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Beyond Sugar Hill

Linda Mannheim in conversation with Kit Caless.


Kit Caless: Hi Linda, firstly congratulations on your shortlisting for the Edge Hill Prize! There are very few short story collection prizes out there, but lots of collections getting published (these days at least) — so it’s a wonderful achievement. Your first collection with Influx was called Above Sugar Hill. That was longlisted for the Edge Hill, but not shortlisted. Of course, as its editor/publisher I think both your books should win all the prizes, even the ones they aren’t eligible for, but this is my very spurious way of asking the first question: what do you think has changed in your writing since between Above Sugar Hill and This Way to Departures

Linda Mannheim: Hi Kit. It’s great to get a chance to catch up with you. So much has been happening this year and so much has been changing so quickly — I feel like we worked on these books together in another era. The news about the Edge Hill Prize shortlist is amazing. I remember when you and I talked about my hopes for the new book, I said, of course I’d love it if it was up for a prize, but I realise there are a lot of really good books that will be up for prizes…

I think what has changed the most since I worked on Above Sugar Hill is not my writing itself, but my idea of what a short story collection can be. I put together Above Sugar Hill during a time when Influx Press was focused on writing linked to place, and I felt very much as if the stories in it had to be linked geographically and also had to be consistent in terms of theme and style. A few years later, I read two collections that blew apart my preconceptions about what you could do with a short story collection — Irenosen Okojie’s Speak Gigantular and Leone Ross’s Come Let Us Sing Anyway. Both books were audacious, playful, groundbreaking, defied convention when it came to genre, and dealt with thematic ties in a different way than I was used to. And, after reading them, I felt freed to blow off some rules. I was lucky to interview both Leone and Irenosen for a books podcast I was working on at the time, and I remember that Leone talked about not waiting to write the perfect manuscript, about getting your work out there. All of these things — the books and the interviews — changed my approach to writing a short story collection.

Since then, I feel like I’ve seen so much writing that challenges mainstream ideas about novels, memoirs, and short stories — Lara Pawson’s This is the Place to Be, Ruby Cowling’s This Paradise, Bernardine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other, Anna Burn’s Milkman, Wayne Holloway’s Bindlestiff… There’s this thing where breaking rules, where writing something ‘experimental’ is supposed to mean it’s difficult in some way, but I find all the books I’ve just listed playful and welcoming. It was like, having been told that you can only build one kind of house, discovering you can build all kinds of stuff.

A lot of the books I’ve mentioned (5 out of 7) have been published by independent publishers. Independent publishers also seem to have a growing and more influential role in UK publishing now than when Influx started (in 2012). So, I can’t help asking you the same question — how do you think Influx has changed between then and now?   

KC: Those two books you’ve mentioned are some of my favourites from the last few years too. Speak Gigantular is a genuine mind-blower, as all of Irenosen’s writing is and Leone’s voice is such a pleasure to read. I love hearing writers talk about other writers and how their work has impacted them. It makes the process of reading and publishing feel more alive, feel more of a growing, organic process, rather than something that happens in isolation to the writer.

I agree, Above Sugar Hill does feel much more location oriented, and that was due to Influx’s self-imposed restrictions on place-based writing at the time. When we started, we felt we needed a niche, so to speak. We weren’t able to just come out and say Influx publishes literary fiction and non-fiction. Partly because we didn’t really know what we wanted to publish but also it’s entirely nondescript and doesn’t sell the books you are trying to direct people’s attention towards. I think it served us well for a while, with your book Above Sugar Hill and Gareth E Rees’s Marshland and Darran Anderson’s Imaginary Cities putting us on the publishing map.

Attrib and Other Stories by Eley Williams pretty much changed our direction in terms of how people saw Influx, I think. We had published some books before that weren’t place-specific but Eley’s was certainly the first book that we didn’t really make it a consideration. It was a critical and commercial success for us and I think brought a whole new readership to the press. So, by the time This Way To Departures landed two and a half years later, we were in a position to enable you to run with whatever you wanted. I think!

The branching out of Influx was inevitable because Gary, Sanya and I read so widely and have such different and varied interests. Also we just got better at the marketing and publicity stuff — which means you sell more books and can sign more authors. The biggest change is definitely in scale. When we published Above Sugar Hill I think it was one of two books that year, and with This Way To Departures it was one of 12, so that’s clear growth.

I’m interested in how to view the ‘theme’ of This Way To Departures a year after its publication. Ostensibly it’s about trying to find out what to call ‘home’ I think. There are some things I don’t think I picked up when we were working on it that I realise are now special elements to the book. Particularly your writing on friendship, and female friendships specifically. It strikes me the book is more about that than anything else. Would you agree?

LM: When I think about friendships in the book, I think of Mia and Reeny in ‘Dangers of the Sun’ — they’re linked to each other by a shared childhood, and they have a lot of fondness for each other in later years, but the way they connect with one another after having landed in different worlds is anything but simple. They’re one another’s rescuers at times, or try to be, but of course can’t actually succeed in rescuing one another all the time. But when I talk about female friendship, I feel a kind of ambivalence: there’s a whole school of chick lit and soppy movies about the redemptive qualities of female friendship, how your female friend is gonna be there no matter what and is more important than anyone else out there. I don’t mean that friendships like that don’t exist, but what I’m more interested in are depictions of friendships Lila and Lenu’s in Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Quartet, which is all over the place — both dangerous and nurturing — depending when you drop in.

I tell people a lot that what I’m interested in is how people get on with their lives after a disaster of some kind, and that’s clearly a theme here, but I think that’s kind of my overall brand. And in a way, I’m up for other people picking out themes they see (rather than me picking them out), and responding to their ideas about the stories.

One of the things I’ve been thinking about is how Influx opened up a space for me to write about a part of the US that I felt I wasn’t seeing much in US fiction. I don’t mean it wasn’t there at all, but so much of the fiction that was being elevated when I was starting to write, so much of what we focused on in the writing programme I was in, was about the lives of upper middle-class white Americans with a little bit of poverty safari. I realise a lot of people describe UK literature that way too though, so I feel incredibly lucky to have found a part of the publishing world where that’s not the case. I’ve been thinking about a recent Tweet from Courttia Newland, which said: ‘I’ve taught fiction classes for over 20 years and the amount of great novels I’ve seen in that time is mind blowing. Many of them are working class. Only a minority make it onto bookshelves. Where do all those great writers go? There’s no US equivalent, and very little training.’

I know you wrote a piece for Minor Literature[s] about how you want publishing to change, which was part serious and part playful. I have my decolonised publishing fantasies. What could you really see happening to essentially change things? (Just a small question.)

KC: That Minor Lit[s] rant was deadly serious! Haha. I think, genuinely, the only way to change anything in publishing — to make it more dynamic, more interesting, more radical and more of a force for social progression is in a couple of lines in the first section of that article: 

Working class women from marginalised communities will hold editorial positions at all publishing imprints or houses

Only 3% of publishers will be privately educated until private schools are completely abolished

I think class is a massive barrier in publishing. It’s been spoken about before quite a bit, but until we see a lot of working-class people behind the books; editors, commissioning editors, publicity etc, nothing will really change. On top of that, the publishing industry can afford to pay people who work in the lower levels a lot more than it does, and it should. 

I’ve said this to a number of people but it still rings true — I’m bog-standard middle class. Grammar school educated, I play the cello, I went to art school, mother was a teacher, etc. But when I’m at certain publishing events or meeting people from the corporate publishing world, I sometimes feel like the least posh person in the room. There is something so wrong with that, given that amongst a lot of my friendship groups I’m considered quite bourgeois.

At Influx, since Gary and I both have a similar background we made concerted efforts to employ people like our assistant editor Sanya Semakula and our publicist Jordan Taylor-Jones, who have entirely different upbringings to us. It’s made us a much better publishing company, more wide ranging, more daring, and it really wasn’t hard to do. If we can manage to think about this, take action, and successfully pull it off, what’s stopping bigger publishing houses from doing it too? 

I don’t know much about US publishing so would find it hard to make comparisons — though I do recognise the New Yorker / Upper East Side writer cliche could probably match our Hampstead writer cliche. 

Talking of America, I have always wanted to, but never got round to asking you about short story culture in the USA. My impression is that short stories, as a form, are more widely celebrated in the US than in the UK (though lots of people are trying their damnedest to make them more widely read here!) — is this something you agree with?

LM: Oh wow — I have a lot to say about short stories in the US, but I feel like I need to start by saying that I haven’t lived there for a long time, so I’m going to talk about some things that are historic rather than a picture of where things are now.

There is a much bigger market for short stories in the US than the UK, which is partly to do with how much bigger the US is (population 331 million in summer 2020). The market for short stories is also bigger for cultural reasons. I can think of three different short story markets in the US. There are magazines that publish genre short stories: mystery and sci-fi journals. These are long-standing, hugely popular magazines (Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine has a huge readership and publishes wonderful stuff). There are also the high circulation ‘general’ magazines that publish one short story in each issue — obviously The New Yorker is the one that everyone wants their story in, but also The Atlantic, and Harpers. Finally, the US has a lot — and I do mean a lot — of literary magazines. Almost every university and college has one (and the US has a lot of universities and colleges).

So, when I was studying writing, people talked a lot about the ‘prestige’ literary magazines. Not all of those magazines are connected to universities (The Paris Review isn’t), but a lot of their readers are connected to either academia or publishing in some way. That can be an interesting audience to write for, but it is a very specific audience. The New Yorker, as you pointed out, used to publish the equivalent of the Hampstead Novel, which in the US was the unhappy suburbanite story. Or, at a later date, the unhappy upper middle-class young person who returns to the city. There were of course some exceptions to this, but I remember an overwhelming number of short stories about those worlds, which I was really not interested in.

There was a real shift in the 1990s — firstly, The New Yorker changed a lot (and some of their readers freaked out when they did). Also, a lot of fiction magazines that weren’t connected to universities started up: Tin House, Glimmer Train, Zoetrope, McSweeney’s and Story are a few. Story in particular was publishing things that a lot of ‘traditional’ literary magazines weren’t. I’m gonna just quote from their website here: ‘In 1989, Lois Rosenthal revived Story as a quarterly magazine … and published a diverse roster of the best contemporary writers such as Amy Bloom, Andrea Barrett, Bonnie Jo Campbell, Dan Chaon, Percival Everett, Elizabeth Gilbert, Barry Lopez, Abraham Rodriguez, Carol Shields, and William Vollman.’ That’s one hell of a list, and a different list than a lot of the other magazines had. Story by the way, after shutting down in 2000, is now up and running again.

One of the suggestions I’ve heard offered for why the US has so many short-story markets is that the US has a lot creative writing programmes where the easiest form to critique is a short story. I think that’s only part of the story. Those programmes might create a bigger readership for stories and might mean there are more literary magazines out there, but I think, given how many magazines were publishing short stories already, the interest in short stories as a form was already there.

I feel a lot of excitement about that changing role of short stories right now. Digital publishing is making it possible to publish things that were hard to publish before — ‘Noir’ for example was too long for a traditional magazine and too short for a novella, but perfect for a Kindle Single. There are also certain points where there’s a kind of breakthrough in short story publishing — George Saunders and Carmen Maria Machado being two of the short story writers who pressed a kind of reset button on short story culture in the US. The fact that it’s so much easier to create and publish a magazine now than it was also means there’s a lot more space to depart from the narrow landscape there was before.

As someone who is publishing short story collections, including Eley Williams’ ground-breaking Attrib., what possibilities do you see for publishing short stories in the UK? What do you think are the best ways for getting short stories that people care about out into the world? What short stories are you interested in publishing and how might readers best access them (digitally, in magazines, and in anthologies)?

KC: I love the short story as a literary form and I think it’s a shame that in the UK collections are not treated on an equal level as novels. The most obvious place this is shown is in the prize culture here. The Booker, or the Women’s Prize, and many other prizes for ‘Fiction’ do not accept books of short stories for entry. What are short stories if not ‘fiction’? Perhaps we need to remove the word ‘short’! A novel is a story, sometimes several, so I see no difference there. Attrib. won the James Tait Black award and the Republic of Consciousness award which really gave it a boost — I imagine it might well have been in with a shout for the Women’s or the Booker if they accepted fiction outside of novels. In the UK, prizes lead the discourse, and for so-called ‘literary fiction’ they lead the sales too.

It’s interesting what you say about magazines and journals in the US being so heavily linked to academia, I suppose that is quite a different culture to the UK in that regard. Plus, we really don’t have a New Yorker equivalent here. That said, places like 3:AM Magazine right here, Minor Literature[s], Gorse, Structo, Ambit, The White Review, and many others are regularly publishing wonderful stories every year. In the UK I think the attitude is that short stories are a testing ground for a writer before they write their novel. I think this is the wrong attitude. Maybe some writers are just short story writers, and that’s totally fine. Some novelists would do well to cut down their word count as it is. How we change that culture is anyone’s guess. But with Influx we’re trying to make sure we continue to publish short story collections with the same frequency as novels and non-fiction, and treat them as equals when it comes to publicity and marketing. The brutish reality is that novels sell more copies in the UK so in some cases we do have to throw more of our weight behind a novel we think will sell a lot, in order to maximise the sales potential, rather than have it truly equal across the board.

Fernando Sdrigotti, editor at Minor Literature[s] and author of one of our Influx collections, Jolts, always reminds me that in Spanish, particularly in South America, the short story form is widely celebrated as equal to the novel, if not better. In Spanish short story collections are called libro de cuentos which literally means ‘Book of Stories’. The semantic difference here is key — with a short story ‘collection’ (as we call it in English) there is an implication that disparate stories have come together into one book and you will be reading something that contains unrelated stories, or a group of stories without a collective purpose. With a short story book, there’s a suggestion that the author has written all these stories in order for them to be together inside one book. Language is a key indicator of cultural thought, so this is a pertinent thing that Sdrigotti points out.

I’m always interested in stories that either do one, two or three of the following things:

1) Shows me something I don’t know or haven’t experienced. Either through character, setting or situation. I love learning through reading and some of my favourite stories show me something about human life that I might not have encountered. Percival Everett is a master at this. I thought Alexia Arthurs’ book How to Love a Jamaican also did this. The Protest anthology from Comma Press did this. Or even Subha, the South Indian duo who write detective shorts. Your work, Linda also fits into this. I found an understanding of America, a country I know fairly little about, through your work. Oh, and Etgar Keret.

2) Plays with form or linguistic expectations. This is an obvious one, but hard for writers to pull off. Eley Williams would be my clear example, but also as mentioned before Irenosen Okojie’s work is delightful when it comes to playing with language and creating unexpected sentences. Claire-Louise Bennett too. And Owen Booth.

3) Contains ideas. I love getting my brain fed by ideas in short stories. J.G. Ballard’s stories are a great space for me in that regard. He couldn’t write characters for shit, but his stories were packed with ideas.

As for the best vehicle for promoting and disseminating short stories? I don’t know. But I do think that there aren’t enough short story collections as audiobooks, I must say. There’s a big gap there that should be filled. Audio is tricky because most listeners are looking for something 8+ hours long, which a collection is unlikely to be, but I think this can change in time (the attitude to length, not the lengthening of short-story collections). I think short stories are in a much better place in the UK than they were five years ago, so something must be going well. Writers like Julia Armfield and Chris Power are finding their debuts published and celebrated at major houses like Picador and Faber, which is excellent. What we need is a big network, a huge web, from the big corporate publishers, through to us, and then out to all the mags and online spaces for storytelling to be interconnected and lively and just as important as that pesky novel.

Throughout publishing you’ll hear people say that ‘short-story collections don’t sell’. I don’t think that rings completely true anymore (Attrib. is a good example), but they certainly fall short of big novel sales. Publishing is a money-oriented business and will always follow what is selling. So, in some ways, it’s up to the readers to push the agenda through buying more short-story collections and proving there is a hungry market out there!

Linda, you’ve written novels and short stories and non-fiction. What is it about each form that you like, as a writer and a reader?

LM: There’s so much here I want to respond to.

First of all, yes, the idea that you start by writing short stories and then grow into writing novels is ridiculous — they’re completely different forms. It’s like you’re going up to a photographer and saying: ‘Hey Dorothea Lange, I loved your photos of migrant farmworkers. When are you going to make a film?’ And I think: Grace Paley and Lucia Berlin and George Saunders gave you perfect short stories, and you’re going on about how you want to see novels by them?

All of that said, some writers write both — George Saunders did write a novel (though his main body of work is short stories). And I love reading and writing both. I see them as somewhat separate (but related) mediums. The experience of working on them, too, is completely different. Writing Risk, my novel, was an incredibly intense and years-long process. I was able to research and write about South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings because I had a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and a whole series of residencies and other grants. Chris Power, May-Lan Tan, and I did a short story salon together a couple of years back and all three of us talked about the difference between writing short stories and novels, how it’s possible to write short stories even when you’re dealing with other responsibilities (day jobs, etc) while novels really demand sustained attention from you.

I both like what Fernando Sdrigotti does in his short stories in Jolts — questioning what a short story is and pushing the limits of that definition — and like hearing Fernando’s take on short stories in general. When he and I talked about short fiction on his podcast, I was really surprised (and heartened) to hear that short stories have high status in Argentina. It was kind of like being told: see, there’s a place in the world where people get it.

So, although there are a lot of places that publish short stories individually in the US, I think that short-story collections are categorised the same way there as in the UK. I used to hear in the US that you could find an agent and publisher with a short-story collection and potentially get a two-book deal if your other book was going to be a novel, and then the short-story collection would be held back until you finished the novel. I also know there are writers whose first book is a really high-profile short-story collection — both Junot Diaz and ZZ Packer made a big splash this way.

I sometimes wonder if we’re missing out on different ways to read and distribute short stories. I remember waiting for a delayed flight a few years back; I started downloading Galley Beggar‘s short stories (back when they were publishing short stories digitally) and I really liked standing around and reading those stories on my phone. The closest thing I’ve seen to a short story app was something called Oolipo for interactive stories. The first stories looked magical to me, but development was stopped a couple of years ago. I feel a real sense of delight when I’m reading through a lot of harsh real life news and then land on a short story in The New Yorker or another magazine. And there are a lot of stories I love seeing in digital magazines (or digital versions of them), but I still think I would like to have something that pulls the fiction from each of those magazines into something you can happily use on a phone.

So, back to what it is I like about novels and short stories — as a reader and a writer. Novels to me offer a deep dive, an escape, a way to leave everyday life and tune into another time and place. I just finished Heidi James’s new novel, The Sound Mirror, and after living with those characters for a week, I wished I didn’t have to leave them and wondered what their lives were like beyond what I’d read. I see short stories providing a glimpse into another world (Irenosen Okojie’s ‘Saudade Minus 1’), showing a conclusion arrived at by way of experience (ZZ Packer’s ‘Drinking Coffee Elsewhere’) and taking risks that are harder to take in a novel (Joanna Walsh’s ‘The Hauptbahnhof’).

Creating a collection — or the book of stories that Fernando mentions — is of course a different thing than creating a short story, and you start to think about what all the stories add up to together. This Way to Departures turned out to be a slightly different collection than the one I’d originally planned not just because I was responding to your edits when we worked on it together, but also because I couldn’t find the manuscript for a story that I thought was going to be in it and used ‘Facsimiles’ — about a photocopy clerk making missing persons posters during 9/11 — instead. It was really exciting to recover that story after setting it aside and I think it changed the feel of the book overall.

What are some of the ways that you’ve seen books change as you’ve worked on them with authors, and what is that experience like for you as a publisher?

KC: I love working with authors on their books, it’s such a pleasure to help guide them towards what I… sorry, what they, want. Editing a novel is clearly a different process to a book of short stories. Novels tend to need much more work on narrative arc, character development and often the endings are terrible and need rewriting haha. I enjoy getting the entire book in my head, living and breathing the characters etc, but it’s a very time-consuming process for an editor. I also write myself (currently writing a non-fiction book with a deadline of January, eek) and this can be an issue if I’m editing something like a novel or another non-fiction book — I try to give my all to the editing, which means someone else’s book is in my head instead of my own! So, I try very hard not to do both at the same time. 

With a book of short stories the focus is different, for sure. Each story needs to be absolutely water tight. With a novel, sometimes you can get away with the an ever so slightly sloppy paragraph, or a bit of exposition. If the rest of the novel is good enough the reader generally won’t notice if there’s been a bit of a struggle with a couple of passages. But with short stories you don’t have that luxury, it’s get in, get out, as Vonnegut famously says. I probably concentrate on how something is being said when editing a short story over what is being said. I think that’s generally because a short has one or two objectives at the most — whereas a novel will have several, minimum five or six I’d have thought. Most short stories are looking to explore one particular idea, or one particular character — sometimes that can be combined with place or atmosphere, but on the whole, one/two objectives. That focus, that concentration of task allows room for really nit-picking the language, which is something I love to do. Sentence by sentence, word by word. 

Additionally, there is the construction of a theme, I suppose. With a lot of collections there are stories I will ask to be left out because I don’t feel they add the right vibe (did I just say ‘vibe’? Yes, I did) to the book. Sometimes there is a story that is brilliant but takes the reader somewhere completely out of the way and disrupts the coherenc— of the book. I know this might not be every reader’s concern but it is mine. It’s also a problem with anthologies with multiple authors. We publish those as well, but there is a certain disruption that occurs as the voice changes from author to author, I feel. 

In terms of books changing, I wouldn’t want to speak too much about that, as the book that reaches the reader is the book as it should be, and it’s more for the author to reveal what changed and what didn’t. I will, however, give two examples where I asked for additions rather than subtractions — most people imagine an editor to be chopping the text up with red pen, but there’s an equal amount of asking for more, I think. With Jeffrey Boakye’s Hold Tight, he had written a good deal of the ‘song’ chapters (that is chapters about a particular song or music track, and solely focused on that) — this was all well and good and we could have just increased the number of song chapters to make the book a retail-able size. But that wasn’t enough for me. Knowing that grime culture and black British masculinity existed far beyond the realms of the music, I asked Jeffrey to write several essays on related but not musical topics, which formed an appendix in the back of the book. Some of these essays are readers’ favourite elements in the book! Also, when Eley was writing Attrib., one of the stories, ‘Synaesthesia’ was only about two pages long and was more of a kind of jokey word play experiment. I asked her to lengthen it quite substantially and expand her concepts around word/images, and give it a tiny bit of dramatic tension. She did so, marvellously of course. And again, I hear and read people saying how much that story is their favourite in the book. So there’s a certain amount of satisfaction I get from that. 

Last question to you, I think. I’d like you to tell me about one of your favourite stories that you’ve written and why it’s your favourite. I’d also like to know a story you have read that made you think, ‘oh wow, I didn’t realise you could write like that!’ (not already mentioned in our conversation already, of course).

LM: It’s great hearing about what it’s been like to edit some of the books Influx has published — I feel like you really don’t get to hear much about that part of producing a book, or hear enough about how every book is a collaboration (outside of acknowledgments that is). I’ve also wondered how it is to work on other books when you’re writing your own — knowing you and Gary are both writers as well as publishers. What you’ve mentioned — thinking about someone else’s work instead of your own — is something that I did a lot when I was teaching and one of the reasons I had to back off from teaching in order to write.

Ah, getting to talk about a favourite story that you’re written is great!  It’s ‘Noir’. ‘Noir’ is fundamentally different from any other story I’ve written in that is sticks to a formula for that genre, but it also feels really personal in a way. I was thinking about all the different elements of it that were floating around when I started to write it: the joke at the start of it that was a real life joke I had with someone, the apartment in it that is based on the apartment I was living in at the time. One evening, I was in a laundromat waiting for my clothes to dry and noticed a man in the corner who’d taken off his shirt to put it in the washing machine with everything else. I hadn’t realised I was staring, but he noticed, and we talked for a while and he was wearing a St Christopher’s medal. And I wondered who he was and then that turned into all the what ifs that made the story, until I had a sense of where it might go and then I went over to the gun shop down the street (this was Miami) to do research and a friend of mine drove around Key Largo with me and charmed a boat owner into showing us around so I could get the details right. Then pretty much it all came together like magic — I don’t remember having to do many rewrites. And then I sent it out to magazines and got about 40 rejections, but mostly really nice rejections. Could I make it shorter to fit the magazine? I couldn’t: it was exactly the size it needed to be. Could I turn it into a novel? Maybe, but I would want a real plan in order to do that. Then, finally, I submitted it to Kindle Singles and it got pulled out of the slush pile and was one of the stories used to launch Kindle Singles in the UK.

And a story that made me think, ‘oh wow, I didn’t realise you could write like that’ is ‘The Sorge Spy Ring’ by Aleksander Hemon. You think you’re reading one kind of story at first, but it’s another. And I, of course, started looking up some of the people mentioned in it to see if they were real, and discovered, yes, this really happened, but this other stuff is made up. Hemon does so many things in that story that you’re taught not to do, and that’s my favourite kind of story.

Thanks for having this conversation with me Kit. It’s been a really crazy year, and I’m glad that we could sit down and talk about all sorts of stuff for 3:AM.

KC: Thanks to you, Linda! I think there should be more writer/publisher conversations out in the world.


Linda Mannheim is the author of three books of fiction. Her most recent book, This Way to Departures, has been shortlisted for the Edge Hill Short Story Prize. Linda’s short fiction has appeared in Granta, Catapult Story, Ambit, and more. Originally from New York, Linda divides her time between London and Berlin.

Kit Caless is co-founder and editor at Influx Press, one of London’s leading small presses.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Friday, January 22nd, 2021.