An Interview with Nik Perring
Nik Perring is a writer from the northwest of England. His short stories have been published widely in places including SmokeLong Quarterly, 3 :AM and Word Riot. Not So Perfect, his debut collection of short, short stories is published by Roast Books on June 2nd. Nik blogs here and his website’s here.
CD: What generally sets you off on a story?
NP: It can be anything but usually I think my stories tend to either come out of those what if? questions or what would happen if ? situations. You know, what if you actually, physically gave your heart away when you fell in love; or who would live in a house decorated in Post-it notes? So I think that’s where the seeds of ideas come from and the next stage for me is looking into the practicalities of those situations and to see how I can make them believable. It’s interesting (for me) to have these fantastic and weird situations and characters and to try to make it all seem normal or familiar in some way.
CD: When do you write?
NP: When I have an idea. I’m quite disciplined with the whole writing life and I make sure I’m at my desk at least five days a week. I might not always be writing but I’ll be there doing something.
CD: Do you have a writing routine?
NP: As I say, not a specific one though I do make sure I’m at my desk at least five days a week.
I am consistent in my process though, there is a routine to that.
First drafts are written in fountain pen and into a notebook. When I’m happy with the first draft I’ll type it up, half-editing as I go. Then it gets printed out and I’ll edit and edit and edit until I’m happy. Then it gets printed out again and I’ll read it aloud. More stuff will get changed. When I’m happy with that I’ll read it aloud again, but this time I’ll record it and listen to it back. When I’m happy with what’s on the page and what’s in my ears then I’ll know the story’s about done.
CD: Please tell me a little more about the story 'Sobs' - how did that come about? Is it based on a real place or experience?
NP: Firstly let me say thank you for saying such nice things about ‘Sobs’ in your review. I’m thrilled you liked it.
How did it come about? I think I just found the idea of hearing someone, a stranger, in the room next to you, in an unfamiliar place, interesting. In the beginning I think I was wondering how I’d react to something like that (I’m still not sure!). It became something quite different though once I’d found the story’s main character.
And, no, it’s not based on any particular experience of mine. When I teach I always try to make the point that we’re better off writing about made-up characters than real people because writing about real people is limiting and usually boring – and I’m no exception! I am really rather boring. All that said, at the point of writing it I had had a really difficult year and I had just split up with a long term partner (two things I had in common with the story’s character) so I don’t think I’d be all that self-aware if I said it hadn’t come from something I’d experienced in some way.
CD: Some of the stories like 'When you're frightened think of strawberries' seem to me a little like poems. They may not be as short but they do have a little of the lyricism of a poem and make the same use of metaphor. Do you ever write poetry? Or anything longer that a short, short story?
NP: Thank you! Yes I do write poetry but not very much of it and not very often. And it’s usually not very good. I have written longer things too.
I firmly believe that a story is as long or as short as it is (if that makes sense). Stories are what they are, no more and no less. Sometimes they turn into novels and end up being tens of thousands of words long, and other times they’re no longer than the moment they’re telling. I must say it took a long time for me to realise (or accept?) that, but once I did it felt like it made sense and gave me the freedom to only worry about the story.
I think, also, that I write more shorter things because I’m better at them and understand their shape better; I don’t think I’d make a good novelist.
CD: The drawings inside are an attractive feature and really add to the impact of the book. Did you have much to do with these?
NP: I am thrilled with the drawings and really pleased when I hear that others like them too. Although I’ve secretly always loved the idea of having one of my books illustrated I can’t say I’d ever have mentioned it. All credit there goes to the brilliant Faye at my publisher (Roast Books). Initially the drawings were only going to be a part of the eBook version. And then we saw them! When Faye suggested including them in the paperback I couldn’t have been happier. Interestingly, I’d been reading a proof of Not So Perfect in public when a stranger asked me if I was reading Kurt Vonnegut (because of the illustrations) – you can’t have much better praise than that!
CD: Have you anything else in the pipeline?
NP: At the moment I’m just doing what I always do: writing stories (as well as promoting Not So Perfect as best as I can). I have ideas for lots of projects but I don’t tend to talk about them until they’re done because I don’t know well enough what they are until they’re finished!
CD: Do you have any connection with snails? (or anecdotes, memorable encounters..etc.)
NP: You know, I’ve been trying my best to think of something snail-related but I’ve come up short. I do like snails though.
CD: What is your proudest moment?
NP: I’m hoping that’s yet to come.
CD: Have you ever had a life-changing event - if so what was it?
NP: I think I’ve probably had a few. I think every moment we learn something new or see the world differently is a life changing one, even if that’s only in a small way. I’m very aware that I used to be guilty of waiting for Big Moments and they never seemed to come; even something as big and wonderful as having a collection of short stories published is the accumulation of lots of really important smaller moments.
CD: What is the saddest thing you’ve ever heard of or seen?
NP: Personal disappointments and let-downs aside, I saw this [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3MrXM-4Ndrk&feature=player_embedded] a few years ago and it has stuck with me. I’m not sure if it’s sad but it is emotional. Does that count? Or am I wimping out of the question?!
CD: If there was one thing you’d change about yourself what would it be?
NP: I wouldn’t mind being thinner. Or more confident perhaps; I worry a lot.
CD: What is happiness?
NP: Trusting people. Being with people who like you being with them.
CD: What is the first thing you do when you get up?
NP: If it’s a weekday then it’s into the routine: Shower, cigarette (sadly), toast, a cup of tea (one sugar) and then up to the office hoping that, just maybe, I’ll make magic happen (and by that I mean clearing my inbox!).