Tuesday, 14 September 2010


Tom Vowler drops by today for a short interview in anticipation of the publication of his Scott Prize-winning début short fiction collection The Method and Other Stories.

Tom lives in the south west of England where he writes and edits fiction. A blog about writing his current novel can be found here. The Method and Other Stories can be bought direct from Salt here or pre-ordered from Amazon or the Book Depository before its official publication next month. Tom is the assistant editor of the literary journal Short FICTION.

Hi Tom and welcome to Women Rule Writer. Huge congrats on winning the Scott Prize which has led to the publication of The Method and Other Stories, your first short fiction collection, by Salt.

Thanks, Nuala. Delighted to be here.

As you are my Facebook friend and because I read your blog, I notice you often cite Irish short story writers as favourites of yours: William Trevor, Kevin Barry, Gerard O’Donovan and Philip Ó Ceallaigh, for example. What is it about these writers that you find so appealing and why this look west to Ireland?

Very perceptive of you, and something I wasn’t wholly aware of. In part, I suspect, this has something to do with the literary journal I edit, which, for some reason, attracts a large proportion of American and Irish stories. And without wishing to start a debate, I think the history of the short story in these countries comes with such a masterful pedigree, it’s a good place to start for anyone who loves the shorter form. But then I’d say at least two of the four people you mention don’t write in what might be termed a classical Irish style. So for me, it’s not necessarily that they are Irish, more that they’re remarkable writers. That said, I certainly have an affinity for the place.

The cover for your collection is stunning. Can you tell us how the use of that image came about and what relevance does it have to the book?

It did cause some debate, yes. The image comes from the title story, a darkly comic affair in which a writer takes his research too far, with comic/tragic results. I suppose the collection as a whole is provocative and a little dark, so it seemed to fit. Be interesting to see how others react to it.

What is your favourite thing about the short story form?

Done well it can be exhilarating, stirring something inside us, perhaps unsettling us a little, forcing us from our comfort zones. The intensity of the form, its brevity and specific focus, can thrill and delight in a few thousand words, tapping into our most primal desire to be told a story. I love when a writer finds that perfect balance between narrative drive and a cadence more redolent of poetry. But it’s really all about the voice for me, which, when pulled off, allows the story to sing. And I read recently that there are some truths we can only express to each other through stories. I liked that.

Sum up The Method in five words.

Comic, unsettling, affecting, elegiac, flagrant.

I ask this question of all visitors to this blog, Tom: Who are your favourite women writers and why?

Atwood for her vision and the ambition of her work. Ali Smith for her originality and boldness. Annie Proulx can’t half tell a story too. I’ve just bought the collected works of Flannery O’Connor and Lorrie Moore, which should keep me busy for a while. Clare Wigfall and Helen Oyeyemi are ones to watch.

Thanks a million for stopping by, Tom. I look forward to reading The Method very soon and I hope it does the business for you.

Thanks for having me. I hope you enjoy the book.

I’m sure I will, I’m totally intrigued after your descriptions of it. Links above to where to buy Tom's book.


Anonymous said...

Really like what he says about the intensity of short stories. I often find it hard to explain why I like reading/writing them so much, but this helps.

Rachel Fenton said...

It's really fantastic that Tom's book's geting published. I remember when I started blogging - a little over a year ago - I was championing the short form in my early posts - short stories were getting quite a hammering in the press as I recall - and now they are the thing to be writing/publishing.

And Peg got a mention!


@Eimear - yes, me too. V quotable.


Rachel - I have seen the short story climbing steadily over the years I've been writing it. It's till hard to get noticed as a short story writer though. Hard to get noticed as any kind of writer!

Ah, me jewel and darling Peg! :)


I'm reading The Method now and LOVING it!!! It's bold and funny and unpredictable. Great!!!!