All this week I’ve been looking at the rise of e-publishing. First there was a look at Michael Gregorio’s collection of satirical essays about living in Italy in the midst of a crisis. In the second of my ‘Adventures in e-Publishing’ I interviewed Lee Jackson, historical crime writer and the publisher of a series of interesting historical e-books. Next came an interview with successful self-publishing author Ian Hocking. And Yesterday I interviewed Kaye Lyall Grant, commissioning editor at Severn House/Creme de la Crime. I’ll be continuing the series with an interview with Kate Allan, who is not only a published author but also (as Kate Nash) a successful literary agent and publisher. It will be interesting to see her perspective!
Part of the reason I wanted to do this mini-series of posts is because I have myself put out an e-book, available through amazon for kindle or kindle-compatible readers. It’s called The Bridge That Buñuel Built.
To be honest, I’m not entirely sure why I have brought this book out at this particular time. Maybe just because I can. The whole thing is an experiment for me. Conventional wisdom from publishers is that you can’t sell short story collections, so I was fairly sure there wouldn’t be any interest in it from them. (I didn’t try.) The stories in the collection are themselves experiments. So it seemed right to publish this collection of experimental oddities in this experimental form. This is from my introduction:
“I don’t write short stories.” That’s what I tell people. And yet, somehow, here is a collection of short stories with my name on them.
Have I been lying all these years? I prefer to say I’ve been in denial. But why? My only excuse is the notorious difficulty of the short story form. To say I write short stories has always seemed too big a claim. Modesty forbids, and all that.
I don’t write short stories. I try things out, experiment, have a go. Take an idea and run with it. These are the results, sometimes playful, occasionally bizarre, invariably flawed.
The title story is a case in point. There was a Buñuel season on the TV at the time. I recorded several of the films and watched them back to back, Belle de Jour, followed by The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, followed by That Obscure Object of Desire. To be exposed to so much surrealism all at once obviously had an effect on me. It also coincided with a time in my life when my daily walk to the office took me past a sandwich bar called ‘Brunel’s’. It was named, I presumed, after the great civil engineer of the nineteenth century, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, designer amongst other things of the Clifton Suspension Bridge.
Now I have no idea why a sandwich bar had been named after an engineer. Perhaps Brunel had once been commissioned to create a new sandwich, having been confused with a chef of a similar name? I could only conjecture. As I pondered the mystery of that, I wondered whether a comparable confusion, in a parallel universe, might somehow have occurred between Brunel and Buñuel, whose names struck me as uncannily connected.
I must have been thinking a lot about Buñuel at the time, because every day I walked past the sandwich bar this thought occurred to me. I found that the only way I could release myself from this strange preoccupation was to write a story about it.
Whether this is the best way to go about writing a short story, I have no idea. But then again, I don’t write short stories.
Some stories in this collection have been published before. The bridge that Buñuel built first saw light on the Bloomsbury website; The Symptoms of his madness were as follows: originally appeared in Metropolitan magazine and subsequently in Abraxas; The Devil’s drum cropped up in Darkness Rising, Volume One and was turned into a one act opera by the composer Ed Hughes; Revenants won a competition run by Warpton Comics and so was published as a comic book with illustrations by Simon Mobbs; Stockshot City was published in Abraxas Unbound.