Writer of the Month
August – Alison Moore
Alison Moore is the author of The Lighthouse, published by Salt on 15 August and longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2012. Her short stories have appeared in various magazines and anthologies including The Best British Short Stories 2011 (Salt). Her first collection was shortlisted for the Scott Prize. She is a member of Nottingham Writers’ Studio.
Writing East Midlands caught up with Alison to chat about her writing:
Congratulations! How are you feeling about your debut novel being longlisted for the Man Booker Prize?
The moment I found out is one of my top moments ever, perhaps next to giving birth! I keep realising it’s actually happened and am thrilled all over again. What with foreign rights, translation rights, audio rights, reviews in big newspapers and knowing that my book will be sold in the big bookshops, I’ve entered a whole other world. I’m over the moon. I’m also extremely grateful to Nick Royle, who I met in 2009 when a short story of mine was shortlisted for the Manchester Fiction Prize, who encouraged me throughout the writing of my novel and who is now my agent, and of course to Jen and Chris at Salt who are now getting no sleep.
The Lighthouse, published by Salt, will be released on 15 August. Can you tell us a bit about the novel, and where you got your inspiration for it?
The Lighthouse tells the story of Futh, recently separated and taking a restorative walking holiday in Germany. On his first night in Hellhaus, he is surprised by the hostile reception he gets from the hotel landlord. He makes his way along the Rhine, thinking about a similar trip taken in his teens with his father, revealing a story of absence, omission and substitution, as he circles back to Hellhaus where a volatile situation has been unfolding.
In the summer of 2007, I went to Germany on a walking holiday with my husband. Two years later, a new story I was writing, a novel, turned out to be in need of just such a circular expedition. And fortunately, I had kept a diary, which helped out with details where memory failed. (I should add that the characters and events in the novel are entirely fictitious – we had a wonderful holiday!)
You’re also an accomplished short story writer, with your novella The Pre-War House receiving 1st prize in the 2009 New Writer Prose and Poetry Prizes. How does your writing process differ between novels and short stories?
I’m not sure my process is very different but the experience certainly is. Some of my short stories have come out very quickly, fully-formed. I have a new Nightjar Press chapbook coming out in September, a 3000-word story called Small Animals. I wrote this in one day, submitted it the same night and it was accepted within the hour. Writing short stories feels like trying to catch something you could hold in two hands, whereas the novel/novella writing is a bit like herding sheep at the same time as trying to work out where the sheep pen is.
Which writers have had the most influence on you and why?
One way in which writers have influenced me is by making me love reading and stories. I remember, when I was little, sitting on my dad’s knee while he read Anne of Green Gables and What Katy Did to my sister and me. A love of Dickens started with the TV adaptations the whole family used to watch on Sunday afternoons. So I’ve always read a lot and by osmosis got a sense – hopefully – of the shape of a good story and ways in which stories can be told. The pleasure I get from being immersed in the reading of a story has probably developed directly into the pleasure I get from being immersed in the writing of a story. Later, studying literature and language, I became more conscious of technique, which gave me a whole new way to appreciate a story. Some writers I read in my teens or twenties and still read now are Kurt Vonnegut, Ian McEwan, Graham Swift and Graham Greene. I’m also a big fan of Lionel Shriver. Recent happy additions to my bookshelves are Shirley Jackson and Flannery O’Connor.
As a member of Nottingham Writers’ Studio, what do you gain from being part of this writing community?
I joined Nottingham Writers’ Studio because I needed to become more involved in readings and events. Since becoming a member, I’ve met a lot of very supportive people and read alongside some wonderful local writers at events such as Word of Mouth and Short Story Night. NWS is also a partner in the new Nottingham Festival of Words taking place 16-17 February 2013. I’ve been asked to say a few words about the festival at its launch at the next Word of Mouth event on 12 September at Antenna.
What do you know now, that you wish you’d known when you started writing?
That showing my stories to people wouldn’t kill me.
What are you working on at the moment for readers to look forward to?
Novel number two!
And finally, what would be your desert island book, and why?
Perhaps Flannery O’Connor’s Complete Stories because each one has such a huge emotional impact. I can’t read more than one or two at a time because I have to stop and absorb them and take stock.
To read a sample of Alison Moore’s, The Lighthouse, Click Here.
To view Alison’s profile on Writing East Midlands, please see here