How did you come up with the title for your book?
The title story of my new short story collection, Let Them Float (Alien Buddha Press), is about people overwhelmed by their lives who end up floating (magical realism style) above a park. It was originally called ‘Human Balloon’. Although that contained a decent alliteration, I changed it to ‘Let Them Float’ because that encapsulated the longing for a different, more elevated existence which is central to the characters in the story.
How long did it take you to write this book?
A few years. I’m not a fast writer because I have a chronic illness—I have to write lying down because sitting is tricky. The longest story, ‘Let Them Float’, started as a short magical realism story that came third in the 2021 Lucent Dreaming short story competition, but I later developed it into a novella-length piece because the central idea invited different viewpoints, new characters and humour. All the short stories in this book touch on some aspect of physical or mental illness through a magical realist or surrealist lens.
If your book were made into a television programme, which actors would play your characters?
As the title story has darkly comic elements, I’d probably have comic actors in two lead roles. I’d love the genius Diane Morgan (Motherhood, Philomena Cunk) as Nadine, the stressed single mother always bingeing on chocolate. Malcolm, who someone describes in the book as the human incarnation of a grumpy smiley, would be played by Toby Jones (The Detectorists, Hunger Games). I think Lacey Turner, who plays Stacey Slater in Eastenders, would be excellent as Isla, the forty-something woman trapped in a dull life who develops mental health issues.
Are there any books or authors that inspired you to become a writer?
I had little interest in fiction writing until I read the magical realist Russell Hoban in my early 40s. I was much more interested in non-fiction. He opened my mind to the imaginative possibilities of fiction. His novels for adults are playful and philosophical and have such a colourful voice. All his books are like individual parts of something much bigger, this sprawling, fascinating exobrain. Most people know him for the dystopian Riddley Walker but I prefer his other magical realism novels.
Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer? If so, what are they?
Get feedback from other writers who know what they are on about. Learn to take good criticism on the chin—developing as a writer requires losing the ego. Learn the craft and keep learning. Listen to podcasts, attend classes if you can, read articles, and read books with a writer’s eye.
Have you listened to any audiobooks? Which did you enjoy the most?
Because I suffer from M.E. quite badly, I listen to a number of audiobooks. The Book of X by Sarah Rose Etter blew me away recently. The novel is a compelling surrealist exploration into living with disfigurement, which blurs the line between the grotesque and real life. So original and raw. I like listening to books that deal with disability in some way.
How do you use social media as an author?
I have used Twitter, now X, for years because there is a good writing community and publishers have a strong presence there, too. It is useful for connecting with others, for doing promotional work, and for having the occasional rant about the dire state of UK politics! I use Instagram but less than X. The visual medium is useful for promoting books via graphics. I love the cute dogs on Instagram, too.
If you could be a character in one of your favorite books, who would you be?
Aaliyah inAn Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine. She’s a seventy-something Lebanese woman who got divorced after a brief marriage in her 20s, spent much of her life defying Lebanese expectations by working in a bookshop, and now translates one classic book (e.g. Sebald) every year into Arabic. She’s an outsider who has ploughed a stubborn, singular course in life and who adores books.
Or Zaphod Beeblebrox, one of the most fun characters in all of fiction. Who wouldn’t want two heads or to steal spaceships?
Name an underappreciated novel that you love.
Siddon Rock (2012) by Glenda Guest. It brims with remarkable imagery from the very first page—when troubled soldier Macha Connor arrives home to rural Australia from world war 2, she takes her clothes off and walks naked down the town High Street with a gun slung over her shoulder. Each character possesses some unusual, often magical realist, quality—turning into a butterfly (Henry) or a kelpie (Kelpie Crush); having a cello (Catalin) that mysteriously paints on its body the names of family members when they die. The novel, which is about the secrets people keep, takes in a sweep of Australian history too, from the 19th century to the 1940s.
What would you say to an author who wanted to design their own cover?
Why not, if you are artistic? I’m a visual poet too, so I mostly designed the cover for my two fiction books, Snapshots of the Apocalypse and Let Them Float. I also sought advice on the layout and typeface from the publisher and from a friend who is an illustrator and designer.
Bio: Katy Wimhurst’s first collection of short stories was Snapshots of the Apocalypse (Fly on the Wall Press, 2022) and her second collection Let Them Float is published in late 2023 (Alien Buddha Press). Her fiction has been published in numerous magazines and anthologies including The Guardian, Writers’ Forum, Cafe Irreal, Kaleidotrope, and ShooterLit. Her first book of visual poems, Fifty-One Trillion Bits, was published by Trickhouse Press (2023). She sometimes writes literary essays on speculative fiction and interviews writers for 3AM Magazine. She blogs at https://whimsylph.wordpress.com. She is housebound with the illness M.E. Twitter @Sylphsea