David Szalay

Turbulence (Jonathan Cape)

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

The ruthlessness of it.

What is your process when writing short stories? Is your process the same with every story?

I’m not sure. I would say that it’s a form that I seem to write more ‘to order’ than otherwise, so that has an effect, in that I find myself having to sort of fetch ideas out of the void, rather than just sitting around waiting for them to find me. (And I should maybe add that I don’t regard writing ‘to order’ – or indeed making anything on that basis – as being in any way inferior to writing not ‘to order’.) Finding ideas that seem to have the right ‘scale’ seems important.

Do you have a favourite short story or short story writer? What is it you admire?

Perhaps Denis Johnson. The way his stories don’t seem like stories, the way they seem to become stories in ‘real time’ as you read them. Which is almost certainly a confusing and nonsensical thing to say, but maybe you know what I mean.

What advice would you give to new writers who want to write a collection of stories?

I’m not terribly good at advice. I tend to fall back on the obvious – write about what interests you, what really interests you, not what you think you ought to be interested in. And also, I suppose, in terms specifically of a collection of stories, to remember that the spaces between the stories, the dialogue between them, can be at least as expressive as the stories themselves.

Where’s your favourite place to write and why?

My desk at seven o’clock in the morning, because it’s where I always write. I wish I had something more interesting to say, but I don’t.

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

Probably the first one, because of the pressure of being the first one. (The collection is really a sequence, in that the order was fixed from the beginning.)

 

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