Title: Somewhere Else, or Even Here
Author: A.J. Ashworth
Publication: Salt Publishing, London, 2011
Summary: A rich collection of fourteen individual short stories.
What I Think
I think the best word to describe this collection is struggle. There is some form of struggle within every short story, whether it be struggling to cope with the loss of a child, with the deterioration of a spouse, or with finding that people or the world around you are just not what you thought they were. Beautifully written, Ashworth quickly builds up an entire world within each story which is compelling throughout.
About the Author
I was extremely excited that Andrea agreed to do an author interview for my blog. She is an inspiration and has a lot of interesting things to say about her collection and writing in general.
I’m from Blackburn in Lancashire but have lived in Yorkshire for a couple of years. I’ve been writing with the aim of trying to get published for about seven years or so and in 2010 I was awarded a distinction for my MA in Writing, which I studied for at Sheffield Hallam University. My debut short story collection Somewhere Else, or Even Here won Salt Publishing’s Scott Prize in 2011; it was nominated for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award this year and also shortlisted in the Edge Hill Prize. I am currently working on a novel as well as editing a fundraising collection of Brontë-inspired short stories.
2. How have you found being a journalist has helped your creative writing?
I was a journalist for nearly ten years – not on the nationals but on a small weekly newspaper in Lancashire. I wasn’t much of a news journalist so I mainly wrote more of the feature stories – interviewing local celebrities and those with an interesting story to tell. In fact, one of the stories in the collection, ‘The Rings of Saturn’, features a reporter who has gone out to interview the wife of a successful astronomer for their golden wedding anniversary. I don’t think I ever interviewed any astronomers but I certainly did my fair share of ruby/golden/diamond wedding interviews! It’s difficult to say how journalism has helped my writing, but I suppose it means you can be quite ruthless when editing. As a reporter you regularly have paragraphs cut out of your stories if a piece is too long or if something isn’t quite right – you have to be prepared to do the same in your fiction.
3. Tell us a little bit about Somewhere Else, or Even Here
I was just writing individual stories during my Master’s degree so the idea of a collection was something that was possibly off in the future somewhere – I wasn’t really writing with that in mind at all. In order to finish my MA, I had to write a collection though so that was the motivation for getting it finished. A deadline really helps!
4. The title is part of a line in the story, 'Tattoo'. How did you choose that to be the title?
I was struggling to think of a title so I skimmed through the book to see if any particular phrases or lines struck me. Those few words just seemed to light up a little although I wasn’t sure if they said anything much about the collection as a whole. On reflection, I think they do though because they suggest a kind of dislocation or uncertainty even and I think those ideas are probably present in some of the stories.
5. There seems to be a strong astronomical theme. Is that intentional?
It is, yes. I have had a bit of an interest in astronomy for years (I did a GCSE in it at college but got a terrible mark because I didn’t have the physics/maths knowledge to back up the interest). I got a bit more keen a few years ago and started to learn a little bit more about it, although I sadly still don’t have the physics/maths abilities – perhaps one day I’ll study it properly. I think astronomy is a really rich well of ideas for a writer to draw inspiration from. Exploding stars, comets, our expanding universe… it’s a fascinating area and allowed me to add extra levels of meaning into my stories.
6. Tell us a little about the journey to winning the Scott Prize.
I wrote most of the collection during my MA but had heard about Salt Publishing’s Scott Prize and knew that I wanted to submit to that. After my degree I wrote another couple of stories to get the word count up and then submitted. It was a tense few months before hearing I’d been shortlisted in the February after I submitted the previous October. Then it was another couple of months before my book was announced as one of three winners (alongside Cassandra Parkin and Jonathan Pinnock). I was at work the day it was announced and was a bit of a nervous wreck. A very lovely and memorable day though and I’m extremely grateful to Salt for publishing me.
7. Moving on from Somewhere Else, or Even Here. What are you working on at the moment?
A novel although I’m keeping fairly tight-lipped about it as I’m only in the very early stages.
8. How & where do you write?
I like silence when I write so as long as I have that I could probably write anywhere. I probably could write in front of the TV as long as I have my noise-deadening earphones on! I don’t really write little and often – in fact at the moment I’m not writing much at all because of work and life in general. I tend to write when I feel like it – sometimes that’s every day, sometimes once a week or even less than that.
9. What or who influences your writing or inspires you to write?
I get inspired by other writers, artists, photographers or filmmakers – by anyone really who is following their dreams and creating something that hopefully means something.
10. Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
The only advice I can offer is what’s worked for me and that’s to write and keep writing even when you’re being rejected or you feel that what you’re writing is rubbish. Just keep going.
Somewhere Else, or Even Here is available to download on Amazon UK or Amazon US. You can also buy a paperback version from SALT publishing.