Book Talk: Tales of moments when all changes

Thu Dec 15, 2011 6:52am EST
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By Elaine Lies

TOKYO (Reuters) - Two songwriters reunite at the request of a former associate, with unusual results. A single woman agrees to be named guardian for her widowed sister's children. Dissatisfied with her job, a teacher seeks out the teacher she idolized as a schoolgirl.

Though the characters change, most of the stories in Alethea Black's debut short story collection, "I Knew You'd Be Lovely" feature people at moments when they stand at crossroads, facing a change in their lives.

Black, who began writing in earnest in 1995, said she likes the short story form, both for its brevity and the fact that it's a "good way to learn writing." The collection grew bit by bit over years, as she wrote first one story and then another.

Q: What's the unifying theme?

A: "There's a unity of voice among them, and that helped it sell and is helping it as a collection, because even though the characters change there's a sensibility that's consistent. I think of it as people finding ways to love each other and themselves in spite of their brokenness. An editor that I worked with said that she thought it was about those moments in life when everything changes. So I think that both of those apply."

Q: Moments in life when everything changes -- could you elaborate a bit on that idea?

A: "I thought that was a good description. The stories do exist at an emotional crossroads. I had a writing teacher at one point who said you should always be asking yourself 'why is this night different from all others?' I've really loved that and always remembered it, and I think that's true. You are showing people when they're making important choices. That's what makes it suspenseful and dramatic and, hopefully, of interest to the reader. This is the day when they make decisions that affected all the other days."

Q: Do remember any specific incidents or ideas that touched off some of the stories?   Continued...