Today I'm talking to Paul Williams about his book The Art of Losing. I had the honour of editing this for Paul. The stories in it are compelling and it was a great pleasure workign with him on this collection.
Tell me about your book.
The Art of Losing is a collection of short stories I wrote in my various journeys around the world. I have lived in Africa, the Middle East, USA, UK and Australia, and each story is a window into some crucial experience I had in each of these countries. Most of the stories have been published in leading international literary journals and some (to my surprise!) won literary awards. As I gathered these stories together for this collection, I realised that most of them were about loss, and how to deal with loss – of country, home, faith, identity, loved ones. Much of the world is in exile, many millions are refugees, and I have had a little taste of this. We all deal with loss differently, and I deal with it by writing. Writing is catharsis and therapy and helps the pain of loss, but also is a positive way out. That makes it sound painful but many of the stories are humourous, absurd even.
Tell us about your research for this book.
As many of the stories are based on personal experience, the research was what academics call autoethnographic – describing and systematically analysing my own personal experience in order to understand the cultural experience of being alive here and now in this particular place and time. Researching your ‘self’ as a subject may seem weird but it is a valuable and important way to gain self knowledge, insight and epiphany ( self realisation).
What inspired you to write this?
I teach Creative Writing at a university in Australia and teach a very popular course in particular called Writing the Short Story (over 100 students this semester!) where we look at this amazing art form that captures the essence of a distilled experience in a few thousand words. I wanted to gather all the stories I had written and share my experiences with the world.
All the stories are true in some sense, and each story was inspired by some deep emotional event – the death of my father, falling in love, rescuing a baby bird, how a friend of mine dealt with her child abuse with fantasies of revenge, and each story deals with an epiphany of some sort- some self realisation or insight I have had about myself, the world and I wanted to share this miracle of being alive, survival, personal growth and consciousness.
Since publishing this book I continue to write short stories – one appeared in the Chicago Quarterly Review this year (about loss!). I have also fallen in love with crime writing and published a bestselling closed/ locked room mystery called Twelve Days (Bloodhound Books 2019) which is a tribute to Agatha Christie and a modern version of her amazing novel And Then There Were None. I have another crime novel coming out this year with the same publisher, called Don’t Tell, about gas lighting, serial killers and deception in relationships (!). My text book Novel Ideas : Writing Innovative Fiction came out this year too, about my love affair with the novel form.
How can we get a copy of the book?
The Art of Losing is available directly from Bridgehouse Publishing and also on Amazon. Just a note here of praise to Gill and BridgeHouse – it is amazing independent publishers like her who keep the literary conversations going, so please all writers and readers support this essential fabric of the publishing industry, so necessary in this corporate conglomerate publishing world that subsumes and homogenises everything.
Do you have any events planned?
COVIT 19 has put an end to the book launches l had planned this year, but (and here is one positive coming out of the pandemic) people are reading more books, taking time to live in literary worlds, and I have had increased sales of all my books, some wonderful emails from readers, good reviews on Goodreads and Amazon. We have had to adapt to moving events and activities online and we are now more in tune with the virtual and online social media environment. It is important to be visible here, so please, if you read my books, visit my website, leave a comment on Amazon or Goodreads and let’s keep the conversation going and our community alive!