I am delighted to welcome Nuala Ní Chonchúir back to my blog. We last chatted about her fourth collection of short stories Mother America. Today, we’re talking about her latest publication, the wonderful chapbook Of Dublin and Other Fictions.
Thank you, Nuala for chatting to me about Of Dublin and Other Fictions. The cover is just wonderful, as is the production of the chapbook itself, it is beautiful to touch and to look at and somehow echoes the absurd in action, the quirkiness of character that are present in these stories. Can you tell me a little about how the cover art came to be?
Thanks for having me! Yes, I love the format – it’s very tiny but slick and cute. Jodi Chilson, the publisher at Tower Press, invited me to submit a cover image. I had nothing particular in mind so I went looking on websites featuring Irish artists and found Maria Gasol, who is Spanish but lives in Co. Donegal. I loved her witty, colourful collages so I contacted her to see if we could use one for the cover. She was very gracious and enthused, so it all worked out.
Following on from this it strikes me that aesthetics and flash/short-short fiction go hand in hand and again, echo the aesthetics of chapbooks in general. There is something about the physical pocketbook beauty VS the ugliness of the story by text. What’s your take on the move to have literature shorter and shorter, for example, available on your phone?
I am pro anything that gets people reading; I have no objection to reading on my phone or on my Kindle. But like most book lovers I love the physical object too and I’m affected by typefaces, page colour, font and ink density – everything has to be working in harmony (including the cover) for me to find a book attractive.
I see books and electronic media as side-by-side things, rather than ones that exclude each other.
Tell me a little about your process in using dialogue in short-short fiction – you use it sparingly and yet to great affect, for example in ‘Room 313’ and ‘One For’ and of course, in the really funny ‘Penny and Leo and Married Bliss’ which you read brilliantly at the launch of Of Dublin and Other Fictions.
In short-shorts/flash the dialogue has to be even more succinct than it is in regular short stories. It poses a challenge but an enjoyable one. I am a writer who values brevity hugely. I write short; everything is short, from my poems to my novels. Loquacity is my problem (that is, achieving it) not the opposite. I tend to cut not add when I write. So truncated dialogue comes easy to me.
When I finished Of Dublin and Other Fictions the first thing that came to mind was that these short-short stories speak of junctions in life echoed in your use of specific places such as the A3 in the wonderfully titled and witty ‘The Road that Mills and Boon Built’.
I guess all fiction is about that – a moment of change, or a crossroads. So characters are reacting to a problem and it’s your job as the writer/inventor/puppet-mistress to guide how they handle their difficulties. I love that problem-solving part of writing, the part where you are saying, ‘OK, something nasty has happened. What is she going to do about it?’ I sometimes talk those problems aloud to my husband; I don’t want his input, usually, but I enjoy ruminating out loud about how a plot will progress. It helps me find answers, often.
Thank you, Nuala for such open and interesting answers. I particularly like the idea of talking aloud about how a plot will progress!
You can buy Of Dublin and Other Fictions here. The Dublin launch will take place at 18.00, 12 December in Dublin City Library and Archive, 138–144 Pearse Street, Dublin 2.
About Nuala: Dublin-born Nuala Ní Chonchúir lives in Galway. Her fourth short story collection Mother America was published by New Island in 2012. Nuala’s second novel The Closet of Savage Mementos will be published in spring 2014 by New Island.