Paul Bassett Davies
Tell us a little about yourself – how long have you been writing? Any publications?
I’ve been writing for more than thirty years, and I still haven’t finished. I started out in what people at the time called experimental theatre, although I simply thought of it as theatre, and then I devised a series of one-man shows. I went into radio and television, and wrote for a lot of comedy programmes. I also wrote scores of corporate videos: that was my film school. It was a very practical way to learn about storytelling on screen, even if the story was a food hygiene training module for Tesco employees. A film is a film.
All this time I was also writing stories, and a couple have been published, most recently ‘The Spots’, which is one of Six Scary Stories Selected and Introduced by Stephen King. I’ve written half a dozen BBC radio dramas, my own radio sitcom, and the screenplay for The Magic Roundabout. My first novel, Utter Folly, was published in 2012. My second, Dead Writers in Rehab, was published in May 2017.
Specifically, tell us a bit more about your longlisted story – the inspiration behind it, the writing of it...
I lived in Holland for a while, and there’s something dreamlike, or slightly off-kilter about the country, especially Amsterdam, even if you don’t visit the coffee shops. You’re always aware that it could be underwater. I lived in Rotterdam, which is a more realistic city, but still a place where it didn’t seem unusual for peculiar things to occur. The bar I describe in the story is a real place, or was, in the 1980s, and some of the events also happened in real life.
Name three short story writers you especially admire – why?
Dorothy Parker wrote some wonderful stories which, like her poems and aphorisms, demonstrate the difference between cleverness and real wit. She allows us carefully controlled glimpses of a tender heart, and the pain behind her comedy. A great stylist.
Jorge Luis Borges is in a class of his own, and a world of his own. His matter-of-fact treatment of the fantastical is just one aspect of his extraordinary writing, which I find utterly thrilling. The first time you read Borges a door to the infinite opens, if you’re lucky.
P. G. Wodehouse is a source of pure delight, and I think that was his aim. But while that may seem simple, you can spend a lifetime studying the way he made it all appear so effortless. Meticulous craft and creative genius in the service of peerless comedy.
- Paul Bassett Davies’ 2017/18 GBP Short Story Prize longlisted story, ‘Seeing the werewolf’, is available to read here.