BBCNSSA Shortlist 2014
Tessa Hadley has written five novels including Accidents in the Home (2002), The London Train (2011) and Clever Girl (2013), and two collections of short stories: Sunstroke (2007) and Married Love (2012). She has had novels longlisted for the Guardian First Book Award, for the Orange Prize (twice), and for the Welsh Book of the Year (twice); Sunstroke was shortlisted for The Story Prize in the US, and Married Love was shortlisted for the Edge Hill Prize.
She has twice had stories in The O. Henry Prize collection. She publishes stories regularly in the New Yorker, reviews for the London Review of Books and the Guardian, and is a Professor at Bath Spa University, teaching mostly on the MA in Creative Writing. She has also published a critical book on Henry James. Hadley was a judge for the BBC National Short Story Award in 2011. She was born in Bristol and lives in London.
How does it feel to have been shortlisted for the BBC National Short Story Award 2014?
I'm just delighted; because I love short stories so much, it's an award I always look out for. Some wonderful writers have been shortlisted in the past; it's an honour to be included among them.
Can you give us a bit of background to your shortlisted story? What inspired you to write it?
It's one of the most autobiographical stories I've ever written. When I was a child I had the dream which I recount inside the story, and it haunted me. I felt uncannily, while I was writing, as if I was moving around inside the rooms of my own long-ago past.
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?
It's a woman's voice, certainly; and I think it should sound cool and remote, keeping a distance from identifying with either character just as the narrative does. In other words, in the child-part the voice shouldn't mimic a child's voice or a child's excitement, but should rather forensically observe the child's actions and thoughts, as if from outside.
How does writing short stories differ from writing full-length fiction, and what do you enjoy about writing in the genre?
I love the irresponsibility of short stories. In a novel when you dream up some detail in passing you know you will have to pick it up at some point later, and weave it into the long fabric of the whole. In a short story everything is done once only, stands by itself; that gives the form its intensity.
Which short story or collection by another author have you recently discovered and would recommend?
I've been reading Hans Fallada's stories for the first time, beautifully translated by Michael Hofmann. Fallada wrote about an underworld of poverty and violence in mid-twentieth-century Germany; his writing has a lyricism and fatalism which makes the stories unlike Brecht's more familiar, more pointed critique.