Mark Newman has been shortlisted for the Costa Short Story Award, highly commended in the New Writer Prose & Poetry Awards and Bristol Prize longlisted. His work has won competitions judged by Alison Moore, Tania Hershman and David Gaffney. He has been published in Firewords Quarterly, Fiction Desk and Paper Swans. He has eight stories in the Retreat West competition anthology Inside These Tangles, Beauty Lies.
My Fence is Electric and Other Stories is a collection of award winning short stories looking at those moments in life that fizz with the electric intensity of change.
A housing estate is in shock following a child’s disappearance. A girl and her invisible friend go their separate ways. A father and a son bond over Post-It notes. A single father and his daughter have different approaches to the disappearance of their dog. A father finds his way to coax his agoraphobic son back out into the world.
We will be publishing My Fence is Electric and Other Stories in February 2020. In the meantime, let’s meet Mark.
Were there any authors that inspired you to writing short stories?
Three of my favourite writers – Alison Moore, Jon McGregor, and Susan Hill – have published incredible short story collections and that fact, coupled with an author talk by Alison Moore I attended, tempted me into giving short story writing a go. It’s a great way to experiment with your writing, to try writing styles and genres you might not otherwise tackle and to find a voice and tone you feel comfortable with.
Are the characters and settings in your stories based upon your own life experiences?
I shied away from this for the first short stories I wrote and then my own life experiences began to drip feed in (although, in reality, they are there subliminally in all those first stories). You don’t need to directly transcribe your life into your short stories – but use things that have happened to focus a story, to send it off on other tangents. You can take something that has happened to you and push it out in all sorts of directions – what would have happened if I had reacted in this way or that way. I’ve not yet based any characters on any people I know yet though… not brave enough!
What is your biggest motivation for writing?
In my late teens I read I’m The King of the Castle by Susan Hill and it sparked something in me as a reader that made me think I could also be a writer – I think the tone of it really spoke to me. Writing can be frustrating but no matter how many times I think I’m done with it, it never seems to be done with me and I find myself scribbling down ideas for stories.
How many books have you written?
My Fence is Electric and Other Stories is my first collection of short stories. I am currently working on a novel, After We Fall, about a man, a woman, and a paper doll.
What would you say is your biggest accomplishment?
I’ve had quite a few successes in writing competitions, which have made me really proud. Alison Moore picked my story as a winner of a competition a while back, which was amazing. I guess my biggest accomplishment is being shortlisted for the Costa Short Story Award.
What advice would you give a writer trying to get published?
Read, read, and then read some more. Read widely and read outside your comfort zone. Every voice, every style, every change of tone you read will feed into the voice and style you establish for yourself.
What inspires you when you hit writer’s block?
Ignore it, walk away from it, distract yourself with other things. The words will find their way back to you. Go for a walk – at best you’ll be inspired with ideas, at worst you’ll have had a nice walk.
Describe your writing style in three words.
Literary. Poetic. Emotive.