1. Who is Sara and how long have you been writing?
I’ve been writing ever since I was a kid. Even before I could write, I “wrote” small illustrated books, including a very dramatic one about two frogs who were in love, but one of them died tragically. I haven’t stopped writing since.
2. Why a book of short stories and not a full length book?
I’ve always been interested in full-length books, but they require a kind of dedication to the central idea or premise. With this, I really didn’t set out to write a book at first. I just wanted to write a short story to prove to myself that I could do it. I wrote the story “The Door at the End of the Path”, liked it a lot, and then thought, “Well, I should write some more to go with it.” And that’s pretty much how it happened. All the stories in this collection were written to go together, and for that reason they have a kind of unified style and theme.
3. Did you have some short stories you needed to leave out?
Yes, there was one story that I started but it just wasn’t coming together. I tried for a while but there were two problems—one was that the scope of the story was just too big for a short story, which was why it was ending up choppy. The other was that I just wasn’t interested enough in the characters. That unfinished story was called “The Puzzle Box” and so I put a nod to it into the last story in the collection, “A Universe Akilter” and made the narrator of that story (who was a playwright) mention having tried unsuccessfully to write the same thing.
4. How hard was it to do a book of short stories?
Well, the worst part was trying to get enough stories for a good word count, and that by the end of it I was impatient and wanted to move onto something new. The stories themselves were mostly pretty easy to write. “A Universe Akilter” was a little more challenging, but I was inspired by the idea of surrealism and especially surrealist novels to just write a little more, and then a little more, without worrying too much if the whole thing held together. Fortunately, it did end up holding together in the end :) Besides the one story that didn’t work, the most challenging story other than “A Universe Akilter” was probably “The Shivering Ground” but that was also one of the most fun to write. The characters and especially the worldbuilding ended up taking on a life of their own, and I really enjoyed playing with the themes and symbolism of that one. It was based on the idea of a story that would incorporate and be inspired by a song, so I found this medieval song known as the Falcon hymn, which led me to decide to adapt an Arthurian story about one of his knight’s (Percival’s) adventures.
5. Do you plan on turning any of the stories in your book into a full length novel?
No. :) All the stories that I wrote are quite complete. If they had more to them, I wouldn’t have written them as short stories.
6. What can readers see from you next?
I’ve been working on editing and curating an anthology collection of nature poetry (or ecopoetry) from around the world that has a good balance of classical and modern poetry and focuses on the connection between nature and humanity in the context of joy and grief. The collection is created in the style of a song, with each poem leading into the next as though they were movements in an overall symphony. It’s called “Earth Song,” and it should be out sometime this summer!
7. Any tips for people writing short stories?
Short stories, even more than long ones, depend on the clarity of your ideas and the compelling way they’re written. There’s no time to slowly convince someone to get interested; every word, ever character, and every scene has to count. I guess I would think of it almost in terms of snapshots of sensation. If showing the readers a glimpse of this place, conflict, character or whatever it is that’s the hook of your story is more powerful than going into the details of plot, it’s probably better served as a short story. And it has to be able to linger, to bring up more questions in the reader’s mind, to have a scope that goes beyond what’s actually been written down.
On the more practical level, read anything and everything; genre, long and short, fiction and nonfiction, but especially what interests you. Write and read poetry—it will help you create those fragmentary powerful glimmers. And read short stories, too! I loved Sherlock Holmes since I was a kid, and taking note of how short stories could work together to create a larger impression or a larger story was something I really learned from those. And don’t worry too much about if it’s good, either, just try to write something you would love to read. If you manage that, you’re probably doing ok.
8. Where can people find you on social media?
Instagram @realsarabarkat and occasionally YouTube
Published Date: May 18, 2022.