Tuesday, 1 September 2015

THE LONG AND THE SHORT OF STORIES by Valerie Laws

Cracking crime!
A while back, in this very blog, I came out as suffering from, or perhaps reveling in, Multiple Publishing Disorder. After making my name first of all as a poet, reducing, ditching and deleting to enrich my work, I then became a novelist. How to make a story that long, without padding! Ulp.
Poetry, crime fiction, comedy fiction, stage and radio plays (of all lengths, and some including original songs), scientific articles, prose polemic/non-fiction, and a nice line in science-themed textual kinetic art installations became my lines of work: in other words, it was a shorter story to say that I wrote everything but short stories.
Ooh missus! 
As a reader, I love short stories (brilliant, intense, funny, scary, eg Char March's 'Something Vital Fell Through' or Saki's) and hate them (interminable inner monologues with long descriptions of cigarettes lit, coffee made and drunk, eg far too many I’ve been subjected to at spoken word events and had to go to a happy place in my head to prevent me gnawing my own leg off). Anyway, I’m here to confess that I am now a published, nay, commissioned, writer of short stories. How to make a story that short, without losing the plot… And like my long fiction, so far my published short stories, all two of them, cover both crime and comedy.
What's wrong with just 'Once'? Cut!
At the top you can see the new book of short stories by six luminaries of the crime fiction world who form the Murder Squad (including Cath Staincliffe of TV’s ‘Blue Murder’, and ‘Scott and Bailey’, and award-winning big hitters Margaret Murphy and Martin Edwards) and six of their ‘accomplices’. Squaddie Ann Cleeves (of TV’s ‘Vera’ and ‘Shetland’ series) chose me for her partner in crime for this special assignment, commissioned by Welsh publisher Graffeg. Each story was to be inspired by a photograph of the Welsh landscape by David Wilson. I said yes, thank you, lovely, I will, and then later, alone, OMG me and my big gob. But one of David’s superb atmospheric photographs turned out to be of somewhere I’d spent an eventful, even dangerous at times, part of my early adult life, the beginning of many enduring relationships, and suddenly I was there, among tall young Viking-descended farmers all armed to the teeth. ‘The Starlings & Other Stories’ is launched this week, and a lovely, deadly thing it is, crammed with treats both visual and fictional by some top names and some newbies, like moi.
Erm, perhaps I've cut the dialogue enough now...
A crime short story can’t be like a novel – you can’t have masses of sub-plots, characters, endless twists and turns – not really enough time or wordcount to focus on the investigation, so instead, writers may concentrate on the crime itself, or the run-up to it, or an aspect of it, though the rules about not cheating the reader and giving them a fair batch of clues still apply.
Our new anthology, so electrifying, you need rubber gloves to handle it!
The other call to (short) arms was from within Authors Electric itself, for a new anthology from my various and multi-talented colleagues. Again I said yes without thinking too hard about it, and used an idea from a sketch I’d written for a surreal yet satirical comedy story, in 'A Flash in the Pen' in both ebook and soon, paperback incarnations, tales of suspense, horror, fantasy, history, and indeed just about anything you can think of. It’s a dream pub quiz team of a book.

Already, a certain wippit-wrangling colleague is after another one for the sequel. The hounds are on the scent.

So to cut a long story short –

Find out more about my various projects and productions on valerielaws.com 
Some of my thirteen books are now on Kindle UK US, iBooks UK USKoboNook and more, on all platforms worldwide.
Follow me on Twitter @ValerieLaws or find me on facebook 

11 comments:

julia jones said...

Always enjoy beginning the month with a blog from you & Starlings sounds very tempting ...

Lydia Bennet said...

Thank you Julia that's such a nice thing to say! it's quite unusual being a sort of coffee-table crime anthology with the photos in it, so beautifully produced.

Catherine Czerkawska said...

Will definitely be seeking out the Starlings anthology! I suffer from multiple publishing disorder too. I would have thought it was a good thing, but over the years, I began to see that many publishers would prefer it if we only wrote one kind of thing, preferably a series with one character. I think diversity makes them uncomfortable!

Lydia Bennet said...

yes true Catherine, agents don't like it either!

Chris Longmuir said...

Well, I always thought AE authors were a multi-talented lot, with quite a few suffering from multi-publishing disorder, although some are more advanced with this disease than others. Respect, Valerie, you've probably reached the limits now. Or are there any more challenges you want to get your teeth into?

John A. A. Logan said...

Always good to see the focus turned on short stories...
Back in Fitzgerald/Hemingway's day, they thought of the novel as the sideline, but the short story as the bread-earner when they had to pay bills (with Hemingway not approving of Fitzgerald's tactic of writing the story in one "artistic" version, to keep for posterity, but then creating a more lurid, money-making version which would be easier to sell, in order to pay the next drinks bill for Zelda perhaps...)

Congratulations on your inclusion in the "Starlings" anthology, Valerie, honourable company there indeed!

Umberto Tosi said...

Congratulations on The Starlings! A fun concept played out by a fab line-up! I look forward to reading it.

As one who has changed writing horses frequently - and often in midstream - I stand in awe. I tip my hat to your outstanding turns.

I've always found these transitions way more difficult than I anticipated. But if I had been a realist, I probably wouldn't have experimented in the first place. I came later in life to fiction, first to short stories, then to longer prose. I work to keep my short stories short, only to realize that some were novellas. As a former journalist, I have to guard against creeping factoids and reportage drying out my fiction, yet the old nose-for-news skills can help too.

Maybe you could share more of your transitional experiences in another posting one day, when and if the mood strikes you. I certainly enjoyed this one. Thanks!

Wendy Jones said...

I'm in awe of your multiple talents. Well done and congratulations on the starlings. It does look good,

Dennis Hamley said...

Valerie, as you kindly noted in your great review of Out of the Deep, (and thanks for it once again), I love, love, love the short story. The queen of literary forms (I suppose the novel is the king and poetry, I have to say, is the god.) Stephen King's remark gets it completely. I promise I will never write a story about smoking a cigarette and getting drunk: these are so fundamentally not what the knife-sharp experience the good short story should offer. 'Starlings' sounds brilliant and my admiration of Ann Cleeves is total. So I'll be buying it today. Ann, I'm told, is at Oxford later this year talking again to Cherry Mosteshar's 2012 group. I will be there.

Dennis Hamley said...

Delete 'what' in line 4!

Lydia Bennet said...

Gosh thanks for all your blush-making comments folks, what lovely people inhabit this particular blogosphere. Actually Chris I left out lyricist, as two of my plays have included original songs wot I wrote!