Thursday, 12 February 2015

Kirigami by author Lynn Voyce

I have great pleasure in welcoming author Lynne Voyce to the blog today.

Ink Tears Press has recently published Kirigami, her solo collection of award-winning short stories. I asked Lynne to tell us more about her writing career and how her success in the world of short fiction led to the publication of this beautiful book.

1) Lynne, have you always enjoyed reading short fiction and which short story authors have proved inspirational?

I was an avid reader from my teenage years onwards. The first short stories I read were from Roald Dahl. Dahl is such an absorbing, readable writer that sometimes you forget how accomplished he is. I still remember my first reading of Lamb to the Slaughter and The Landlady. Ian McEwan's In Between the Sheets and First Love, Last Rites were the next short story collections that had an influence on me. He was such a clean, spare writer at that point I spent years trying to imitate him. And, of course, then I read the king of spare prose and perhaps my favourite short story writer, Raymond Carver. I would certainly recommend reading a more detailed, perhaps poetic writer, alongside these kinds of stories though, someone like James Joyce. His collection, Dubliners, is achingly sad at points. Then to balance the male bias, there are Alice Munroe and Annie Proulx, who evoke such a sense of place with their work, you feel as if you are there.

I agree wholeheartedly with all these, Lynne. I remember reading Lamb To The Slaughter and wanting so badly to create a piece of writing with that powerful simplicity.

2) How did you become a short story writer and how did your success pave the way to the publication of Kirigami?

I initially wrote for theatre and cabaret because I enjoyed the collaborative, performance element of it. After having children though, this became more problematic as I couldn't spend every evening in some pub with a microphone. I recently read from Kirigami in a big venue and found it unbelievably nerve-wracking, but I enjoyed it and hope to do more live events in the future. Of course, with the advent of children and a full-time job, I started writing short fiction because I wasn't sure I'd have enough time to get to the end of a novel. One of my first stories was published in a local literary magazine called Raw Edge and then I just kept going.

It must have been a wonderful feeling to read from your own book in public and, despite the nerves, it is fantastic that you enjoyed the experience, as I'm sure your audience did too.

3) It can be tricky to find a publisher for short fiction. How did it feel to be signed to a company like Ink Tears, which not only specialises in short story collections, but also produces such exquisite hardback editions?

I was with Ink Tears right from their beginnings and it's very nice to have that kind of relationship with a publisher. It came about because I came second in Ink Tears' first short story competition and when Anthony Howcroft contacted me to tell me, he found out that I had quite a lot of published work and I'd been placed in quite a few other competitions. I've had close on fifty short stories either published or been placed in a competition now and I imagine without Kirigami it could feel a bit frustrating that they were just out there without the 'proper home' of a book. Of course, the hardback edition of Kirigami is a beautiful object in itself and I was lucky enough to have some input into its design.

It is very encouraging that, through Ink Tears, Anthony has championed the short story form with such enthusiasm, not only with regular competitions, but also with the publication of books like Kirigami.

4) Could you tell us how you composed such a cohesive collection from your stock of published stories? Did you choose your personal favourites or those which coordinated well?

This is a very interesting question because I was quite surprised, at first, how a group of disparate stories hung together. I had never realized that there were themes and motifs in my writing that came up over and over again. It's also interesting that the stories are not in chronological order, so you can see that over time, themes and ideas re-emerged. Putting the collection together taught me quite a lot about myself and what was going on in my subconscious.

Yes, absolutely. It is fascinating to be confronted with a recognition of yourself that is hidden at the time of writing, buried within it.

5) How did you decide upon the order of the contents and did this often change during the process of compiling the collection?

This was pretty difficult. You want to give the piece a narrative arc but you also have to consider length, style and tone when you are ordering the stories. You don't want all your flash fiction together or all your downbeat stories end to end.

Yes, indeed, and it can be hard to ascertain which is the best opening story, the one that encapsulates the themes and also establishes your voice to best effect.

6) Can you describe the main themes you explore in your stories?

The collection starts off quite sexy and adult. There's a section that focuses on younger voices, perhaps representing adult concerns for their children. Later it looks at hopes, fears and memories. Finally, it focuses on death and rebirth.

A lovely, soaring arc, Lynne, both intimate and encompassing.

7) How did you feel when you held your beautiful hardback book for the first time?

This is embarrassing and is something I will only ever divulge once. I have seen my work in print many times and in some beautiful books but when the box of books arrived it was something quite different. My husband had put the box in our back room, this is a sort of library, study, office kind of place. I opened the box, sat on the rug, clutched it to my chest and let out a sort of excited howl. What's funny is that my husband and daughters didn't even respond, as if that kind of unearthly sound in the house is pretty usual. It probably is.

This response is incredibly moving, Lynne. I'm glad you shared such a special and private moment.

8) Every word counts in a short story and they have a different rhythm from novels. Do you concentrate on structure and pacing as much as the development of the characters?

Structure and pace are key with the short story and character is often conveyed through very small telling details. Now I am writing a longer piece I realise how much more detailed characterization is. The other difference is with a short story most of the character work you do ends up on the page, whereas with a novel it is often just on some planning chart and doesn't see the light of day. Yet, it's so important that it is done. The other big difference is with a short story, you can hold the full narrative arc in your head all the time, but if you try to do that with a novel it drives you crazy and you just can't write flowing prose.

I think this perfectly captures the difference between writing short and longer fiction. The only way I can make novel-writing flow well is to work in separate 'scenes', as if I were writing something short, but knitting these together seamlessly is challenging.

9) How are you promoting ‘Kirigami’ and is it difficult to fit in new writing?

I have spent the last year or so working on my online presence, setting up a blog, getting a Twitter account, using Facebook; that's helped me reach new people. I have also done a couple of live events, although I would like to do more. The promotion is very hard and it is something I want to have a better knowledge of. Next week there is a launch party for Kirigami in London, so turning up in a nice dress and drinking lots of wine is my next step on the promotion trail.

Promotion is certainly hard, especially when our natural inclination might be to set aside our spare time for writing, but it sounds as if you are managing it very well.

10) How do you feel - and how do you cope - when real life throws obstacles in the way of your writing routine?

I'm going to say something now that goes against all good advice: I don't have a writing routine. Like most women I have a very busy life. I have a relatively senior position in a large, inner city comprehensive school and two school aged children, so time is always of the essence. I tend to just write when I can and more importantly when I am in the mood. Writing is a real luxury to me and in some ways that's good.

Yes, it is very important to write only when it feels good and aligns with the other facets of your life. I love the idea that it is a luxury - whatever quantity of time I spend on it, hours or minutes, that is how writing always feels to me.

11) Considering Annie Proulx’s short story, Brokeback Mountain, was adapted for a hugely successful film, and Philip K Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? became Blade Runner, which story from your collection can you envisage on the screen and why?

Strangely, all my stories start as films. I see images and then write them. I think my story, Gene Krupa, would make a good film because it is about jazz and I can imagine a really great jazz sound track. I also think a story called Perrot's Folly would make an interesting film because it's got period dress, a specific real life location and there's scope for lots of special effects.

I love the way a tiny work of fiction, focusing on small, telling details and occupying just a few pages, can metamorphose into a full-length film. When I read Gene Krupa, I immediately saw it as a film. One of my favourite preoccupations is to consider soundtracks for stories.

12) Finally, Lynne, what are your writing plans for this year?

Well, as detailed in my blog, I am writing a novel. It's tough, but far easier than the first time. It's very exciting once you get into the swing of it, but the tough thing about writing a long piece is if you leave it for a bit you have to find a way back into the rhythm of the writing. I have quite a lot of short stories in reserve too but I am not sending anything off at the moment. I do this sometimes because I find it cathartic. It's very freeing when you have absolutely 'nothing out', it makes you re-focus.

For me, the rhythm of the writing is the most important part. I can spend an entire writing session on the pace and beat of just one paragraph.

It is really interesting that you enjoy the catharsis of having nothing out there. I love that sense of being 'out of the scramble' too. There is something liberating about it, an opportunity to think without distraction and to write with absolute focus.


Lynne, thank you so much for taking the time to talk about Kirigami, which I highly recommend for its sensuous writing, arresting images and characters who linger long after the story is over. Enjoy every moment of Kirigami's launch party!

Read more about Lynne on her website here and follow her on Twitter here.