Today I'm delighted to welcome to the wonderful Nik Perring to Books with Bunny. For any of you not yet familiar with Nik and his work, he writes incredibly moving short stories/flash fiction. As a short story writer myself, I'm in awe of his ability and as a reader I admire his capacity to show the beauty and pain in everyday situations. Nik's most recent book Beautiful Trees is out now, published by RoastBooks.
Welcome Nik, and thank you for visiting Books with Bunny. I wondered, how much of your writing comes from your own experience?
I think most writing comes, in some way, from our own experiences. What probably differs is how well we hide it, or how aware of it we are. I’ve never ever tried to write directly about an experience that’s happened to me, or that I’ve seen – I prefer to write stories based on feeling I’ve had, emotions I’ve felt, or based, very loosely, on other things. Mostly, because that’s more fun – there’s plenty more scope to run with ideas and make stuff up than if I was writing about something that had actually happened.
But, in Not So Perfect, I could have been the person who gave his heart away too easily (though I didn’t put mine in a box), and in Freaks! I could have been the sixteen year old girl going on a first date to the cinema, and in Beautiful Trees and Beautiful Words, maybe I was that person who loved the word ‘lisp’ (actually, I definitely do), or the one who admires a tree for its heart shaped leaves...
What inspired you to write Beautiful Trees? Which piece did you write first?
Beautiful Trees was a direct result of writing Beautiful Words. I’d written (or half written) a draft of Words and was talking my publisher (the brilliant RoastBooks) about how we could make it work and the idea of a series cropped up really early on in the conversation. And I think the conversation most likely went something like...
‘How about we make it into a series?’
‘Ooh, that could work. Err, what else could be beautiful? And interesting? And story worthy?’
‘Well, I’ve always liked trees...’
But I guess the real inspiration was an extension of me wanting to share and celebrate beautiful things. Trees certainly are that. Have you seen the blossom in Graves’ Park when everything’s blooming?
And which piece did I write first? Now you’re asking...
I want to say the cherry tree entry, because that’s how Alexander and Lily’s story begins – she works at a garden centre and he buys one as an excuse to talk to her. But with a book like that, that’s not always told in the right order (and with my memory!) it could have been any.
What I do remember, really clearly, is writing both the willow story and the hazel part. I’ve always loved willows – they remind me of people, for some reason. They seem very female. And very beautiful and they seem to have fragile beauty and a sadness that’s glorious and watery and fluid. (I’m not saying those are linked, I should add!)
Graves Park is one of my favourite places in Sheffield and I love watching the trees change appearance with the seasons. Do you think word selection is more important in shorter pieces of writing than in novels?
Absolutely not. I think words, and their selection and their weight, are just as important no matter what length of story they appear in. And I know that they’re more likely to stand out more in a shorter piece, simply because there are less of them (bit like sitting on the front row of desks at school) but every word is as important as the next. If they’re not then the writing gets baggy and soggy.
What's your favourite word?
Your work is extremely emotive to read. Do you get emotional whilst you write?
Less than I did! And thank you. It’s a weird balance, writing (as you’ll know!). I think you absolutely have to feel something of what you’re writing – that’s where the heart is in stories, that’s what makes them glow and that’s what makes readers identify and empathise and feel. But I also think that sometimes the stories we write are because of what or how we feel about things. And I think that’s what we should strive for as writers – converting an emotion or translating a feeling into something different for others, hopefully, to enjoy. (And yes, I know I sound all ponsey and like I’m trying to be clever, but I’m not (clever or ponsey!). I just think that emotions are such powerful things they deserve to be shared. And people understand them: we all know what it’s like to be sad or happy, lonely or pining.)
Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions Nik, it's been a pleasure. Beautiful Trees which will be reviewed on Books with Bunny shortly.
Author Bio -
Nik Perring is a short story writer and the author of five books. His stories have been published in many fine places both in the UK and abroad, in print and online. They've won competitions, been used on High School distance learning courses in the US, printed on fliers, and broadcast on radio.
Nik's short stories have been collected in two books: Not So Perfect (Roastbooks, 2010) and, with Caroline Smailes, Freaks! (The Friday Project/HarperCollins, 2012).
He's also the author of A Book of Beautiful Words (Roastbooks, 2014), and the second in the series, Beautiful Trees, is out now.
His online home is www.nikperring.com and he's on Twitter as @nikperring