Friday, June 18, 2010

Author Interview: Nik Perring

I'm thrilled to have author Nik Perring here today! Nik has recently released the short story collection Not So Perfect.

Having grown up reading Canadian short-story writers Alice Munro and Alistair MacLeod (The Lost Salt Gift of Blood is one of my all-time favourites), I've always been a massive fan of short stories.

Nik's success proves that publishers do embrace quirky and unique writers and that they are willing to publish talented writing (can writing be talented? hm). Read on to find out more!

You’ve gone from writing a children’s story to creating a collection of short stories. Talk us through that journey.

Thanks for having me here!

Um, I guess that’s quite a journey and one that, now I think about it, I was ALWAYS going to make. When I started writing fiction (c 2003) I wrote short stories. And not because I considered them to be easier to write than a novel, but because that length was what felt natural and comfortable.

After I’d had a few published I developed an interest in children’s literature and ended up writing a children’s book (again because that felt natural – I think there’s pattern developing here...!) which was published in 2006. What’s interesting to see now is that the children’s book isn’t so much a short novel but a series of linked short stories which just happen to be called chapters!

A year or so after the children’s book was published I returned to short stories. Again that felt the natural thing to do. And at some point in 2007 I discovered the short story collections Leading The Dance, by Sarah Salway; Willful Creatures, by Aimee Bender and The Bus Driver Who Wanted to be God by Etgar Keret – and in reading those I knew exactly what I needed to do: write the stories I always wanted to.
So I did. And here we are!

What is about the short story that makes it so appealing? Have you ever written (or would you ever write) a novel?

I say this a lot (so apologies to those I’ve taught or to those who’ve read me talking about this in other interviews): I firmly believe that stories are as long as they are. Some are long (ie novels) and some are short. The most important thing, as a writer, is to tell the story in the way it naturally should be told – and length is a big part of that.

So, yes, I wouldn’t not write a novel.

I must say though that I’m not sure I’d have the patience to write something so long. I do like that the first drafts of short stories can often be written very quickly (and yes, that’s forgetting the weeks of editing them to make them good!). Another thing I find appealing is that short stories tend to be about moments and they’re often as long as the moments they’re telling; and like those moments, which are often so short, they can, if done well, stay with you for a long, long time.

I know nothing about flash fiction. What is it? Why do you think it’s so ‘trendy’ right now?

That’s okay. We can still be friends! Flash fiction, or short-short stories are simply very short stories. They’ve been around for a long, long time (see: folk and fairytales and fables). Vonnegut wrote them, as did Hemingway. Kafka wrote some truly wonderful ones. O Henry did and Ray Bradbury did too. Among others.

I think the internet’s had a lot to do with their growth in popularity. They can be read quickly and for free which, I think, is a brilliant thing because it’s exposing people to them; and people have to read them to know if they like them or not. And it would appear that a lot of them do.

They’re also the perfect size for the way many of us live. They don’t take all that long to read so can be consumed on the go.

I like that they’re trendy – it’s not something I’m associated with very often at all!

You’ve done a great job promoting ‘Not So Perfect’. How do you balance that with your writing?

Thank you! Err, to be honest, I’ve not. Not really. I made the decision a while ago that when the book came out I’d take a break from writing so I could be available to promote it as best as I could. And I think that’s a good and healthy thing because it means I’m able to concentrate on answering fabulous questions like these without worrying or feeling guilty about neglecting this story or that. And as I’d been writing non-stop since 2007 I thought I was due a bit of a break!

What’s one thing you wished you knew about publishing before you got published?

That publishers are on your side. And that you really, truly, honestly CAN write the book you want to write.

I’ve seen so much bad advice over the years: ‘publishers don’t like books of xyz length’; ‘publishers don’t publish short story collections’; ‘publishers don’t like books written in the first person/present tense/about this, that or the other’ and mostly it’s utter nonsense.

Fact: publishers like good books because good books (usually) sell. So while it’s important to know the market, audience and the industry, the most important thing any aspiring writer needs to do is write a bloody good book – and be prepared to realise that that might take them a few attempts.

But yes, publishers DO love good books.

And finally: donuts or cupcakes (you must choose one!)!

Well, now – that IS a tough one. Depending on what was inside the donut (it’d have to be filled with something tasty) it’d be donuts every time. Though I must confess to being particularly partial to cookies and muffins. So, yes, donuts please – that’s very kind of you to offer.

And thanks so much for having me here!

Thank you, Nik! Nik has had a rather trying week, so please show him some comment love! :)

Nik Perring is a writer, and occasional teacher of writing, from the north west of England. His short stories have been published widely in places including SmokeLong Quarterly, 3 :AM and Word Riot. His debut collection of short stories, NOT SO PERFECT is published by Roast Books and is out now. Nik blogs here and his website is Nik also tweets here.


  1. Great interview! I love to hear how other authors get to where they are. His book sounds interesting.

  2. Good interview! I began writing short stories, but after five novels, it would be tough to return to something so short.

  3. Thanks, Christine and Diane. Nik's answers are great, aren't they?

    I have to admit, as much as I love short stories, I haven't written one for ages. I'm sort of scared I'd mess it up, I think.

  4. Short stories are a special art, I think.

    Good interview!

  5. I love reading your interviews. This has been very inspirational; I may consider starting off my future career as an author by writing short stories.

  6. Thanks Nik and Talli for sharing Nik's journey here. Flash fiction has really gained in popularity, with entire literary journals dedicated to it. Best wishes with "Not So Perfect," and happy writing to you!

  7. I've bought a copy of this book and it's so good.

    Thanks for the great interview.

  8. Thanks Talli for that, I write short stories and Nik is a great inspiration. I have been trying to pluck up the courage (and have enough material) to contact Roast Books so that was a very interesting interview for me.
    Congratulations to Nik.
    Alice Munro is one of my all time favourites too.

  9. Great interview, Talli!

    Thanks Nik for being an inspiration to short story writers. I don't exclusively write short stories but I do so enjoy it when I do.

  10. Talli, thanks for this - I really enjoyed it.

    Nik, it's so good to hear about short story writers being successful. All the best for 'Not So Perfect,' Clair.

  11. Great interview! I really struggle with short stories so short story writers always intrigue me. I do love flash fiction and wish I could write it!x

  12. Talli, great interview and thanks for introducing me to a 'new to me' author. The book sounds very interesting.

    Best of luck Nik.

    Thoughts in Progress

  13. Great interview - I'm seriously addicted to these author interviews. I've always been a fan of short stories - it's where I cut my teeth :)

  14. This was a lovely interview, it was so nice to read!

    You have an award at my blog, Talli :)

  15. Talli, thanks for hosting Nik! I find it fascinating how writers get to where they are, how they come to write that they do. Nik's passion for stories, no matter the length, is evident!

    Great interview!

  16. Think I'll take his advice on promoting - which means I better finish what I'm working on real soon!

  17. AWESOME interview! a huge thanks to both of you!! and best of luck to Nik with everything -- the book sounds great :D

  18. Nik Perring totally ROCKS!!

    I will always, always, ALWAYS be grateful for all his help and advice when I was on Writewords and he was just lovely.

    And he is so nice here too - so upbeat and positive and just lovely.

    Congratulations Nik Perring and all the best with your collection of short stories! And thank you lovely Talli for a fab interview!

    Take care

  19. I feel refreshed after reading this. I love Nik's take on book length, what publisher's will/won't buy, all that. Thanks for the interview!

  20. Hello!

    Thanks, Talli, for inviting me over here and for such fab questions. I really enjoyed answering them.

    And thanks for all these fab comments, everyone. I'm thrilled I've been of some use!

    And here's a little wave to Old Kitty - hope all's well with WW - give it my love.


  21. Great interview! Not only am I in awe of anyone who can write short stories (my current MS was supposed to be a 1500 word short story and it's now going to be a series--I don't do concise) but I love hearing about the publishing business taking a chance on talent.

    Thanks so much for sharing!

  22. Oh, I loved the answer about would she write novel. Sometimes something you write just NEEDS to be short. I've got one of those, I couldn't lengthen it if I tried. It just works being short.

    Great interview!


  23. Good interview, and I wish Nik success! As always, I love the little bit of inspiration at the end. But how could you torture someone over choosing between cupcakes and donuts? HOW, Talli?!

  24. Thanks to all for the lovely comments, and to Nik of course for being here!

    Amanda - I'm evil like that, wha-ha-ha!

  25. Wonderful interview - thank you Nik and Talli.

  26. I adore reading short stories and am looking forward to my copy of Nik's book arriving.

  27. I've not read any short stories for a while, but this sounds interesting.
    Great interview, Talli.

  28. Great interview. Good to see short stories getting the attention they deserve.

  29. Wonderful interview! And I'm with Nik - donuts every time. :)

  30. I really enjoyed reading this interview w/ a person who was able to get a short story collection published. Interesting term: flash fiction. Sounds more modern than short story!

    Great questions as always, Talli!

  31. Great interview - I so love being nosey!!

  32. I love interviews like this. And I love writing and reading short stories, so all the better to hear of him!

  33. Nice interview!

    I like the idea of stories coming out naturally. There's the editing part afterwards, of course, heh.

    Thanks for the follow, and many congrats on your incoming debut! :)

  34. Talli, first of all I'm drinking coffee as I write you this note! I stopped by because I was recently given an award, and I would very much like to share it with you as well. I have enjoyed the topics that you have posted, and just wanted to take a moment to appreciate what you are doing here. Please stop by whenever you have time and pick up your award.

  35. Sorry to comment spam you :) just wanted to let you know that I've tagged you over at my blog! (let the wicked laugh begin...)

  36. It seems I've always written long fiction except for one short story. I can see the draw of short stories. Wonderful interview.

  37. What an amazing interview. I find it difficult to find new short stories because I think many publishers are not producing them. I want to check it out, especially if it's quirky like you say.


  38. An interesting interview, thanks for sharing Nik with us, Talli.

  39. Wonderful interview and wonderful answers!

  40. I enjoyed the interview. Good questions with thoughtful responses. I've only tried to write one short story and then attempted to take the beginning of novel to adapt to magazine length, so I know short stories aren't necessarily easier because they're shorter.

    I'll check out NIk's blog.

  41. Thanks for this interview Talli. I like how Nik described how a length of a story should be determined. And I like that he is a fan of Alice Munroe. I'm going to keep a look out for his book.

  42. it would be tough to return to something so short.
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  43. Wow! Thanks so much everyone - what lovely commenting people you are! Really, really thrilled to have been some help.

    A couple of you touched on the issue of not knowing much about contemporary short story collections, and while it's true that publishers publish more novels than they do collections, collections ARE being published. I think this is the best resource on the web for all things short story:

    Thanks again - and all the very best to you all.



Coffee and wine for all!