The sky was gold streaks and white streaks, an expensive look, stormy. Diagonals ruled. Under the streaks came blue woodland in bar shapes, sliced up by firebreaks. Somewhere there my brother Ray lived."

As Rivers Flow

Assumin'," she adds between kisses, "you will be lookin' your best as we get outta here. I don't want us goin' someplace and you arrivin' like a flower."

Call It Tender

Father said he would put his kettle on. Shuffling to the kitchen he picked up the phone. Put it down. Came back and sat down; wondered why no water boiled."

As Rivers Flow

Miss Heidi said I could write in my diary Miss Heidi introduced me to sex, there was a broom cupboard on the third floor and we were to go there straight away and we did."

The Most Serene Republic

Your time roaming is over, no more wild praries, no lullaby in the bushes not far from Kenwood, no viola in the corner."

even the butterfly must endure the storm


What role does the short story form play for us in society from your own perspective?

We live in a very fragmented culture. Very little of anything plays any great role. Nevertheless successful short stories are works of art, unique in their appeal. As such they can, like all literature, put a person in touch with another human being, the author, or at least with part of the author's mind. For many people this is important and significant.

You've written novels as well as published short story collections. Does writing a novel differ greatly for you from that of writing a short story?

A novel requires much more time. You have a lot more (time) to lose if it doesn't work out, so it's a more risky undertaking, a step into a bigger dark. It also requires an idea or set of ideas which have a certain weight. Writing a novel, like reading one, may nonetheless be less demanding than writing short stories, which are more intense.

What books have most influenced your life?

I think it's largely a myth that books influence lives. When I was about sixteen I read existentialist novels (Camus in particular) which helped clarify my attitudes.

Are you reading any books of notable interest to you at the moment?

Michael Ondaatje's most recent novel, 'The Cat's Table'. He is a very fine writer. I enjoy the way he is not concerned to write linear plots. Also 'On Balance' by the psychoanalyst Adam Phillips. He has fascinating ideas. I'm looking forward to a forthcoming novel by Dag Solstad, a great Norwegian writer, and a new book by the Portuguese novelist António Lobo Antunes.

Do you find anything in particular to be challenging in your writing?

It is very hard to find an interesting and enduring tone. To find the necessary poetry.

The future of writing, publishing, and how social media comes into play so widely are rapidly changing and evolving. What most inspires you about this today? Alternatively, are you concerned about anything on the transition to digital; would you like to offer any cautions or comments?

This is a huge subject. I would like to be able to say it is a great time for literature, but, after more than a decade, fiction via the internet has yet to blossom; while there have been fascinating experiments I've yet to come across anything wonderful on the web. Anyone can now publish; at the same time they can, equally, publish anything. And they do.

The internet is not just an exciting place where all kinds of new things work or are produced. There are tensions. There is a tension between commercial interests (from which next to nothing can be expected) and the democratic nature of the web (which theoretically can produce great new fiction). Then more and more people want to write, while people generally speaking have less time to read, and probably less interest in reading; these two developments are moving rapidly in opposing directions. Next, authors too are faced by a constantly changing environment. Can an author bring the necessary commitment of time and effort when he or she, like everyone, can be seduced into spending great chunks of time with the digital media? Or can that commitment be somehow combined with being online? We're waiting to find out. Finally, any splendid writing also has to be able to be found, and ways have to develop on the web for pointing readers to what is good. The haystack with its needle has never been so big.


What do you enjoy most about writing? Also, what do you enjoy most when you are not writing?

About writing: hitting on a great idea, however small. It might be seeing where a story goes, or how to change the structure for the better; or it might be just a phrase. A good example of this was my story 'Alice Balancing', in my collection Call It Tender. The first sentence came by itself. Later, I suddenly saw how the story could develop. Such moments are rare.

When not writing I like to go walking; reading; slowly canoeing; eating good food. I enjoy spending time with people, and playing music. I also have a great interest in art.


Are there any words of wisdom that you would offer to aspiring authors?

Read a lot – of what you like. In your writing, be bold. Concentrate. Don't be deflected. That's all. The rest is up to you.