Zoe Lambert

Zoe Lambert

This interview with Zoe Lambert is another one that came from Litfest 2012.

Zoe Lambert is a writer based in Manchester. Her first full collection, The War Tour,  is published by Comma Press, and is made up of stories which ‘weave a dark and disturbing web, interlacing documentary accounts with imagined testimonies to give voice to the many silenced casualties of war.’ It was shortlisted for the Edgehill Short Story Prize and longlisted for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Prize.



Zoe, I know that you’ve been on a bit of a tour yourself this year, reading at lots of festivals. What are the best and the worst moments of performing at a festival? And what do festivals add to the individual reader’s experience of literature?

For readers, it’s great to hear the writing in the author’s voice, and to be able to ask them questions. Going to see new writers or writers you aren’t familiar with is a lovely way to find new things to read. It’s much more personal than ‘Customers who bought this also bought that’.

For me the highlight is a good discussion with the audience, when they ask thoughtful and challenging questions and the Q and A turns into a debate. The worst is when no one turns up. I’ve had a couple of events where there’s just been a couple of people (and they were my mum and dad). That’s a bit depressing.

There seems to be a buzz around short stories at the moment, with the BBC National Short Story Award, new collections from writers such as Deborah Levy and Jane Rogers, and the increasing availability of single short stories on Kindle. What is special about short stories, and where do you see them going in the future?

It’s funny, no one ever asks what is special about novels, or can you define a novel. Short stories don’t have one special quality and continual attempts at definition end up delimiting them into certain kinds of short stories. New technology is creating exciting opportunities for short stories. For example, Comma Press have projects for apps. More collections of short stories have been published recently, as well as collections disguised as novels, or ‘novels in stories’/short story cycles. I see short story publishing going further in the direction of in between forms.

You only have six words. Tell us about ‘The War Tour’.

Buses. Frosties. Conflict. Goats. Exile. Trams.

Journals, online and in print, are a great place to encounter new short fiction. What are your recommendations for us to go and try out?

Stand, Ambit, 3am magazine, Mslexia, McSweeneys. Short FICTION. Structo, New Fairy Tales, Riptide. Best of British Short Stories gives you a selection, so try that.

I have a soft spot for Alice Munro stories, as they were my introduction to the genre. They have a very strong sense of place, and, although the protagonists often want to get away from their surroundings, they have left me with a hidden desire to live somewhere in the distant reaches of Canada. Which writers affect you with their depiction of place, and which fictional landscape would you most like to inhabit?
One of my favourite depictions of Canada, well, Nova Scotia, is by Alistair Macleod. A wonderful short story writer. Also, I like how Flannery O’Connor links place and character in her short stories. Chekhov’s Lady and a Lapdog has gorgeous atmospheric descriptions. Most fictional places aren’t exactly happy places. In fact I can’t think of one I’d like to inhabit. Mostly, as in Munro’s stories, characters are trying to find other places to live in.


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