Mr. Smith, when did you start writing short stories? And what was your first published work?
I wrote stories when I was a child, and for a while after I left school. Luckily, none of these early efforts have survived. For many years I could find little time to write, and did not begin again seriously until later life.
The first work that I published was a novella called ‘The Cold of the Dawn’. (This was self-published, and not everyone thinks of that as ‘published’.)
I’ve since withdrawn it from sale because I think now that it is substandard, and I am in the process of rewriting it.
In 2015, you published Mrs. Simkin’s Power: and other short stories. How many short stories are there in that book, and what are the main themes?
There are twenty one stories in the collection, of varying lengths, from flash to three thousand words. I have never thought before of shared themes for these stories, as I see them as individual efforts, so your question has caught me out! A number of them explore what it is to be human, so that might be a theme, but most fiction deals with that question in one way or another.
How much time do you typically spend on reading and writing stories per day?
I’m not very disciplined, so sometimes I work for hours, sometimes not for days at a time. I’m a bit better at reading, and spend an hour or two most days doing that.
I envy well organised writers who can set aside a number of hours every day to work. Either circumstances or inclination have always stopped me doing the same.
What are your three most favorite online literary journals?
I think that there are some interesting pieces published on Spelk Fiction at: https://spelkfiction.com/
Another favourite is Reflex Fiction at: https://www.reflexfiction.com/
When I’m in the mood for very short fiction, I turn to The Drabble at: https://thedrabble.wordpress.com/. Some of the pieces on this site are actually poems, depending on your definition, but I don’t draw a clear line between stories and poems, anyway.
What is the most challenging part of writing a new short story for you?
Before I start, I need an idea that seems to be good enough to build a story on. I will then immediately realise that someone else has used the same idea before, and made a better job of it than I’m likely to. The challenge is to try to present my idea in a fresh light.
Which one of your stories have readers liked and praised the best?
Of the stories on my blog, ‘Anastasia’, about the last days of the Romanovs, seems to have pleased people most, although I personally prefer some of the others! Commenters said that they found it thought-provoking and moving, and I take some satisfaction in that.
When we hear of the massacre of thousands, millions, we cannot comprehend it. We feel no connection to numbers. A number cannot stare defiantly back at us from a fading photograph.Anastasia – Written by Victor Smith
May I know which one is your own pick?
I think that the story that was most successful in what I was trying to achieve is ‘Early Harvest 1914’. It is about the sudden and permanent change in European society brought about in the early 20th century. Comments made by readers make me feel that I have managed to create the effect that I was attempting.
Who are your three most favorite short story writers?
A strong influence on me when I was young, were the stories of HG Wells. Some of his ideas, and many of his expressions are uncomfortably out of touch with current thinking, and if I read his stories now it’s not always a pleasant experience. When I was learning to write, though, I found his story-telling skills fascinating.
A writer of a completely different type, James Joyce produced some ground-breaking work that I find really interesting.
I must mention a current writer, to my knowledge unpublished, who produces some challenging work at: https://lostironies.wordpress.com/
This is dm gillis, whose stories and poems can be abrasive at times, but have a brilliant, individual touch in most cases.
Which one is more important for you: talking with friends or reading a new short story collection?
That’s a difficult one! Perhaps I can wriggle out of it by saying that if I read some new stories, then I have something interesting to discuss with my friends?
There are a lot of literary journals and writers out there. How do you choose what to read? Do you follow your favorite writers and genres only? Or do you have some other methods to find quality pieces?
I search WordPress for good writers, follow them and have their new posts emailed to me. In the same way, I scour Twitter for promising writers and read and share their work there. This process usually produces a number of recommendations of writers not using either platform, but by following links I can read their work also.
I’m sure you have read thousands of stories so far. Was it worth it? Has reading all these stories had any positive impact on your life?
That’s another tough one! These things are hard to quantify. I have a strong feeling that all of us are individual, that no-one can know what another person thinks or feels unless, of course, they tell you. By reading what other people tell you about themselves, either directly or through the medium of fictional characters, we can see that, unique as we all are, we are more alike than different.
My last question is about your plans for the future. Should we expect a new short story collection? Do you think you’ll write and publish even more stories in 2021?
That’s my hope, but, as I mentioned earlier, I am currently re-writing a novella. It has surprised me just how much ruthless editing it needs, and how painful and time-consuming the process is. I’m confident that it will be worthwhile, and then I’ll have a book to publish and less distraction from story-writing. On that positive note, I’ll end and say thank you very much for inviting me to this interview.