BBCNSSA Shortlist 2014
Francesca Rhydderch has a degree in Modern Languages from Newnham College, Cambridge, and a PhD in English from Aberystwyth University. She attended her first creative writing course, led by BBC Executive Producer Kate McAll and novelist Patricia Duncker, as the recipient of a BBC/Ty Newydd bursary in 2010. Her début novel, The Rice Paper Diaries, published in 2013, was longlisted for the Authors' Club Best First Novel Award and won the Wales Book of the Year Award 2014 for Fiction.
Rhydderch's short stories have been published in magazines and anthologies and broadcast on Radio 4. She recently received a Literature Wales bursary to work on her first collection of short fiction. Other projects include a play in Welsh, 'Cyfaill', about iconic Welsh-language writer Kate Roberts, for which she was shortlisted for the Theatre Critics Wales Best Playwright Award 2014. Rhydderch was born in Aberystwyth and now lives in Cardiff.
How does it feel to have been shortlisted for the BBC National Short Story Award 2014?
When the call came through to say I'd been shortlisted, I was surprised and delighted. I've been working on a collection of short stories since my first novel came out last year, and thought I would enter a competition just to give myself a firm deadline. I noticed that the permitted word count for this award is significantly longer than many others, and decided to attempt a long short story for the first time.
Can you give us a bit of background to your shortlisted story? What inspired you to write it?
We have quite a few cased birds at home, including a beautiful barn owl, and one question young children always ask when they first see it is: 'Is he dead, or is he alive?' - such a deep, searching enquiry, delivered with the typical clarity of a child. I was also intrigued by an exhibition of taxidermy that was held at Aberystwyth Museum a few years ago, featuring a prominent local taxidermy business. This was when I decided to write about the daughter of a taxidermist in a small seaside resort soon after the First World War.
The unique element of the BBCNSSA is that your story will be read by an actor and broadcast to Radio 4 listeners. Have you thought about what your characters' voices might sound like/do you have a particular voice in your head?
Yes, very much so. I usually think about a story for a long time before I begin writing it, so that once I get started I will be in no doubt as to who 'owns' the narrative. In this case, the story belongs to the taxidermist's fourteen-year-old daughter Daisy.
How does writing short stories differ from writing full-length fiction, and what do you enjoy about writing in the genre?
What fascinates me is that you can pack a novel's worth of story into a piece of short fiction, but the dynamic is completely different: denser, more suggestive, dependent on patterning, and then there's the significance of empty space. Also, crucially, the passage of time can be as anarchic as you please compared with the novel.
Which short story or collection by another author have you recently discovered and would recommend?
At the moment I'm rereading Joyce Carol Oates' selected fiction, High Lonesome - I think she's an extreme, unafraid writer and I love her work. Although she regularly revisits familiar themes, each individual story is grippingly different. She's also a wonderful writer of place.