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Interview with 2012 winner, Kevin Barry

Kevin Barry is an Irish writer. He won The Sunday times Short Story Award in 2012 with his story Beer Trip to Llandudno. He has published two short story collections and the novels City of Bohane and Beatlebone with his latest, Night Boat to Tangier, being published in June 2019. We caught up with him to discuss his new novel, short stories, and the impact of winning the award on his career.

How has winning The Sunday Times Short Story Award 2012 impacted on your career?

My win in 2012 amounted to almost mystically good timing as I published my second collection, Dark Lies The Island, the same week. It gave the book a great head start and it’s still going strong seven years later. I’ve almost finished a third collection now, and it should appear in the next year or two.

Whilst you were developing as a writer where there any publications or authors which particularly supported you?

The Stinging Fly magazine in Dublin published my first collection, There Are Little Kingdoms, in 2007 and did a beautiful job of it. Again, the book is still going well and has been through many reprints.

I remember the story as being just a joy to write.

Your winning story Beer Trip to Llandudno is full of characters with different voices - how do these characters form themselves? Do they appear fully fleshed out or develop through the writing process?

I remember the story as being just a joy to write. I was back visiting Liverpool, where I had lived for a couple of years, and in a pub I picked up a copy of the local Real Ale club’s newsletter – it had lots of reports on recent “ale-tasting outings” to seaside places, and that just presented the structure of the story in a fell swoop. Having spent those years in the city, I felt I could do its voices justice, and anyway, for an Irish writer, the Liverpool accent sounds like a very close first cousin.

As a novelist as well as a short story writer, how do you decipher what form a writing idea should take?

It can be a puzzle sometimes ... is this a story, a novel, a film script, a play? I write in all these forms, and it often takes a while to work out what form fits the story best.

Do you have any favourite short story outlets that you read?

I read stories in the New Yorker, the Stinging Fly, Granta, but wherever I come across them recently. I get sent a lot of collections in proof and keep up that way.

Could you describe your new novel Night Boat to Tangier for us?

It’s kind of a love letter to Spain. I’ve travelled there a lot over the last 20 years, and I was trying to work out how I could do my “Spain book” ... one day I had the blinding realisation that if I put two Irish characters down there, I could be away in a hack. They are two fading gangsters called Maurice and Charlie, from Cork city, and they’re desperate, awful, dangerous men, and I’m very fond of them.

Why do you think Ireland is such a hub for short stories at the moment?

Lots of new journals and forums for stories have appeared here in recent years, like The Moth, Banshee, The Tangerine, in addition to existing outlets like the aforementioned Stinging Fly and the Dublin Review. Much encourages more.

How do you approach a new writing project?

With fear and trepidation ... it’s always with the sense of a blind leap into the unknown.

Which current writers, stories or story collections would you most highly recommend?

I really liked Ben Marcus’ collection Notes from the Fog last year.

What is your favourite short story?

Impossible! But probably it’s by V.S. Pritchett ...

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