October will bring with it the first of our new releases for the autumn. Stephanie Shields, author of The Star Princess And The Kitchen Witch, is releasing her first book intended for adults only, one hundred breaths.
The book, consisting of a hundred, one hundred word stories, is a collection of tales of love, loss, the unusual, the painful and the hopeful.
Ahead of the one hundred breaths’ release (October 1 2018) we spoke with Stephanie and asked her to tell us more about the book in answers of, of course, one hundred words.
Cynefin Road (CR): How would you describe one hundred breaths in one hundred words?
Stephanie Shields (SS): It’s the twists and turns of my mind as I look at the world and watch it turning.
It’s expressions of hope and words of warning, desires of wishes and cautions against their fulfilment. It’s whimsical and tender and loving yet unsettling, holding up a mirror to the lost and those that do the losing.
It’s about hope and love and the minutiae of life that occurs in every breathing second which supports people in getting through those times, for good and for bad.
And there’s a little bit of magic in there too, if you know how to look.
What is your process in writing hundred word stories?
I defer to Hemingway in describing the process; I just sit down at my keyboard and bleed.
There is no specific process, I might make notes on my phone, I might sit at my laptop and type various lines or thoughts. Some ideas never progress beyond 8 words or 25 and sometimes I think that’s the words telling me this is the length they want to be.
And sometimes I can have an idea and know that it is good, it’s a fire, a feeling that grips me from the inside and those I always pursue to the full 100.
How meaningful are your stories to you?
I realised when I had about 30 or so that I had no back up copies saved anywhere and the thought of losing them was like a blow to the stomach. I created a backup copy and emailed a friend, designating her Keeper of the Stories.
They are my work, my art. A way of engaging with the world when perhaps I can’t or don’t want to find the right conversation.
I do have favourites, some that sit deep in my heart, and some that disturb me even though I wrote them. But overall, I’m proud I made them happen.
In one hundred words which writers inspire you?
When I was a child, Judith Kerr, Tove Jansson, Eve Titus, Susan Cooper. I came to Tolkein very young but that means I’ve had plenty of time to read and reread The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. As I went through my teens to my twenties, Terry Pratchett, Jilly Cooper, Robert Jordan, Joanne Harris, Joanna Trollope, Georgette Heyer. Shakespeare along the way. And most recently David Quantick, Sarah Phelps, Patrick Rothfuss, Rupi Kaur, Nayyirah Waheed, India Knight, Sali Hughes, Cailtin Moran.
Inspiration is difficult to define. They all write things I enjoy and what’s inspiration without enjoyment?
What are your plans for the future?
Having a large drink after I’ve finished answering these questions. Dearie dearie me. No-one tells you that these are steps you need to take when you start being published.
I’ve never been very good at having plans. I have ideas and aspirations and hopes, plans not so much.
This evening I shall have a bath. This week I will see good friends. This month I will share a present to make someone smile. And this year I will accept all this year has given me and all challenges that this year has presented me. That’s plans enough for any woman.
Why, in a hundred words, should readers pick up one hundred breaths?
I would hope because they want to, because they are curious or interested or in need of distraction.
Perhaps there is a question in their own hearts they cannot answer or haven’t been able to ask. Maybe because they need to see the world through someone else’s eyes before they can look back at it through their own.
Because the stories I tell, the fables I spin, the doom and the delight; none of it is nasty or unkind. It may not always be cheerful but there is a truthfulness of spirit and a care that sometimes we all need.