Thursday, 17 March 2011

Author’s notes: Susie Wild

Author’s notes: Susie Wild

Susie Wild, author
Susie Wild, author

Swansea writer and journalist Susie Wild’s first book won Fiction Book of the Year in the Welsh Icons Awards 2010. Her next will be the first Kindle Single from Wales
In April my novella Arrivals will be released as an e-book – a Kindle Single to be precise. I will be the first Kindle Single writer from Wales.
I’m not sure yet how much of a claim to fame this but my writing will be distributed globally, out there in the e-world, it won’t even be on paper, it’ll be on a screen. Exciting times.
I started writing Arrivals while studying for my MA in Creative Writing at Swansea University between 2006 and 2008.
It unfolds slowly, revealing a mother and daughter in opposite corners of the planet, London and LA, and both experiencing their own personal revelation.
Arrivals started life as my dissertation in longer fiction. Initially it was a struggle to get past the short story length. I am used to stricter word counts and deadlines as a journalist.
Freedom to run off with my ideas scared me and probably scared my friends.
A change of scene fixed the problem for all of us. I flew to LA, which I hated, and then San Francisco, which I loved and had always wanted to visit.
I traded poems for drinks and trailed The Beats – a two-week solo trip in which I explored, took photos and filled notebooks.
Travel has always been a creative catalyst for me, poems strike me when walking in the rain, story ideas come flooding when I set foot in new cities, new countries. Motion and a sense of difference is often all the inspiration I need. Oh, and the odd song lyric.
When I got back to Swansea I simply threaded the sections together and edited, and then edited some more. I had intended the piece to become my first novel.
The week that I handed it in to be marked I also posted a copy to Parthian. Their editor had been encouraging me to submit my stories, after reading a film review I had written for Red Handed magazine.
At the Hay Festival a couple of months later the publisher told me that they wanted to take on the book, but not exactly as I had envisaged it.
They offered me a contract for a short story collection, of which my mother and daughter story (now Arrivals) would be a major part; a novella all the more poignant for being stripped back and contained in a more concise form. I was pleased.
I have always been a big fan of the short story form, but in the UK it is less common for first-time writers to win a publishing contract for one. Luckily for me, Parthian don’t share this policy, and much like American publishers, they believe a short story collection can showcase a new writer’s breadth of style.
It was why I had chosen them as my first-choice publisher, I had already devoured their fantastic award-winning collections by Rachel Trezise and Jo Mazelis.
The collection became The Art of Contraception, released in September of last year. I wanted the stories to link thematically, and they do. They all have a basis in the quirks of human relationships whether familial, sexual or romantic.
They cover unrequited lusts and uncertain encounters, and, as the title suggests, sex and secrets.
They are set in nightclubs and on beaches, in cafes and in institutions. Most are urban.
Some are darkly comic, others are just plain bleak. I am not a nice mother to my characters. I watch them destroy their lives, and yet sometimes I let them piece themselves back together.
The book really was written in snatches. The zig-zagging geography of the collection interests me. I like to map out where I travelled to, where I was living, and where I wrote the stories. Many don’t name their homes but you can feel them.
A friend of mine recently gleefully read the book in the exact San Francisco bars that I wrote Arrivals which makes me happy.
She gained exclusive ‘extra scenes’ In Real Life. Many are loosely set in Swansea. Thailand, Cornwall and Bristol also feature.
The stories I wrote last are my favourites, Pocillovy is in many ways gentler and less quirky than the rest, telling of the search for a missing eggcup. It is one of my Bristol stories written while I spent nine months living there following my MA.
The deranged cravings of a mum-to-be which leads to the accidental poisoning of her co-worker in Pica is a result of my former office-based work life.
The last piece I wrote, Flap, Flap, I sneaked into the collection at the last minute, swapping it for an old story that didn’t seem quite right and that I still can’t finish.
Flap, Flap is an odd little piece full of butterflies and set in a psychiatric ward, somewhere I have never had the pleasure of staying, although mental health and illness has always been a huge interest of mine (Psychology Degree, obsessions with Cracker and books and films like Girl, Interrupted, Fight Club, Donnie Darko, Prozac Nation and Black Swan). Pleasantly the collection won Fiction Book of the Year in the Welsh Icons Awards 2010.
I have now returned to writing My First Novel.
As history has shown, it may well not be a novel when I have finished with it, but it will be a book, digital or otherwise. Now where did I put my passport?
Arrivals is released as a Kindle Single in April. The Art of Contraception is published by Parthian. Susie will be reading at the Laugharne Weekend (April 14-16)

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