Last Saturday I was at the launch of The Starlings and Other Stories at Waterstones in Wrexham. Nine of the twelve authors were there along with David Wilson, the photographer whose work inspired our stories. I did wonder if we would outnumber the audience (it’s been known to happen with smaller groups of writers than this!), but there was a good turn-out and the audience was responsive.
It is rare that publication of a collection of short stories is marked in this way, but truly there is something special about this book. I don’t know of any other that combines images and texts in quite this way. These aren’t illustrations: as I’ve explained in an earlier blog, the photographs came first. And what photographs! As Chris Simms writes in the introduction ‘these weren’t the cosy compositions of tourist shop tea-towels. By his own admission David’s photographs – beautiful as they are – often carry “a sense of eerie foreboding.” Brooding woods emerge from pale mist. Lonely farmsteads are threatened by stormy skies. An abandoned building leaves you wondering what happened to those who once lived there.’ Perfect starting points for a crime-writer and it was fascinating to see what everyone had made of it.
It was lovely to meet the team at Graffeg who are responsible for a beautifully produced book along with the other writers, and – especially – David Wilson. The photograph shows from left to right in the front row, myself, Margaret Murphy, Kate Ellis, Helena Edwards; in the second row Toby Forward, Ann Cleeves, David Wilson, Martin Edwards, Cath Staincliffe, Chris Simms.
I got back from my holiday in France to find a treat waiting for me: a copy of The Starlings & Other Stories, edited by Ann Cleeves. A while ago I wrote about writing short stories to a brief and mentioned this anthology, to be published by Graffeg, an excellent small Welsh Press: http://bit.ly/1WGllMk. The stories are all inspired by David Wilson’s atmospheric black and white photographs of Pembrokeshire.
I loved writing the story and it was something of a departure for me: for the first time I’ve drawn on my academic specialism, Arthurian legend in the visual arts.
There are sites in Wales that have been contenders for Arthur’s court, for the lake where Arthur received Excalibur, and for the last battle. I wanted to draw on that potent myth and bring it into the present day and I hope I’ve succeeded with my story, ‘Weeping Queens.’ Reading the other stories, I was fascinated to see that I wasn’t the only one to be inspired by Wales’s rich mythological past. There are some great stories here, and it’s a beautifully produced book, too, with David Wilson’s extraordinary photographs as a bonus.
We are having a book launch at Waterstones in Wrexham on Saturday 5th September from 12.00-1.30. Do come if you can. For more about the book and the publisher go to https://www.graffeg.com/product/the-starlings-and-other-stories/. If you pre-order you can save £5!
I’ve been busy with some short stories lately. It’s especially interesting, I think, when one is writing to a brief. The first time I did that was some years ago when Ra Page at Comma Press asked me if I’d like to try my hand at a horror story involving modern technology for an anthology he was editing. Horror? modern technology? Not really my style, but when I mentioned it to my husband, his response was bracing: ‘You’re a writer, aren’t you? So, write something.’ I did. I wrote a story, ‘Safe as Houses’ about a house in which everything is controlled by state of the art technology and what happens when something gets into the system.
It was fun, so I was happy to say yes when my crime-writing friend, Kate Ellis, invited me to submit a story for a collection with a rather unusual starting point. Every story is to be based on a photograph of Pembrokeshire by David Wilson in a collection published by Welsh publisher Graffeg, who’ll also be publishing the short stories. Wilson specialises in wonderfully atmospheric black and white photographs and it was hard to know which one to choose. A farmhouse about to be engulfed by mist rolling down from the hills? A deserted and rusting petrol station? A burial chamber outlined against a stormy sky? In the end I settled for a view of the windswept beach at Freshwater West with a path leading through the dunes. I finished the story this week and sent it off. That’s something I love about writing short stories: the satisfaction of having completed something. A novel by contrast is such a long haul.
I’m very much looking forward to seeing what the others make of their photo and I’ll write about that when the anthology comes out.