I have another book introduction for you this week! Tam May introduces her new collection of short stories.
Gnarled Bones and Other Stories
by Tam May
To begin to talk about the inspirations and motivations were behind my short story collection, I think it’s important for me to state that I write psychological fiction. Psychological fiction, unlike most genres, focuses more on creating story from character psychological make-up and so the stories are complex and open-ended. My stories often come from bits and pieces like incidents that happened to me or others, people I’ve observed, a funny note, a profound line. Sometimes I feel like a bird collecting bits of straw and leaves to create a nest.
Three of the stories in Gnarled Bones and Other Stories (“Mother of Mischief”, “Bracelets”, and “Broken Bows”) I wrote some time ago. They were written during a very difficult period in my life. I was struggling to find my voice and my writing style. I knew I wanted to write introspective fiction, fiction that is more about what is going on internally in character’s lives and how that influences their external lives, their decisions, their thoughts, their way of seeing the world. But I didn’t quite know how to go about it. I had been stagnating for a while, playing literary promiscuity with beginning a book, getting 20, 30, 50 pages into it, then getting sidetracked by another idea so I had about 15 or 20 starts and stops. Then a family tragedy forced me to go into myself, examine my own demons, and from that came a wave of short stories I wrote without thinking much about whether they were following trends, hitting all the marks, or telling a story with a neat beginning and a neat ending.
The other two stories, “A First Saturday Outing” and the title story, “Gnarled Bones”, came later. At that point, my voice and style were more firmly planted and I had a better idea of how I wanted to write my stories and what I wanted them to do. This didn’t make them easier to write, though, as both were relatively new forms for me. “A First Saturday Outing” is a flash fiction piece and “Gnarled Bones” incorporates different structural elements, specifically story narrative and journal entries. The title story of the collection was especially difficult for me to write, not only because of its relatively long length but because it was so complex not only in its structure but in its themes and characters. I wrote about the evolution of that story, from a graduate school writing course assignment through to its revisions ten years later here.
Many writers write from trauma or painful experiences in their lives. But sometimes a writer’s identity can come out of the ashes of these experiences and cement their style and voice.