Thursday, 6 December 2012

The Next Big Thing

Last week Alison Lock invited me to take part in The Next Big Thing. Alison is a poet and short story writer whose collection 'Above the Parapet' is coming out with Indigo Dreams Publishing in 2013. Do take a look at Alison's site.

The Next Big Thing is a great way to network with fellow writers and to find out a bit more about what they're working on. The idea is fairly simple. You, the writer, answer a standard(ish) set of 10 questions on your blog one week then ask up to five other authors (whose work you like and you think might be The Next Big Thing) to answer the same questions the next week.

What is the title of your next book?
'Pelt and Other Stories'

Where did the idea for the book come from?
I have always wanted to publish a book of short stories. I love the form and have been writing and publishing stories for years. Some of the stories in 'Pelt' are interlinked and this happened because I felt my characters had more to say and experience. The idea behind the book is to explore shifting cultural boundaries, the effects of colonialism and the clash of the developed and underdeveloped worlds. There are also some quirky pieces set in Europe involving the lingering power of our abused environment, and relationships in upheaval or decline.

I have also lived nearly all of my adult life as an exile so this state of being is often examined in my work. And, as for location, I studied African and Asian modern history and lived in Ghana for nearly ten years, and Somalia before that, so my interest in migration, history and a truthful representation of this continent runs very deep.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Everybody loves this question. And as I've had film interest in the stories I've allowed myself to think along these lines. Isabelle Huppert and Bruno Ganz for 'At the Malga' and 'Veronique in the Dark'. Colin Farrell and Marion Cotillard for 'Young British Man Drowns in Alpine Lake'. That would be so much fun!

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
Lust and dirt from a world of places

Will your book be self-published or published by an agency?
'Pelt and Other Stories' will be published by Indigo Dreams Publishing, who also published my erotic comedy set in Italy, 'The Divorced Lady's Companion to Living in Italy'. Many people assume that working with an independent press means you are self-publishing but this is not the case with Indigo Dreams Publishing, who are keen to publish alternatives to the market-driven Big Six. I'm very glad I submitted to them!

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
Most of the stories have been published in English or Australian literary reviews, so some were completed several years ago. This collection has been changing shape over the last five years, and was interrupted by the editing and publication of my first novel. I could probably have continued with the same themes and have written more stories, but it was time to stop and consolidate.

What other books would you compare 'Pelt and Other Stories' within the genres?
That's an uneasy question because I don't want to put myself up there with someone who's had massive success and a huge print run. Instead, I'd rather mention the books that have influenced the collection. Recently: Nam Le's 'The Boat', Sarah Hall's 'The Beautiful Indifference'. Both great story collections. Chika Unigwe's 'On Black Sisters' Street' for her subject matter. Also Joseph Conrad's short stories set in south-east Asia are never far from my mind.

Who or what inspired you to write the book?
I love to tell stories. I love words, characters and twisted tales. I love hooking the reader and then bringing in the big catch - a crisp and elusive ending.

What else about the book might pique a reader's interest?
The first story 'Pelt' is an arresting piece about a pregnant Ghanaian girl whose German lover is being reeled back in by his ex-wife. The story is funny, but not so much, as you watch the original couple crumbling and the young woman fighting for her man. Many of the stories involve the consequences of lust; they also speak of sex in terms of incest, AIDS and gay love. There are also siblings who have had to stop and make a reckoning, unions that have soured and, finally, a deep consideration of cultural migration - all the misplaced people. I have had enthusiastic comments from editors and test readers and think the stories will surprise and interest.

Now it is time to pass the baton and introduce a few writer friends (and great bloggers) who will take part in The Next Big Thing on Wednesday 12th December.

Let me introduce:
Lane Ashfeldt
Rachel Fenton
Claude Nougat
Kimberly Sullivan
Laura Maylene Walter


  1. Excellent answers, Cat. And how exciting that you've had some film interest already?! That would be brilliant. Colin Farrell would be ace in almost anything, I think. Good choice. I'm so looking forward to getting my hands on your stories; I know they'll be written with integrity and a blinding eye for human truths.

    Thanks so much for nominating me for the next The Next Big Thing.... :)

    1. Thanks Rachel. Yes I'll be calling Colin tomorrow... Joking. Nothing like a fertile imagination. But let's hope something comes of it.

      Looking forward to reading your answers next week!

  2. What larks! I didn't even notice my innuendo until just now! Gosh, fertile imagination and a half...

  3. Lately I've been really attracted to short story collections. At first I was going to say they speak to my short attention span but, on closer examination, I think it's the fact that I'm such a slow reader. It takes me forever to read full length novels. Short collections make me feel more successful, like I'm doing my job as a reader. By the way, I really love the word "pelt." I'm surprised I don't use it more often.

    1. 'Pelt' was also my favourite story for a long while, now I haven't a clue. I so immersed in them I'm no longer me.

      I certainly understand the concentration span thang. While I love a great novel (and am back reading a novel after a spate of short story collections), I love short story collections because it's a rockier road, full of punches. Have you read Laura's book? It's great. I actually think short stories are more demanding than novels because it's all there, in a matter of pages, carrying the reader along swiftly. See? You are a hard-working reader Xcat

  4. Catherine, You've got me hooked. I loved reading your responses to these questions and as a closet wanna be writer, dare I admit that? I'm living vicariously through your words (and your success). What an exciting time for you--I can't wait to read your short stories--"Pelt" sounds wonderfully original.
    Leslie (aka Gwen Moss)

    1. Thanks so much Leslie. Yes I am hugely excited (though still going nuts over story order). Some of the stories are quite wild/daring/naughty/ tragic so I hope you don't mind! So far critiques have been good so it's a matter of sticking to deadlines and getting the word out next year. A lot of cool work! Xcat

  5. Hi Cat

    With the cover on view, I also wanted to ask about that. Quite memorable and very different from your last one.

    Good luck with it

    1. Hello Lane,
      Yes, very different project and may very well reflect how crazy I am. I know how ambitious it is to want to publish a book of short stories but someone has to do it, don't we? Looking forward to reading your interview answers.
      Ciao cat

  6. Wow, I LOVE this description of your collection. I've gone mad for short stories over the past couple of years, and can't wait to read yours.

    1. Thanks Averil. I can't wait till YOUR lusty piece of work hits the shelves. I've always loved stories and one of my aims has always been to publish a book of them. Hallelujah!

  7. Great post, Catherine! 2013 will be an exciting year for you! Love the cover, and I can't wait to read this collection of stories. Thanks, too, for tagging me. I'll be posting later this week on a collection of short stories I'm working on. Thanks again... and congratulations!

    1. Thanks Kimberly. I look forward to hearing about your stories. I'm sure there is a lot of experience in there. I've really enjoyed the Moroccan posts lately - but they make me want to escape.

      Yes I'm looking forward to a new set of challenges in 2013. There's so much to be done!

  8. Judging from the one-sentence synopsis and the link to The Boat, I am in. I'll have to see if this is available in Toronto's public library system...

    1. Oh The Boat. So many things to savour, admire, feel pain and clarity about. Brilliant book.

      Really? Dyou like that one-liner??

  9. It sound's fabulous Cat. Can't wait to read it when it comes out. I'm a big short story fan.

    1. sounds.

      I'm messing up all over today.

    2. Don't worry I've been tapping in gloves and just had to correct this three times. I'm also very excited about this one too. Hopefully next we'll be doing some festivals over your way. cioa cat ciao cat

  10. I hope you continue to have such quality articles