Tell us a little about yourself – how long have you been writing? Any publications?
I live in Dublin and have been writing on and off since I left school in the 1980s. I studied English Literature at Birkbeck College in the 1990s and really started to take my writing seriously about ten years ago. Since then I’ve published over a hundred poems and over twenty short stories in anthologies and journals. I also write plays and novels. I self-published a novel for kids called The Rising Son in 2015 and my first poetry collection After The Fall was published by Salmon Poetry in November 2017. This year I’m concentrating on finishing a short story collection.
Specifically, tell us a bit more about your longlisted story – the inspiration behind it, the writing of it…
Festival came out of an idea for a character who has difficulty engaging with others. At the start of the story he finds himself in a very public space and appears to have no idea what is happening to him or around him. I just started writing, placing him in a specific place by the docks during a street festival and allowing the reader to experience his alienation and how the unfolding events affect him. The difficulty with this story (as with a lot of stories) is in ending. For me the key was the possibility that Michael, the protagonist, may actually understand his situation more fully than he appears to. I also had to manage my own grudging acceptance that the writer does not always need to know everything about his characters.
Name three short story writers you especially admire – why?
I think Flannery O’Connor will always be someone I return to. Her stories are self-contained segments of life at a very specific time and locus but they give off an energy through the characters and language that continues to speak forcefully to the reader. James Kelman’s stories had a big impact on me also, I think because they are grounded in a working class environment but also manage to deal with existential and metaphysical concerns using everyman characters and everyday language. The best and most unsettling stories I’ve read in the past year or so have to be those in Pond by Claire-Louise Bennett. Whether it’s a novel of series of stories is immaterial; she has an eye for the disquieting details of the quotidian which makes for fascinating reading. By limiting me to three, I have to leave out so many others like Chekhov, Joyce, Beckett, Ó Ceallaigh, Moore, Munro and many more.
- Brian Kirk’s 2017/18 GBP Short Story Prize longlisted story, ‘Festival’, is available to read here.