Steve Toase

Three things I do not write about and three things I do

Far, far too long ago the fantastic British writer Priya Sharma tagged me in a this blog tour. Apologies to Priya for taking so much time to get around to writing this.


Three things I don't write.


Historical fiction.


As a day job I work as an archaeologist, and one of the things about archaeology is that anything you write (should) be based on the evidence. You're still telling stories, but the evidence underpins everything. When writing fiction I love creating worlds. They may look the same as ours, but they don't need to directly relate to events in our world.


If I wrote historical fiction I feel that I would get bogged down in the evidence and it would be too much like my day-job. A couple of my stories take inspiration from archaeology, but the profession rather than the subject matter.


Epic scale stories


My stories all tend to focus on the individual. This ties into my research interests (I might be contradicting my first point slightly about my work coming into my fiction), which are focussed on embodiment and how people experience the physicality of the social world through their body. This means I tend not to think at an epic scale, and this means I tend not to envisage stories in these terms. At least not yet.




Or, as my wife just told me, anything that lets you sleep at night. I find writing comedy extremely tricky. A couple of times I've written pieces that are funny, but they are also very dark, for example The Smile. I think this is for the same reason that I don't really write poetry. I'm not very good with the rules of the form such as sonnet and sestina, and I think comedy requires a similar skill for specific structure. I've only been writing fiction for about five years, so as my experience grows maybe comedy is something I'll try in the future. For the moment though my stories will be staying on the unsettling side.



Three things I do write


Very, very short stories.


Over the past few years I've ended up known for writing flash fiction. This came about almost by accident. When I first started writing fiction I read my stories at local open mic nights. After a couple of readings I found that my stories didn't fit into the five minutes usually allowed. This meant either reading the first half of a story and promising to read the second at the next meeting, or reading a section. Instead I used my experience writing short articles for magazines to write very short pieces of flash fiction. (3000 words is a long story for me, with most of my pieces less than 500, and some less than 100).


Sensual stories


Not that sort of sensual. There is a real physicality to the stories I write. A dirt under the nails sense of being in the world. My writing has a lot of texture, a lot of scents, sometimes tastes. Some of my strongest memories from childhood are connected to particular scents. This is something I try and get into my writing. One of the stories I'm most proud of is Skin Like Carapace, a retelling of The Loathly Lady set in a world with no light, where everything is based on scent and touch.


Unsettling fiction


I prefer unsettling rather than horror. Not as some kind of fantasy/mythic fiction/magic realism split. I have written horror stories as well as fantasy, contemporary fiction and at least one SciFi. Unsettling works for me because it describes a tone that seems present in most of my writing, whatever the specific subject matter. I try to write stories that leave the reader with a feeling that stays with them. The best way of doing that, for me, is getting under their skin with unnerving stories. They don't need to be graphic, though some are. Unsettling leaves scope for stories that are very much in this world but deal with loss, the feeling that situations have changed forever and cannot be reset.



I nominate:

Regensburg based artist and writer Lynn Hardaker Not only does Lynn write beautiful prose, she also creates fantastic collages using old photos, plants, fragments of books and scent bottles, as well as beautiful abstract paintings


Leeds writer Vicky Pointing I met Vicky when we both had stories selected for the Hallowe'en Napkin Stories project last year. Since then I've had the pleasure of working with Vicky choosing stories for the UK Krampus Crackers project. Not only is Vicky an excellent writer she is also very insightful about the whole writing process.

My final nomination is Saboteur award winning poet, spoken word artist and bon viveur Steve Nash. I've know Steve for a few years now and he is as charming as he is self depreciating. One of the rising stars of the British spoken word scene.