With this collection of short stories set in the south of England and beyond, Rebecca Lloyd explores relationships and the brave or foolish things they can make people do. These stories about murder and ghosts, delusion and desperation, obsession and arson, show readers a sometimes sweet, sometimes macabre vision of humanity. Rebecca Lloyd channels Roald Dahl’s wit and flair for the unexpected in this collection that will appeal to the quirky side of the literary reader.
We are proud to feature Rebecca Lloyd who published two collections of exquisite and disturbing stories simultaneously this year: Mercy and Other Stories, Tartarus Press, and The View From Endless Street, WiDo Publishing.
Rebecca's association with Out of Print is multi-fold. The View From Endless Street includes Rebecca’s story, Finger Buffet that appeared in our second issue. Out of Print editor Indira Chandrasekhar and she put together Pangea, An Anthology of Stories from Around the World, Thames River Press, 2012. While visiting India, Rebecca participated in 'An afternoon of Short Fiction with Out of Print Magazine' as well as ran The Out of Print short fiction workshop on dialogue at Lekhana 2013.
Rebecca joins us today on her blog tour to talk about The View From Endless Street.
This is an extraordinary collection of stories, Rebecca. I know it is your second to be published in the last few months. Congratulations, and thank you for joining us.
You have the ability to draw in and compel the reader’s attention through the strongly detailed, almost tactile way in which you describe the strangeness of your characters or the circumstances in which they find themselves. In The Snow Room, for example: ‘… his fingers, sweaty in the summer and clammy in the winter, were always questing outwards as if they didn’t belong to him.’ And then, there is this sentence in The Egyptian Boat: ‘Abbie was shocked that streets he’d once roamed through as easily as slipping his fingers into a glove, now menaced him, pulsing with gross noises and shapes.’
Would you be able to share something about the process by which these details become part of the story, how deliberate, or visceral the choices are?
Well, first of all, thank you Indira for having me as your guest, it’s a real pleasure for me, particularly as I am a fan of your ezine Out of Print. In answer to your question, I think it’s simply that I notice that kind of detail in my everyday life outside my writing room. It’s not uncommon for boys of a certain age, maybe around nine, to compulsively touch everything, so the idea is that Bernie in The Snow Room has never grown out of that finger-questing habit, and you can tell by other things he does and says that his development and engagement with the world is quite stunted. So yes, I do deliberately look for those characteristics or behaviours in my characters that mark them apart from others and say a lot about them at the same time. But your other example, the streets pulsing with gross noises and shapes was an experience of my own when I returned to live in London from Africa where I had been working. I remember walking into my first English supermarket when I came back and feeling truly repulsed by the huge number of different kinds of bread on sale; the choice was grotesque.
We are so proud that Finger Buffet that first appeared in Out of Print is part of The View from Endless Street. I know that the story is based on a real-life episode, a terrifying one that you were witness to. Do any of your other stories come from real life?
To some extent they all do, in that something I read, experienced or witnessed would have triggered the stories, but apart from Finger Buffet, the closest stories to me and my life are Now You Can Live – the frightening mother character being based on one of my sisters, and The Women which comes very largely from real life as I was able to watch the goings on between Charlie and his terrifying mother over a matter of some weeks as they were part of a community project I managed at the time.
You’ve set the complexity of fear and love and family life against the silver capes and fire-blower acts of a circus in The Oil Drum. The viewpoint is one of the circus insider. Did you have to do a lot of research on circus life in order to write the story?
No, I lived and worked on a circus when I was young and my children were little, and I also wrote my Anthropology thesis on circus life later, so I knew the life very well indeed. The main character in that story is based really very closely on the man I worked with as a sign-writer on the show. And the incident inside the lorry with the bear and the man really happened, and we really did lay bets on who would walk out of there.
A question about your routine as a writer – do you write at a fixed time in the day? Do you think it’s important to have a writing schedule?
I think it’s vital to have a writing schedule. These days, I quite often can’t honour mine properly and that’s partly because I no longer work, so there is no urgency involved, but my working habit is to be at my desk and writing by around 8am and to stop around 12. When I was working, I used to get up at 5am and work until 8am, and then go off to what I called my ‘other work’ as opposed to writing which I considered to be my ‘proper work.’
I don’t think you get very far as a writer without a routine, if nothing else, you need to train your brain Pavlovian style to know when it must start getting ready to write, if you can do that, you can pick up from where you left off the day before without any hesitation. But if you just write intermittently when the fancy takes you, you almost have to re-invent your writing self each time.
We have found that getting short story collections published can be hard. You have just published two in quick succession. Do you think the statement is warranted?
Yes, the statement is still warranted; it is ridiculously hard to get a collection published, and it would be hard to find an agent to represent you if you only wrote short stories as well. That both my collections were picked up by different publishers at the same time is co-incidental at one level, but also due to my dogged – and I mean I’m no pussy – work at keeping my writing submitted to various publishing houses. However, I do think I sense a bit more interest from publishers in the short story form these days, although it’s important to keep in mind the fact that publishers are not a writer’s mentor or friend, but they are businesses that have to make profits and novels are always a preferred writing form amongst the general public.
Well, it is clear we need champions for the short story. Thank you for being one. We are grateful that your beautiful pieces of fiction are accessible to the reader in these two fine collections.
To read more about Rebecca's thoughts on the differences between writing a novel and a short story, and on putting together a collection, read the previous post on the blog tour at Paul Anthony's blog.
Tomorrow, Rebecca will appear at Elizabeth Marian Aranjo's blog.