Subjunctive Moods: How I put my first collection together

Dahlia Publishing is delighted to be publishing CG Menon’s short story collection, Subjunctive Moods. Catherine won two competitions hosted by us, The Asian Writer Short Story Prize in 2014 and the inaugural Leicester Writes Short Story Prize last year. It was after this second win, about a year ago, that I spoke to Catherine about the possibility of putting together a collection. In this short blog, CG Menon introduces her debut short story collection, Subjunctive Moods and shares her experience of the process.

When Dahlia Publishing approached me about putting a short story collection together, at first, I thought the hard work was over. Once I’d got that far, surely it would simply be a process of picking out the best stories and stapling them into a book. To cut a long story short: it wasn’t. Putting together individual stories into a consistent and cohesive collection was an intricate journey, and along the way I learnt a lot about the stories themselves and exactly why they worked.

Like many people, I write short stories without having a particular theme or common thread in mind. A lot of my pieces draw on my family history: my father is Malaysian Indian, and much of our family “folklore” comes from rural Pahang. However, there’s an equally strong pull from the other side of my family, who originate in Yorkshire. Both Pahang and Yorkshire are places with a very strong tradition of oral storytelling. They mix myth up with real, mundane events. They’re the sort of places where ghosts always appear when you’re doing the washing-up, and your first thought when a fairy walks in is whether you’ve mopped the floor.

Because of this, there were strong common threads between stories which were superficially quite different. I’ve never felt that I identify solely as an Asian writer, or solely as a white writer, and having a mix of the two was very important to me. In the process of choosing stories I noticed several resonances that I hadn’t at the time of writing. One of these was the role of children in myth and folklore, and the ways in which they grow up. My stories set in both England and Malaysia attempt to depict the way growing up really happens: in a series of jumps, that you don’t even notice until you look back.

It was also important to me to include stories which varied the pacing. Literary fiction has a habit of sticking too close to the contemplative, reflective side of life and ignoring plot. Dahlia Publishing worked with me to order the stories so that every so often the reader’s grabbed by an unmistakeable, immediate happening.

Of course, not everybody reads a collection from start to finish in order. I certainly don’t! I think it’s important for a collection to have a strong start and finish, but beyond that, the selection of which stories to read will always be up to the reader. This collection is bookended by two of my very favourite stories: one which was written recently and one which is the first story I ever wrote. I certainly hadn’t planned to lay the collection out in chronological order, but these two stories finish on hopeful, forward-looking notes that, to me, summed up my writing journey.

ABOUT SUBJUNCTIVE MOODS

In Malaysia, a young girl discovers the seeds of friendship turning into love. A ghostly aunt causes more trouble than she’s worth, and a sea-monster yearns for her poolside home. Family secrets confound two widows in Northumberland, and a third turns to the sea for comfort.

The stories in Subjunctive Moods are based around those tiny moments of missed connection and of realisation: the heartbeats by which we all grow up.

Featuring CG Menon’s prize-winning writing alongside her most recent stories, Subjunctive Moods is a collection exploring the complexities of human relationships, cultural identity, and finding your way back home.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

CG Menon has won the Bare Fiction Prize, the Leicester Writes Prize, The Short Story Award, the Asian Writer Prize, The TBL Short Story Award and the Winchester Writers Festival award. She’s been shortlisted for the Fish short story prize, the Short Fiction Journal awards, as well as the Willesden Herald, Rubery and WriteIdea prizes and the Fiction Desk Newcomer award. Her work has been published in a number of anthologies and broadcast on radio. She is currently studying for a creative writing MA at City University and working on her first novel. She blogs at https://cgmenon.wordpress.com/

LAUNCH EVENT

Come and meet prize-winning author, CG Menon as she celebrates the launch of her debut short story collection, Subjunctive Moods at Waterstones Islington on 5th July 2018.

HOW TO ORDER

You can order your copy of Subjunctive Moods directly from the publisher.

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One thought on “Subjunctive Moods: How I put my first collection together

  1. Pingback: July Round-Up | ShortStops

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