I see a lot of short stories. A lot. I see them as part of critiquing business, I see them in my writing group and see them in both my publishing ventures. I love the short story form as you know and I love to write short stories as well as my novels. So I was delighted to offered the chance to review a collection by new and emerging writers called My Baby Shot Me Down: a host of women’s voices.
There is always the concern with short story collections (I know it from my work at Bridge House) of some standing out a lot more than others. It’s kind of inevitable. I once saw written that the aim with putting together a collection is to make them similar in style — er no! Perhaps similar in standard (if possible) but the whole point about a collection by several authors should surely be to see how diverse story telling can be?
I wasn’t sure when the book arrived what I would see, but I was really happy to read strong, quirky, interesting character voices — some dark (that always happens with shorts) but some lighter — but what stood out was the quality.
You can read my review on Amazon and Goodreads. Here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/933979716
So I wanted to invite one of the authors to the spotlight today to tell us more about this collection. Once again small press, small marketing budget but lots of talent and so we must all do our part to get it out in the world … so please welcome Harriett Goodale to tell us more about her and writing for this collection.
Tell us something about you and your writing. I read that My Baby Shot Me Down is your first publishing success which surprise me, given the accomplished nature of your writing. So what’s your writing story?
So I’d say my writing story hasn’t yet begun. I’ve been writing in earnest for maybe three years, but that in fits and starts, and never with a view to publishing. I heard by chance of a website called abctales.com
, where you can post writing and read other people’s work. I posted a poem and the feedback and support were mindblowing. I began to think that maybe writing was something I could get good at. But it’s always been hard to make the time. Being unsuited to desk jobs and only educated to GCSE level, I fell by necessity into manual labour — two years as a building site labourer and a year doing cosmetic repairs on building sites. It puts food on the table but I’m generally so exhausted I just don’t have the will to write. However, I’ve been saving up. This September I’m quitting my job to go back to college and be a full-time student of literature and history. I can’t wait to start my new life. I feel like that’s when my writing journey will really begin.
Tell us something about this collection. Where it came from, and how you came to be involved. Was it by invite or did you have to be chosen?
The anthology was Richard Penny’s idea. He’s a long time member of abctales.com
, and we met at the abc get-togethers. He has an independent publishing company called Blinding Books
, and he wanted to put together an anthology of female writers from abctales. When he first approached me I reluctantly said no; I didn’t think I had anything worth submitting and I didn’t feel I could commit to writing anything new. But a couple of months later Ray Smart, who is also in the anthology, contacted me to ask if I would get involved. I thought, ‘Hell, these people are kind enough to want me to be part of this, I’d be an idiot to refuse.’ So I scraped together the few pieces I thought passable, and sent them off. I’m so glad I did, and so grateful to Richard and Ray for including me.
I love the strong and very powerful narrative in your work, especially your story Checkmate. Can you tell us something about the story and what inspired it? It’s a hard theme handled well.
Thank you! I’m really glad that it spoke to you. I wish it was pure fiction, but it was inspired by people I’ve met who are living through this very situation. I’m familiar with the guilt that’s endemic when growing up in a fractured family, but I was very fortunate to have a wonderful mother. I’m often astounded at the way some people see their children as mere pawns to be used in their own personal battles. This story was a gut response to that.
As a writer, obsessed with character voice, I was drawn into the world you created in We’ll Meet Again and the dialect. We really hear the character. Can you tell us more about this and the theme and how that voice came to you?
My main inspiration was my granddad, who I’m really close to. I also worked in the home-care industry for a couple of years, but left because I found it too depressing the way old age is exploited as a way of making money. The older viewpoint really fascinates me because these people lived through hardships and experiences that we cannot even imagine nowadays. And yet for the most part older people are completely disregarded and ignored in modern society. It’s like they are invisible, unless you are flogging funeral plans. But they have so much to offer, and their lives were real in a way that is just not possible for us.
While not a poet myself I could see the poetry influences in the richness and yet brevity of the language in your prose, just the right word in the right place. Which came first? The poet or the prose writer? And the poem that really got me (and I love the title) is Gaps In Concrete. Where did the idea come from?
It’s hard to say what came first. I’ve been dabbling in both since I was a child. Gaps In Concrete I can easily explain. I live in a fairly central city location, but I was fortunate in that next door was an abandoned plot of land with about fifteen derelict garages and a lot of split concrete and buddleja bushes and dumped trash and elder trees and nettles and rats and foxes. I was overly fond of it. The poem is particularly piquant to me now because the developers have moved in and bulldozed the lot. It’s soon to be nineteen identical houses with associated parking and pocket handkerchief gardens. It makes me feel sad and pissed off in a way I can’t really explain. I know that progress is necessary. I still hate it.
And finally can you tell us what kind of writing inspires you — authors? Poets? And what your writing aspirations are now?
I am a literature junkie — I’ll read anything I can lay eyes on, from packaging to junk mail to whatever books come my way. I’d say my first love and biggest influence has been Russian literature. I grew up in Billingborough, a village in the fens with the most wonderful second-hand bookshop. I’ve been going there compulsively since before I can remember; swapping old Enid Blytons for new James Herriots. It was there I discovered the Russians. For years I could read nothing else. They just seem to me to have the most perfect perception of human life and folly and endeavour. Also Charles Dickens, who never fails to crack me up. It fascinates me the way these books are so old, but all the people they describe are clearly observable in modern society, word for word. People don’t change, and I find that endlessly amazing.
So folks this is just a taster and you can tell just from Harriet’s answers how diverse and yet urban gritty her work is, real people, real lives, different voices with poems and shorts so before we go I want to show off some of her talent with an extract from Checkmate…
Emily was in the front room playing dolls with Josie, when her mother’s voice leapt from the kitchen and struck her like a blow.
“Emily. Get in here.”
She dropped the doll as if it were scalding hot. A familiar terror scuttled from her belly to her ribcage, fluttering and scrabbling in her chest as her feet carried her toward the kitchen. Carla and Craig were seated at the table. Emily paused at the doorway, her body rigid with fear. Craig’s gaze made her itch; her mother’s face had that vacant look again. When Carla finally spoke, her voice was soft, caressing, like the smoke that danced from her lips with every word.
“Come in here, darlin’. We need to have a little chat.”
© Harriett Goodale, Blinding Books, 2014. Can not be reproduced without permission from the author and/or publisher.
So where can you get this book? Links below!