Foye McCarthy is a 25 year old London-Irish writer, the winner of the London Short Story Prize 2016 with his story Oh No, a Bank Robbery! Fuck! Spread the Word’s Laura spoke to Foye about his writing inspiration, process and how he wrote his Prize-winning story…
What does it mean to you as a writer to win the London Short Story Prize?
It means a lot! It’s a nice sign that I’m on the right track. Obviously, it’s important from the word go to take yourself seriously as a writer (I believe the right attitude to have is that as soon as you put time and work into anything, you’re as valid a writer as anyone), but the Prize is still meaningful in validating that for me.
Can you tell us a bit about your winning story – when did you start writing it, and how did it come to being written?
I started writing it sometime around the end of summer – I can’t exactly remember when – but to picture the process of me creating it, think of how Kafka wrote all of The Judgement in one fevered, insomniatic burst of inspiration without need of any editing, and then try to imagine the complete opposite of that. It was originally third person instead of first, the tone and story were almost entirely different, etc. etc. etc. – it took a lot of mornings in time spent in front of a laptop, writing and editing over and over, before it wound up like it is. I like George Saunders’s quote here: editing is the process by which a thing becomes good.
Who are your favourite short story writers?
George Saunders and Kafka are definitely up there: I like their inventiveness and their sense of the absurd. The same for Haruki Murakami and Etgar Keret. Lorrie Moore for the agility with which she creates emotional depth and intensity in her stories (speed is always essential to short stories – if someone’s going to transform into a giant insect, best to do it on the first sentence). Let’s throw in Borges and Flannery O’Connor for good measure. Though I also wish Zadie Smith would release a proper collection of her disparate, brilliant shorter stories.
Do you have any tips for budding short story writers out there?
Put in the hours. Honestly. Try to make some space every day. I’ve read a book on the routines of famous writers: almost everyone goes at it right from the morning after they wake up, which I think is best because it’s when the subconscious is most active. The only ones who don’t do it right after waking up do it right before falling asleep. Figures.
And you don’t need to wait for inspiration to strike you from the mysterious beyond. Just sit down with a laptop or a pen (or typewriter or sharp rock and cave wall or whatever), and just write whatever comes to mind, even if it seems silly. Respect the ideas you manage to have, take them the distance, and it’ll train your brain to have even more.
Are you working on anything at the minute?
More short stories, all the time. They’re gradually becoming longer. I may wind up writing a novella and then a novel just through that process. Though I do also have notes and plans written down for two novels and a novella – I haven’t started properly on them yet, though. They concern such things as the activists of Irish volunteers in the Spanish Civil War, and an elaborate Coen-brothers-noir-esque mess escalating out of an accidentally stolen stuffed dog.
What are your goals as a writer?
Difficult question! I just try to find the right balance between the entertainingly absurd and the emotionally resonant, which are two things that don’t necessarily have to cancel each other out, as the Simpsons and Kurt Vonnegut showed us. I’m not sure if this is even what you meant by goals. I don’t think I have any other interesting answers for this that though, aside from my general goal in life: to be a little bit better than I was yesterday.
About Foye McCarthy
Foye McCarthy is a 25 year old London-Irish writer. He recently finished an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Warwick. His main influences are Kurt Vonnegut, The Simpsons, and the way in which tea makes life bearable. He is previously unpublished as a fiction writer. He’s on Twitter @roryisconfused. His London Short Story Prize-winning story will be published by Open Pen Magazine in early 2017, and in the London Short Story Prize 2016 anthology published by Kingston University Press in Spring 2017.