While the rise of the Kindle and online book sales through Amazon and the like continue to threaten the future of many bookshops, there are other casualties in this war between online and offline. I’m thinking of the small-circulation magazines of short fiction – Smoke: A London Peculiar stopped production in 2010, and then started up again in the middle of last year (their next tome, ‘From The Slopes Of Olympus To The Banks Of The Lea’ is promised “soon”), the London Magazine soldiers on bravely despite the odds, but many have disappeared altogether over recent years.
That’s not necessarily a problem, I hear you say, what about looking for stories online? Well while there is lots of material out there in the ether, the advantage of a printed magazine is that there is a barrier to entry – you have to be good enough to impress the editor before you can see your words in print. No such filter exists online, so the difficulty that you now face is sorting the gems from the mountains of dross – not an easy task if you’ve ever tried!
That is why I was delighted last week to discover the work of Clare Fisher – a short fiction author who has featured in several literary magazines, Clare has just embarked on a new set of stories called The City In My Head. They promise to “build a fictional map of London, story by story, area by area“. Two have been published online so far, in Notes From The Underground – Marylebone – Q & A and Waterloo Bridge: When I’m not talking.
Intrigued by the project, I managed to catch up with Clare last week to ask her about her work in general, and The City In My Head in particular:
Q – How did you The City in my Head come about?
A – I noticed that most of the short stories I was writing were set in a specific area of London, and that the area itself played a big role in shaping the story. I thought, what is it that I’m trying to do here? And I came to the conclusion that I was trying to build a ‘fictional map’ of the city. It seemed like a daunting but exciting task, and I’d just had a story accepted for publication in NFTU, so I asked the editor if I could do the series in conjunction with the magazine, and he gave me an enthusiastic yes.
Q – Where do you draw the inspiration for the stories? Do they feature parts of London that you’re familiar with or areas that you’ve always regarded as somewhat mysterious? Magical? Mundane?
A – Inspiration is always a difficult and nebulous question… I mostly write about places that have got under my skin, whether I’ve spent a lot of time in them or not. I don’t just sit down and think ‘I’m going to write a story about X…’ I start with a vague idea, then I write, and as I do so, I gain a clearer idea of what it is I’m getting at; it’s like peeking through a keyhole and trying to work out the shape of the whole room on the other side. It’s funny you mention the magical and the mundane, because it is the relationship between the two that I’m interested in exploring as a writer.
Q – Can you give a hint about the themes that The City in my Head will cover in future?
A – Future themes… A lot of the stories explore unconventional connections between people; I’ve always been fascinated by London’s potential for connections that would be almost impossible elsewhere. The stories look at different ways of belonging, how our relationship to place changes over time, and how this relationship changes us.
Q – There’s a deep seam of melancholy in the current story – are you a glass half-empty person in reality? (sorry that’s rather cheeky isn’t it!)
A – Yes, some of my stories are sad… Others are less so… I always hope to find a balance between ‘yes’ and ‘no'; but many readers seem to find my stories a lot sadder than I do, which I guess could lead to the conclusion that yes, my glass is half empty. Nevertheless, by the time I finish a story, I am usually filled with hope.
Q – Where can readers find your other work?
Q – Are there any other publications where your stories feature that are due out soon?
A – I’ve a story in the first issue of Timezone Magazine, which is due to launch in late February.
Do take a look at Clare’s new series – these pieces of short fiction are a fascinating snapshot of life and living in London. You can also follow Clare on Twitter for updates on her work.