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Meet the Shortlist: Danielle McLaughlin

Irish writer Danielle McLaughlin’s short stories have appeared in The New Yorker, The Stinging Fly and The Irish Times. ‘A Partial List of the Saved’ explores an impending divorce and the interwoven family relationships it affects, as a couple decide to hide their separation from an elderly parent. Judge Blake Morrison described it as ‘a fascinating portrayal of both cowardice and courage'.

You can revisit our Q&A with Danielle below, and also read the opening paragraphs to her story. You will also be able to download ‘A Partial List of the Saved’ – along with the other five shortlisted stories – in the coming weeks, as for the first time the entire shortlist will be available as an audio anthology published by Audible. Please check back to this website or follow @shortstoryaward on Twitter for more news.

Please also check back on Monday - just three days before the 2019 winner is announced - when, inspired by Danielle’s position as one of three writers flying the flag for Ireland, we take a look at some of our former Irish alumni. Will we see an Irish winner again?

For now, here’s a look back at Danielle's author Q&A:

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

The story was a long time taking shape, and so various things inspired it. For example, I saw a newspaper cutting of the Partial List of the Saved framed on a pub wall. The core idea, of two people pretending that they were still married, for a family event, was inspired by the real life situation of a couple I know.

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

I like the way that's it's possible for a short story to present the reader with greater and stranger challenges and get away with it. And I like the way that in short fiction all parts of the story are constantly bumping and glancing off all the other parts.

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

I always start longhand in a notebook. When I'm trying to tease something out, i feel in closer contact with the story when I'm putting words down on paper. I find the gap between my brain and my computer monitor a difficult space to bridge.

Which short story collection by another author would you recommend?

I'm always going back to There Are Little Kingdoms by Kevin Barry.

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

That's a near impossible choice to make! My favourites change constantly, depending on the kind of story I have need of at a particular time. Out of that Kevin Barry's collection I particularly love Nights At The Gin Palace, and I think it would have to be Kevin reading it. I also love Silk Brocade by Tessa Hadley, and Solstice by Anne Enright, especially for the way it embraces hope, a tricky thing to do in a short story, but much needed in these times.

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

Andrew Bennett.

What are you reading now?

Reflections in a Golden Eye by Carson McCullers, and a proof copy of Paris Syndrome, a collection of short stories by a brilliant new writer Lucy Sweeney Byrne which will be published by Banshee later this year.

And finally, please read on for an extract from ‘A Partial List of the Saved’:

The flight attendant who brought the beer was the same one who’d performed the safety demonstration an hour earlier as they’d taxied down the runway at San Francisco. ‘In the unlikely event of landing in water,’ a disembodied voice had said as the woman popped a lifejacket over her head. ‘Unlikely’ hardly went far enough, Conor thought. He hated to be a pedant, but still. It was unlikely that he’d packed a European adapter, but one might yet materialise among the tangle of accessories he’d shoved in his suitcase as the taxi waited by the kerb. It was unlikely that the man seated to his left would stop talking any time soon, but it was not inconceivable that some affliction of the throat might set in. It seemed wrong, somehow, that the possibility that they would all be plunged into the icy waters of the Atlantic to have their eyes eaten out by small fishes should be placed on a par with these other, more mundane, eventualities. Surely, at a minimum, it was ‘extremely unlikely’?

On the other side of him sat his ex-wife, Reece. They’d been married ten years when he’d discovered she was conducting an affair with one of her co-workers at the marine biology centre, a younger man called Dan. Or Quinoa Dan as Conor privately thought of him, with his man-bun and his Converse and his vegan tray-bakes. Conor had been to Dan’s apartment once, in the days before the affair. He’d eaten flourless vegan cake for Dan’s 35th birthday in a loft in an old bottling factory in Mission Bay, an open-plan rectangular space, with up-cycled furniture and cork floors. When confronted about the affair, Reece said that she was sorry, but she didn’t say that she would stop seeing Dan. Instead, she’d quietly packed a suitcase and left. That was in January.

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