It’s no secret that one of the best reads of the year so far for me is the short story collection Treats by Lara Williams. Most stories are only a few pages long, but are packed with the harsh realities of being a grown, modern woman in today’s society. Tackling subjects like dating, love, sex, children, and so much more Lara Williams creates a league of her own with Treats.
Recently, I was contacted by Freight Books and asked if I would be interested in seeing Williams speak at the Edinburgh International Book Festival – and doing an interview too! Of course, I jumped at the chance to see and speak to one of my new favourite authors.
Leather-Bound: How did you start writing Treats, and how long was the process?
Lara Williams: I started writing Treats a couple years ago now. It took me in total, about a year to write, and then a little more time spent sharpening it up. I began with the very first story in the collection; I hadn’t really written much, or indeed any, short fiction previously but I suddenly felt I understood the form. I’d been reading a lot of contemporary short fiction writers who made me think differently about it; writers such as Grace Paley and Mary Gaistkill. I was also a at peculiar point in my life. I’d broken up from essentially the only relationship of my adult life, I’d quit playing and touring with my band, I’d moved into a flat on my own. I went from being surrounded by lots of people all the time to suddenly being acutely alone and so writing became a really therapeutic way of dealing with that.
LB: What is your writing process (any rituals or must-haves)?
LW: I tend to write short stories from the inside out. I usually have a handful of sentences I like and then I stitch the narrative around that. I think I’m quite a “sentence-level” writer as opposed to a conceptual or idea writer. I’m more interested in the texture and feel of a story or a character. In terms of ritual, I tend to write in intense and focussed bursts, then suddenly my concentration goes and I can’t manage anything other than like, staring at a wall. I actually spend a lot of time staring at a wall / walls in general.
LB: Who are some of your favourite authors? Did you find that they’re writing came through in yours?
LW: My favourite writers are probably Lorrie Moore, David Foster Wallace, Grace Paley, Nabokov… I recently discovered Maggie Nelson and might have to add her to the list, too.
LB: You were a drummer in a band (completely amazing by the way – I play drums and wanted to be the next Sandy West) – do you listen to music while you write?
LW: I am a terrible drummer! Think I am less Sandy West more latter day Moe Tucker (minus the extreme right politics). I struggle to listen to music when I write, I find it really distracting. Literally the only band I can listen to while writing is Stars Of The Lid.
LB: Do you think music influenced your writing in any way (since they are so often linked)?
LW: I think being and touring with a band seemed like this really naive fantasy come true, which sort of validated perusing writing seriously. I don’t think music has ever particularly influenced my writing but it certainly made it seem somehow more accessible.
LB: What are you currently reading?
LW: I am currently flip-flopping between a cultural history of the TV show Seinfeld (Seinfeldia) and a collection of essays about women working in silent cinema (Silent Women Pioneers Of Cinema). I actually made a new year’s resolution to read more non-fiction this year so I’m slowly educating myself.
Very special thank you to Freight Books for making this possible.