You may recall that just a short while ago I reviewed ‘Five Deaths and Two Ghosts’ the first collection of short stories by Sarah-Louise Knight. Sarah very kindly agreed to chat with me about her latest book and her writing process. This is what she had to say.
Thank you so much for taking time to chat Sarah. I loved your collection of short stories. Could you tell us a little of how Five Deaths and Two Ghosts came about?
I have been writing short stories since I was a child, purely for enjoyment, so I have amassed quite a collection. When I took a Creative Writing course in 2010, I started to share what I had written with family, friends and other writers on the course. I was genuinely surprised at the positive feedback and how many of them, independently, said I should publish. I ‘ummed’ and ‘aahed’ about it for quite some time (okay a long time – 5 years!), but then thought ‘why not?’ I went through my old work, pulled out stories which fitted into a theme and began the editing process.
Many writers say the short story is the ‘purest form of writing’ because of the precision it requires. Would you agree with this?
I probably would agree with this, especially if you are writing to a word count for a magazine, which typically is anything between 2000-5000 words. You really have to think about what is needed to tell the story. saying that, though, Flashfiction, which is often below 300 words requires even more precision.
Is the short story a form of writing you particularly enjoy. The short story is my favourite form of writing. I enjoy working within a very visible beginning, middle and an end. I am a bit of an impatient person and I tend to have story ideas buzzing around in my head most of the time. The short story allows me to bring those ideas to life and move on to the next one in a quicker time frame than a novel will allow. That said, however,once the editing process kicks in, it is no quicker!
Do you find it more challenging to write a short story?
For me, I don’t think the short story is more challenging than a novel. They each have their own challenges and that is why I like to swap writing between the two forms.
Is the crime / horror genre one you are particularly drawn to?
Yes. I like it when a book does not have an obvious ending, but remains believable and I think crime and horror do that very well. It’s very satisfying to read something that keeps you guessing, or where there is a twist at the end which you really didn’t see coming, but when you think back, clues were there all of the time. For me, horror should not include gore for the sake of gore, but should be able to make your heart race and your muscles tense as you read- maybe give you a sleepless night or two.
Which writer do you admire and who have you learnt from?
Stephen King is the writer I admire. I admire how he is not afraid to mix things up with novellas. novels, short stories and even the odd poem. Although he is predominantly known for horror, he has also written suspense, science fiction, detective and fantasy. The volume of his output of work is incredible. From him I learned to write what I want to write, without putting myself in a category, as well as writing for enjoyment. I also admire Jeffrey Deaver, who writes stories with fantastic twists in the tale.
I know that you have a busy day job, so how do you find time to write?
For me, writing is a way of totally detaching from the day job. I always carry a notebook and pen with me, so that I can jot down observations, phrases or ideas. I will happily start jotting on the train or in my lunch hour. When it comes to the ‘proper’ writing, though, when I begin forming my ideas into a short story or a novel, this tends to be done at the weekends. For this, I write at a desk of organised chaos in the in the corner of my bedroom.
How did you go about getting your book published?
I self-published through Amazon. There seems to be less ‘literary snobbery’ around self-publishing nowadays. It is a great way to show work to a wider audience. It’s also very easy to do.
Do you have any tips for budding writers you could share with us?
Write because you enjoy it. Ask for feedback on your work and be prepared to accept constructive criticism. Don’t give up.
What can we look forward to from you in the future?
I am compiling another collection of short stories and working on my second full length novel.
And Finally, what are you reading right now?
I am about to start reading The Hand That First Held Mine, by Maggie O’Farrell, although I am eagerly anticipating the release of End of Watch by Stephen King in June.
Thank you for giving us an insight into your writing world Sarah, it’s always fascinating to understand a little more of how authors practice their craft. Writing because you enjoy it seems to be key, and being prepared to keep going with it. A great tip for any would be writers out there……
I’m looking forward to reading Sarah’s next collection of short stories. If you would like to read more of Sarah’s work you may be interested to know that her first novel ‘Control’ is now also available in paper back here.
Images Changing Pages