“I cut my boyfriend in half” are the first words in Angela Readman’s debut collection of stories. From there it only gets weirder. In “There’s a Woman Works Down the Chip Shop,” a mother turns—inexplicably—into Elvis. A girl helps her father with bizarre taxidermy in order to save the family in “The Keeper of the Jackalopes.”
Don’t Try This at Home includes the story that landed Angela Readman on the short list for the Costa Short Story Award in 2012, and the story that won it for her in 2013. You can read some of her best work here and here.
We asked the author 5 questions.
What do you think your readers think of you? Are they right?
I imagine readers may think of me: She is a bit strange, a bit funny, and probably a bit of a rebel. They make think I am a simple sort of person. They would be right on all counts.
What else do you wish you could have squeezed into this book?
There were a couple of stories I’d have loved to include, both were about lonely men. I sort of fell in love with those disappointed men a bit when I was writing the stories. I wanted to be able to give them some sort of happy ending, but I couldn’t. What the writer would like isn’t always what’s best for the story.
Name an inanimate object that helped you write Don’t Try This at Home.
My desk. I used to have this really big desk I never chose. I bought it off a roommate when they moved out, and had to pay over the odds for it. I didn’t have a car to get another. That desk was huge and shiny. It was always so untidy and covered in papers. I hated it. I got a smaller desk. It’s secondhand and old. It is so small there isn’t room on it for much more than a keyboard, a mouse, a laptop and a drink. I have to keep it free of clutter or I can’t write. It has changed my attitude somehow.
Who do you imagine as your audience when you’re writing?
It’s odd, but I can never imagine anyone when I’m writing. If I sit and ask “Who would want to read this?” I am done for. I suppose slightly strange people may like my stuff, people who stare out of the window a lot, and daydream. Oddly, when I write poetry it seems to be women who come back to me saying it spoke to them, but it’s different with stories. I’m finding just as many men as women daydream, I love that. I never realised.
Whose praise would mean the most to you?
Flannery O’Connor, Raymond Carver, Murakami, George Saunders, Miranda July—the sorts of writers who write amazing stories that become part of your dialogue. Something happens in life and you find yourself saying, “That reminds of that story by…” and you tell someone about it. And for a second, whatever is going on, they can be quiet, and are listening to a story.