From a girl who slices her boyfriend in half to a chip-shop waitress who turns into Elvis, Don’t Try This At Home (And Other Stories, £10) is packed full of explosive material. These provocative short stories written by Costa Short Story Award winner Angela Readman expose injustice and offer imaginative solutions to problematic lives.
What motivates you to write short stories instead of one longer narrative?
There is a wonderful feeling in writing a short story, a burst of energy that can only be sustained because of its brevity. It is like winding up a small clockwork toy and following it wherever it goes. I love that feeling. Every word has to count. You can feel the tick of the word count while you write, like a bomb about to go off.
Would you say that your work is concerned with some aspects of feminism?
Absolutely. My stories feature a lot of women in various stages of their lives. I am interested in what makes them tick, the problems the characters face, the methods they will find to navigate their lives when obstacles are put in the way. If that speaks to women, I am glad, but I hope it speaks to everyone. Everyone struggles these days.
Is the title story, Don’t Try This At Home, a reflection on a past relationship?
Well, I have yet to cut a partner in half with a spade! But there are some real aspects of life in the story. The couple are at this stage in their relationship where they are figuring out their future together. Will they get married? Are they the type? What sort of career should they pursue? Where will they live? We have all been there, I think, sometimes again and again and again.
How do you transform your characters from ordinary to surreal?
That’s a bit like asking a magician to reveal how he pulls the rabbit from the hat. The rabbit was always there, but he makes it look as though it wasn’t. Regarding the stories, I would say it starts with a problem in life that has always bothered me. I find a way to write about it that lets people see it another way. It is the only way we can stand to see certain things sometimes.
What fascinates you about the unobserved everyday?
I am fascinated by the things people don’t say, and let slip, their secret lives, the inner life of their dreams and how that is often so different from what they do every day.