Evie Wyld, whose work features in Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists 2013, talks about her writing, her bookstore and being a literary consultant.
Evie Wyld’s first novel, After the Fire, A Still Small Voice (2010), was a stunning debut that brought her critical acclaim and the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize. Acclaimed short stories sandwiched her debut.
An excerpt from Wyld’s new novel, All the Birds, Singing, is part of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists 2013. Excerpts from an e-mail interview with Evie, who will be in India later this month as part of the British Council-Granta India tour:
You have now joined a very illustrious list. What does this mean to you?
It’s a really hard thing to quantify: Partly because it’s such a huge accolade, but also partly because in a way it doesn’t change anything. I am amazed to be associated with writers like Martin Amis, Monica Ali and Kazuo Ishiguro, but it doesn’t mean anything is guaranteed. I still continue to write in the same way. The same things are just as hard as they always were.
You have a creative writing degree. Was writing always the plan?
I did the degree in creative writing because I needed to buy myself some time. I liked writing, and felt it was probably what I was best at, but the idea of ‘becoming a writer’ was not something I thought was open to me. I thought that a year of studying how to express myself more articulately would help me find a job. When a literary agent approached me after reading a short story published online with the university, I considered the possibility of writing in a professional capacity for the first time.
You wrote short stories before turning to novels. Which was more satisfying?
They are so different. While there is something very satisfying about being able to keep a whole story in your head, with a novel it’s impossible. But it’s exciting having less control. More surprising, perhaps.
Your second novel, All The Birds, Singing, is markedly different from your debut in terms of setting, style and approach.
The second book is set on a British island and it looks at a young woman living alone with a small flock of sheep. In the night something comes and rips into the sheep. It’s a study of memory. We go back in time to her childhood in Australia, and how she came to be on this island, and why she would want to be there, alone.
I think you become a different writer by the end of any novel — it’s such a vast undertaking, and takes such a long time. I feel like I’m learning new things with every new thing I write, so yes, I see a lot of change.
A little about the excerpt included in the Granta collection?
It’s an excerpt from the Australian section. The Australian part runs backwards in time, so we start with her most recent memory of Australia, and what initiated her move to the other side of the world.
Eventually by the end, we see her childhood, and the dark things that live there. This extract is from a point in her life when she’s working on a shearing station in the outback.
Both the Australian and English landscapes have been part of your life. Is it easier to draw from them, or more difficult because of the personal connection?
I live in England and so I find that harder to write about than Australia, where many of my more vivid childhood memories come from. It’s like trying to paint a portrait of someone whose face you know intimately well — you get hung up on the parts that aren’t exactly right, rather than thinking about the painting as a whole.
You run an independent bookstore, and with a literary consultancy. Does working jobs that so closely connect you to readers and writers affect your own work?
Being a writer means picking up work where you can, so occasionally I read unpublished manuscripts for a fee, give feedback to the author. It is so time consuming though, that I’ve had to cut back in the last year. I also run a small bookshop called Review in London. While I’m there it’s all I think of, and I do struggle to separate myself from it when I’m away. I find writing and working in the shop totally separate from each other and I don’t think of myself as a writer while I’m at work. I don’t know what effect it has on my work, only that worrying about how I will pay my rent is as big a distraction from writing as having a job is. I love the bookshop, and I love writing; I’m lucky to be able to do two of my favourite things, it’s just that there’s never enough time.