ON THE COUCH WITH ... Mary ROCHFORD
MARY ROCHFORD was born and grew up in Dublin, Ireland. She has spent most of her adult life in Birmingham where she read English and History at the University of Birmingham. She obtained an M.A. in Literary Studies at University of Central England and has worked as a lecturer in Further Education. Gilded Shadows (Tia Publishing, 2008), Rochford’s first collection of stories, was recently longlisted for the 2008 Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. (The five-book shortlist will be announced in mid-July 2008.)
Rochford recently spoke to Eric Forbes and Tan May Lee in an e-mail interview from her home in Birmingham.
How did you find out about the longlist?
Lindesay Irvine of The Guardian contacted me.
What was the first thing you did when you found out you were longlisted?
Danced round the study.
What do you think of the other titles on the longlist? Are you familiar with any of them?
Haven’t managed to read any yet. My sister gave me Roddy Doyle’s The Deportees and Other Stories (Jonathan Cape, 2007) for Christmas, but I was keeping it for holiday reading.
How familiar are you with the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award?
I am, of course, familiar with the man himself as I read his stories avidly when I lived in Ireland. I was aware of the competition (well otherwise I couldn't have entered, could I?)
What is the difference between writing short stories and full-length novels?
I’m writing a novel at the moment and am finding the main difference is that the protagonist sticks around a lot longer. In my opinion, the act of writing and all its concerns are the same whichever form you choose.
Short stories appear to be getting more popular. Writers tend to publish their short-story collections after publishing their novels. What are your thoughts of this?
As I’ve just published a collection of short stories I obviously hope this is the case. I have read somewhere that the short story suits the modern lifestyle. But I think that just begs more questions than it answers. I suppose the answer to the last part of the question must be that novels are easier to sell and therefore it is easier to establish oneself with a novel, after which you may feel free to indulge yourself. Or perhaps certain writers want to try a different form.
Why did you self-publish?
The short answer is, because I could. The long answer is just too long.
What is your personal favourite short story or short-story collection?
James Joyce’s Dubliners.
Publishers find short-story collections hard to sell? Why do you think this is? What can we do to make people buy or read more of such collections?
A.L. Kennedy wrote a very interesting article on this subject and her contention is that short-story collections don’t sell because publishers don’t put their resources into trying to sell them before they don’t sell .... We need to advertise them as well as we do other fiction.
The six-book shortlist for the 2008 Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award will be announced in mid-July 2008