:: Buzzwords

Five for: Nicholas Royle


1) We’re told that no-one reads short stories and that with e-books, traditional forms of print are, if not dead, at least in their death throes. Why did you start a press publishing short stories?
Because I love short stories more than any other literary form and because I don’t believe the doom-mongers who say that short stories and print publications are dying or already dead. I’ve always been stubborn and I’ll continue to be. I started Nightjar Press because some stories are so good that they deserve their own covers, their own ISBN. They deserve a bit of love.

2) What, or who, would you say was your biggest influence in creating Nightjar Press?
I would have to say Mark Valentine, who published Joel Lane‘s short story The Foggy, Foggy Dew as a chapbook in 1986. It was my first exposure to chapbooks (and to the work of Joel Lane, whose work I’ve published many times since, in anthologies, with his debut collection and most recently as a Nightjar Press title).

3) Is there a story behind the name? A nightjar is a bird, isn’t it?
It is. It is a nocturnal bird with whiskers around its surprisingly large mouth. Rarely seen, more often heard. Its song is a sort of ghostly clicking known as churring. It sounds like a Geiger counter. Sylvia Plath wrote a poem about the nightjar, which is also known as a corpse fowl or goatsucker: it flies, she wrote, ‘on wings of witch cloth’. It seemed an appropriate name for a press specialising in Gothic or uncanny stories.


4) Nightjar Press isn’t open to submissions, how are you selecting titles? And who would you like to see on the imprint?
Actually it is open to submissions. There’s been no big call for submissions, because I had no desire to be swamped by stories, but anyone who’s got in touch to ask if they can submit has been told they may do so. The four titles I’ve published so far were all by invitation, but that will not always be the case. I’d love to get a story from the American writer Shelley Jackson, whose Skin project I have just joined as a ‘word’.

5) Lovecraft said that searchers after horror haunt strange far places and that “men of broader intellect know that there is no sharp distinction betwixt the real and the unreal.” Any thoughts?
Lovely quotation and one that gets very close to what I love most about uncanny/Gothic/intelligent horror fiction: it’s often about the disjunction between appearance and reality, between the real and the unreal, between the glimpsed and the recorded. I’m drawn to ambiguity, uncertainty, and to the particular ways that fiction writers can exploit that disjunction. Did I really see that? Did that really happen? Can it be explained? Think of Christopher Priest‘s The Glamour or John Haskell‘s American Purgatorio. Having said that, there’s nothing of the unreal about Alison Moore‘s When the Door Closed, it Was Dark (one of the Nightjar titles), but it’s extremely dark and operates at a very inventive, ambitious level.

Nicholas Royle’s Nightjar Press has published limited edition chapbooks by Michael Marshall Smith, Tom Fletcher, Alison Moore and Joel Lane, available directly from the Nightjar website.

First posted: Monday, July 5th, 2010.

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