Leone Ross

Come Let Us Sing Anyway (Peepal Tree Press)

Below, Leone answers some questions about writing and her book. 

What is your favourite short story from the book?

I think it’s got to be The Woman Who Lived In A Restaurant. It’s a story about love and sacrifice and it exemplifies my style and concerns: complex, unspoken emotional landscapes, mischief, oddness and just enough sex. It was hard to write and I think I eventually nailed it.

Read The Woman who lived in a restaurant.

What is it that draws you to the short story form?

I like the short story form because I can just about bang one out before the Devil on my shoulder starts whispering sweet nothings about my limited vocabulary, my cliched ideas and that bloody simile that I use all the time. Never mind, though – there is always a sweet little thing on my other shoulder purring encouragement. Novels are wonderful but you have to hold faith much longer.

Is there a short story that you love by another writer that you wish you’d written?

What a wonderful question. Do I have to just pick one? I wish that I had written Italo Calvino’s The Distance From The Moon because it taught me how to be ridiculous and beautiful at the same time. And I wish I’d written Jean Toomer’s Fern, if only for that first sentence, “Face flowed into her eyes…” which at the age of 19 I thought was the most inexplicably beautiful thing I ever heard. And everything Sherwood Anderson ever wrote because everything is so sad and true.

What advice would you give to new writers starting out?

Where to start? Kill adverbs. Use nouns and verbs. Adjectives are less useful than you think. Think about what you’re trying to say and then do that, plainly. Be kind to yourself – writing is hard. Read lots of stuff, everything, but try including some good ones, you know, that have critical acclaim. It does count for something. Grammar. Jesus Christ – fixing that is not an editor’s job, or it shouldn’t be. Go looking for your inspiration – be active. There is no bolt from the blue that will deliver you literary perfection – it takes work. READ. Most of the time the story will not just seek you out – you have to go find it. READ. Oh, and if you’re a poet, I beg you not to read poetry in that sing-song voice that so many put on at worthy events. Sorry, I know I’m supposed to be talking about shorts. READ.

Where’s your favourite place to write and why?

Wherever it comes.

What was the hardest story in your collection to write and why?

Fix, which is an apocalyptic tale set in the near future in which singing, dark thingies are coming out of cyberspace and gobbling up everybody’s capacity for awe. I love it because young people love it and I wrote it for my students, mostly 18-25 year olds because I want them to know I get that they’re inheriting an amazing and screwed up world. But it was hard to write because ideas about how the future’s going to unfold are so nebulous, and when you’re as culturally referential and time-specific as this story is, you run the risk of it being horribly dated in a year. Having said all that, it makes me cry every time I read it out loud, so that’s got to count for something, right?

Buy Come Let Us Sing Anyway here

Leone Ross is the critically acclaimed author of the Orange Prize longlisted novel All the Blood Is Red (Angela Royal Publishing, 1996) and Orange Laughter (Angela Publishing, 1999). A novelist, short story writer, editor, lecturer in fiction writing, and former journalist, she was born in England to Scottish and Jamaican parents, and grew up in Jamaica. She lives in London.

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