Guest interview: Shirley Golden

Award-winning short story writer Shirley Golden has a collection out, Exposing the False Moon, and, despite being shy and private, she agreed to pop over and take part in my occasional, slightly frivolous, interview series. I adore Shirley’s work and Exposing the False Moon is an absolute treat. I’m including my review after our chat. So, thank you for being here, Shirley.

Describe yourself in seven words:

False MoonFanatical about fiction, nature, history and science.

Why short stories?

I like the intensity of reading and writing a short story.  Like a passionate fling, I want to emerge the other side, moved, and perhaps a little wiser.

Novellas or novels – to read and/or write?

I enjoy reading both but sometimes find my concentration falters, which is why I tend to read more short stories.  And as an add-on to the simile above, writing a novel or novella feels more like a long-term relationship.  I have to fall deeply in love with my characters to stay committed to it.

What should readers expect from your stories?

Expectations are difficult to predict as people tend to see different, and sometimes, unforeseen things in a story.  As a generalisation, I think my short stories fall into a no-man’s land between mainstream and literary fiction – perhaps a bit too odd for mainstream, but a bit too obvious/accessible for ‘literary’.  My novels are an even lighter read.  To me, they are adventure stories, which I hope contain interesting characters and plots that entertain.

In ‘Exposing the False Moon’, stories are populated with quirky characters and, in many, a sense of loss.  Where do you think this comes from?

Well, quirky seems to be an inherent part of my nature.  I’m attracted to difference, so I guess it’s inevitable that my characters aren’t going to do the expected.  Yes, loss is a recurrent theme.  I’m very resistant to base my fiction on anything remotely autobiographical.  But it’s impossible to separate imagination from experiences entirely.  My mum died when I was in my early twenties.  I carry that with me.  It leaks into my stories.

What inspires you?

All sorts: images, snippets of conversations, historical characters and events, reading about technological developments, other stories, and sometimes news items and documentaries.

ShirleyYour favourite place to hang out online?

Really, it’s my only place: Twitter.  It’s fast and furious and appeals to me because it is perhaps better suited to introverts.  It’s easy to get lost, and feels less personal than Facebook.

Best thing that’s ever happened to you?

The realisation that it’s okay to be quiet (one of the best things, other than a more conventional answer).

Top Tip for aspiring short story writers?

Keep the language focused, and remember that if you’re writing short stories, your aspirations have already been met!

Thanks, Shirley. Exposing the False Moon is out now to buy from Amazon. Here’s my review, and remember to support  #ReviewWomen2015:

If you enjoy stylish, provocative and downright quirky short stories then you’ll love this anthology from award-winning short story writer, Shirley Golden.

Thematically, the stories in Exposing the False Moon are about exploring new ways of being, whether it’s the disgruntled wife in Kite Flying, who literally and metaphorically, takes off on her own, the grieving mother in Tense learning to live with guilt and finding redemption from an unexpected quarter or the brother and sister learning to love in Outside the Atmosphere (possibly my favourite tale, though I might well change my mind tomorrow; there are so many good ones).

Stories are peopled with battered wives, mute teenagers, girls with tails and shadows too big for their bodies, old men who want to live like a rodent or in tree house. Although many of the characters are troubled – Golden excels at capturing the rage, confusion and ennui of youth – the narratives are delivered with such wit, such lightness of touch that you’ll be knocked sideways by the emotional punches delivered thereafter. There are laugh out loud moments too – in Resting Place a grieving old man lets loose a ‘trickle of relief’ and in the end ‘pissed everyone off’, and in Fabricate a Future ‘we’re a happily-ever-after tale that finished the night before’ and  a lie is an ‘invention … creative sounds better than deceptive’. Golden has a talent for the perfect word or phrase; her prose is lean and muscular and her observations spot-on.

It’s not often that I devour short stories. I had thought I would read a story a night, perhaps two, but in the end I read this fantastic collection in two sittings. Stories moved me, made me think, made me laugh. What more could a reader ask for? Go buy and enjoy.

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