susan_tranterSusan Tranter talks about the inspiration behind the collection Brief Lives and her work as reader-in-residence for the British Council’s Encompass Literature webite.

Q: Can you tell us a little about the inspiration behind Brief Lives?

I read a story a couple of years ago which was about one man’s life. It started with his birth and ended with his death. It struck me as something many weighty novels have tried to do – yet this short story managed not only to convey a convincing sense of a life lived, but to capture something essential about it, much more economically. I’ve been interested ever since in ‘biographical’-type stories, and the ways in which short story writers present whole lives, and the passing of time.

Q: And do you think the short story is an ideal form for this kind of storytelling? And if so, what do you think the short story can give that the novel can’t?

A: We’re used to hearing the short story described as a ’snapshot’, or a ‘fragment of time’ that’s revelatory – I suppose in the way that it explains, or implies, or sums up, the time before and / or after the action of the story. I wanted to invite writers to demonstrate that it doesn’t always have to be that way. You can have a story of just a few pages that covers 100 years or more (and the opposite of course, a novel that covers a few hours).

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