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Meet the longlist: Wendy Erskine, author of 'Inakeen'

Between now and the shortlist announcement on Sunday 28th July we will be putting the spotlight on each of 2019's longlisted authors in turn.

Today's writer is Wendy Erskine, author of 'Inakeen', a story about a lonely mother's growing obsession with her neighbours.

What inspired you to write the story? Is it drawn from personal experience?

Although there are some elements of the personal – visiting an amateur photography exhibition, listening to a song called ‘Black Sail’, seeing woman wearing the hijab in East Belfast – I was thinking more broadly about exclusion, inclusion and the significance, both literal and metaphorical, of being seen.

How does writing short stories differ from writing full-length fiction, and what do you enjoy about writing in the genre?

There is a lot more arcana attached to the short story: don’t do this, don’t do that, a character must make a discovery, have an epiphany, go on a journey and so on. It is helpful to set all of that kind of thing aside and focus on making a story work on its own terms. I like the idea that at its best the short story allows a reader to feel more that they understand, know more than they have been given.

How do you write? Longhand or typed? Why does your chosen method work for you?

Although I might have various scribblings that I have jotted down at opportune moments on receipts and bus tickets, I prefer to sit down with my lap-top and write that way. I am very low maintenance; I don’t need a specific time of the day or to have the vista of a particular tree or whatever. I work at the kitchen table with my kids coming in and out, getting themselves something to eat. I tend to write double, triple what I actually need and then consider what I can take away.

Which short story collection by another author would you recommend?

Women are the Scourge of the Earth, by Frances Molloy, if you fancy beauty and pain in South Derry.

What’s your favourite short story of all time? Who would you cast to read it?

Hard to pick one, but a favourite would definitely be ‘The New Villa’ by Chekhov. I would cast Samantha Morton to read it. In fact, I would cast Samantha Morton to read all of Chekhov’s short stories and I would listen to that every day for the rest of my life.

Who would you cast to read the story you have entered?

Brid Brennan.

What are you reading now?

The Street of Crocodiles by Bruno Schulz, The Lark Ascending by Richard King and Nobody’s Looking at You by Janet Malcolm. I always have loads of stuff on the go.

Please read on for a preview of 'Inakeen'

Jean’s son Malcolm had decided to make one of his infrequent visits. He took the seat in front of the television and when he turned it on she heard him let out his usual sigh at the poor choice of channels. Jean was positioned at the end of the sofa because it gave the best view out the window.

Malcolm was telling her that he had a new boss. The boss had only been in the job a couple of weeks but Malcolm didn’t like him. Some of the others did, up to them, but he didn’t.

Only a couple of weeks, Jean said. Still early days then really, isn’t it?

Early days and already not going well, Malcolm said.

Across the road Jean saw the fluid bulk of Black Sail appear, wrestling along a bin

bag with both hands. Then the door opened a little wider and there was Inakeen, holding what looked to be a huge candle. No, but not a candle, the base of a standard lamp in fact. Bin bag and candle went in the bin. No sign of W7. Maybe she was working. But now there she was.

Malcolm took out his phone and began scrolling through the photos.

Another thing by the way. I’ve a new girlfriend, he said.

Oh?

Yeah. Was going to show you a photo but I can’t seem to find the one I was looking for.


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