All-Embracing-BookQ. Does ‘All Embracing’ set the tone for the stories that follow in the book?

Yes, it probably is a theme of the collection. People struggling to find love, or understand it better. Some of the stories explore the loss of love and how we cope and come to terms with things. I think that that human need underpins the collection.

‘All Embracing’ is a strong easily identified story, and when it was suggested as the title story it helped to bring some focus and it’s important to keep that in a collection – a bit like an album of music. There’s nothing more sickening than hearing a great single and getting the album to discover inconsistency and disappointment.

Q. What would you like readers to take from the collection?

Hope – that’s all. A little bit of hope. I know the stories can be a bit melancholic but I generally try and put a curl on the end, a little glimmer. I think it works in ‘Wishbone Duty’, which was commended in The Manchester Prize and Bridport; sorry for plug but it suggests that I’m not alone in this view, perhaps. Well, in that story, after the terrible strain and despair between the father and his daughter at the annual grim fest, he still puts the plant in the window for light – his present to her that she forgot to take with her. Humans are good at surviving and hope is a vital part of that ability.

I wrote jokes for radio when I was a student, partly because I thought it might attract women to me at the time. Jokes have a strict brief, yabber yabber yabber – punchline. Endings are always important, and never more so than in jokes. And maybe they bring hope, through an ability to laugh at predicament. This has probably influenced my prose, and it’s obviously dealt with in ‘Rising Laughter’.

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