then he stood, walked through the bottom of my bed and out through the wall. He ignored me when I said, ‘Hello,’ and that’s just rude.

2) Do you know anyone named Tarquin?

Sadly not. It is a fine name.

3) Do you believe in life after love? 

I think I have to.

4) What are the 3 ugliest words?

Prejudice, because of what it means. Religion, because of what it does. And ugly, because of how it makes people feel.

5) Who is your favourite Neighbours character?

I don’t think I’ve seen an episode since I was in my early teens. I always liked Beth though.

6) Where do you go in your dreams?

Everywhere. Nowhere’s off limits.

7)  What is your favourite word?

Normally I’d have said something like ‘love’ or ‘trust’ but I’m going to go with one that’s in the book, and that is ‘ineludible’. Lovely, isn’t it?


8) How much money did you spend yesterday?

Yesterday, I bought:

Ginger root – £1.

1 x packet of blue Pall Mall – £6.25.

1 x bottle of Lucozade (for my mum, she wasn’t feeling well) £1.99

And about £15’s worth of beer in the pub. (It was Beautiful Words’ publication day so I celebrated a little.)

TOTAL £24.24

9) Do flowers scream when you pick them?

Of course they do. Roald Dahl says so.

10) Can you make up a poem about tonic?

She was drinking gin and tonic

while reading a rather long comic

when the comic was done

she fell on her bum

and now her problem is chronic

(That’s brilliant!)

11) Do you have a favourite pen?

I have two Pelikan M200s which I’ve used for years. All my first drafts are written longhand so a good pen, so my wrist doesn’t get knackered, is important. It also, particularly pretentiously, makes me feel like I’m getting that little bit closer to the words. Practically, it’s good because whatever I’ve written gets a half-edit while I’m typing it up.

12) Are you more likely to make a souffle, do the ironing, or clean the toilet?

I do like to cook, but I’ve never done a souffle. Cleaning the bathroom is a necessary evil. So, ironing it is then.

13) Who is your writer crush?

Anne Sexton. Though there are a few whose stories still make me swoon: Aimee Bender, Michael Kimball, Etkar Keret, Marie-Helene Bertino, Lorrie Moore, Angela Readman. And Sara Crowley, of course.


14) Have you ever had a nickname? (Nik name haha) What?

Ha! Not really. I was Pez for a little while in school. And Cola-Bottle (as in the sweets) because I was thin and dark. Nik works much, much better, don’t you think?

15) Bacon VS Tofu. Who wins?


I’m a reluctant non-veggie (is that a bit like conscious uncoupling??) so tofu.

16) Would you rather be a bee or a wasp?

A bee, without question. Wasps are evil.

17) You are wallpaper, what is your pattern?

Whatever The Yellow Wallpaper was. (If you’ve not read it, you should. It’s wonderful.)

(I have read it. That’s a really interesting answer.)

18) How do you organise your bookshelves?

Ha ha ha ha ha!

19) Up or down?

Down, looking up.

20) What is your favourite cheese?

Actually, I can’t eat cheese because it gives me migraines (actually one of the reasons I’m not a fully committed veggie). Alexander likes cheese in Beautiful Words and, because it’s a pretty word, his favourite is Roulade. (That is a cheese, isn’t it?)


Thanks, Nik. I wish you lots of success with Beautiful Words. If anyone wants to know more about Nik here is his blurby stuff:

Nik Perring is a short story writer and author from the UK. His stories have been published in many fine places both in the UK and abroad, in print and online. They’ve been used on High School distance learning courses in the US, printed on fliers, and recorded for radio. Nik is the author of the children’s book, I Met a Roman Last Night, What Did You Do? (EPS, 2006); the short story collection, Not So Perfect (Roastbooks 2010); and he’s the co-author of Freaks! (The Friday Project/HarperCollins, 2012). His online home is and he’s on Twitter as @nikperring




Freaky Friday

I’m a fan of Nik Perring‘s tiny fictions ( see here for my review of his debut, “Not So Perfect”) so was happy to hear that he has just published another collection, this time in collaboration with the totally ace Caroline Smailes:

Their press release explains, “Over fifty freaks and misfits feature in this unforgettable book. A unique collaboration between three popular writers, the stories are written by Caroline Smailes (Like Bees to Honey) and Nik Perring (Not So Perfect) and illustrated by Darren Craske, a comic book artist and author of The Cornelius Quaint Chronicles.”  

Sounds good, right? Who doesn’t love to imagine what their Super Power would be? (Mine is surely the ability to lose hours, procrastinate for days, and sleep for years.)

I’m impressed by how Nik Perring has managed to carve his way as a short story writer when we are repeatedly told how difficult that is, and he has kindly written this post for me to share with you:

Just a Short Story Writer
I’m going to start off here by saying that I’ve been very lucky. I’ve had three books published and two of those have been short story collections (Not So Perfect was published by Roast books in 2010, and Freaks!, a collaboration with Caroline Smailes was published by The Friday Project (HarperCollins) a couple of weeks ago).  And in a culture where (commercially, at least) the novel is king, I know that that makes me very lucky. 
I never set out to be a short story writer. I started life as a writer about ten years ago by writing things for newspapers and magazines. Then, in 2006,  my children’s book came out. All the way through I’d been writing short stories, and I’d had a bunch of them published, but I’d not considered myself a short story writer. I was just a writer who wrote short stories. And I wrote them because I enjoyed writing them. Same as reading them.
As time went on I wrote more and more short stories. I found the form suited me and the stories I wanted to tell, or maybe I suited the form. Either way, that’s what I did. And again, they were published and I was fortunate to have a collection out with the magnificent Roast Books in 2010, and then with equally magnificent The Friday Project this year.
So, while I wouldn’t say that I fell into short story writing, or that it was a happy accident, it wasn’t anything that I’d planned. It happened as it should have happened and that’s cool.
So how do I survive as a short story writer (a label which I’m getting more and more comfortable with) in a world where, commercially at least, it’s the the novel that’s king? I think the answer’s surprisingly easy: I survive writing short stories because that’s what I do, and that’s what I love, and I firmly believe that if you do something well, and if you work hard at it (any writing’s hard, not just one form) and if you get that bit of luck, then you can do okay at it. 
Don’t forget, people like good stories. Editors and publishers like good stories and readers like good stories. And that’s regardless of their length. Some stories are always going to be longer than others (novels), but if they’re good, they’re good, and that means they’ll have a great chance of finding a home and an audience.
Commercially, short story collections don’t sell as well as novels. We know this. Twas ever thus. And that’s not a problem (it is a Good Thing that people buy stories of any length). Nor is it the whole picture. Not every novel sells by the truck load, and not every novel reader will buy every sort of novel. And most novelists don’t make a fortune. They do what they do because they enjoy it, because they’re good at it and because the novel, as a form, suits the stories they want to tell. And they make some money from it. They probably have to do other things too to keep that financial wolf from the door, like editing or teaching or running workshops – or even jobs that have bugger all to do with writing. And that isn’t all that different to us short story people. We do it for the same reasons. We’re all writers. There shouldn’t be any us and them, or any prejudice because, really, we’re doing pretty much the same thing. 
So, how do I make it as a short story writer? Simple. I do what I love doing and I do it as well as I can.
Thanks, Nik, that’s a lovely, encouraging message actually – write what you love and do it well. I wish you every success.

I’ll leave you with a taster from Freaks, stories aren’t credited so the reader is left to guess which is written by Caroline or Nik – I like to think I can pick who wrote which but… hmmm, there’s no way to know which adds to the fun. Who do you think write this one?:

[Super Power: The ability to make oneself unseen to the naked eye]
If I stay totally still,
if I stand right tall,
with me back against the school wall,
close to the science room’s window,
with me feet together,
pointing straight,
aiming forward,
if I make me hands into tight fists,
make me arms dead straight,
 if I push me arms into me sides,
if I squeeze me thighs,
stop me wee,
if me belly doesn’t shake,
if me boobs don’t wobble,
if I close me eyes tight,
so tight that it makes me whole face scrunch,
if I push me lips into me mouth,
if I make me teeth bite me lips together,
if I hardly breathe,
if I don’t say a word.
I’ll magic meself invisible,
and them lasses will leave me alone.

Review of Nik Perring’s Not So Perfect

I “know” Nik Perring from the online bloggy world, but I don’t “know” him at all. We aren’t friends, tho’ he seems like a nice guy from his twitter feed and his blog. We have mutual writing pals but we’ve never emailed or met or spoken or gone beyond commenting on each others tweets/blogs. I wasn’t offered a review copy of his flash fiction collection “Not So Perfect” (humph) but as I run a dedicated Flash Fiction section at work I ordered a few copies in as I like to mix classic books with fresh, contemporary work. 
From what I have seen so far, Roast Books create gorgeous publications; books that stand out because of how they look, books that demand to be picked up and held, explored, read. Nik’s is no exception. It’s a small book – the size of a CD, so immediately looks different. Here’s the cover:
Delicious, eh? I had a wee flick through and liked it enough to buy it.
I read it in my lunch break and on the train ride home. To be honest I was so immersed in it that I didn’t notice I was at my home stop until the last moment and that never happens. What Nik Perring seems able to do is breathe life into characters. It’s a vital, difficult skill, made all the more impressive by the brevity of these fictions. With just a few pertinent details he makes characters feel real. He makes the reader care. His stories are brief but full. I was surprised by how romantic many of them are; beautiful, aching examples of love and heartbreak.

A grumpy man surprises his wife with a message in flowers, a woman heard sobbing through a wall may bring hope, a spurned lover can’t recall the last time anyone said his name, a man finds a lump on his dates breast…slices of lives reveal human nature.

It’s a cute book containing 22 wee stories (each complete with accompanying quirky line illustration.) It costs £7.99 and is available to buy from Waterstones online, Waterstone’s Brighton, or y’know, one of those other places.