Mat Coward is someone I've never met, but we've corresponded with each other for years, and I've included several of his short stories in anthologies that I've edited. He's a man of many accomplshments, an occasional novelist, and involved with that intriguing TV programme QI. But arguably, his stand-out achievements are in the field of short stories. He's original and witty, a real master of the form.
His new collection,You Can Jump, is now available. Four of the dozen stories that it contains have featured in anthologies I've edited, so naturally I think they are good, but suffice to say that the standard doesn't falter in the other entries, which have previously appeared in a range of good homes,including books edited by Anne Perry and Jeffrey Deaver.
I asked Mat what appealed to him about the short form and found his answer interesting:
'Someone asked me the other day "Why are writers so keen on writing short stories?" Her puzzlement was genuine; if she was a writer, her frown said clearly, she'd be getting on with the real work - the novels, the stuff that people actually read, and review, and that might even make some money.
But it's true: most writers - or at least, most crime writers of my acquaintance - love writing shorts, and will take any opportunity to do so, even stealing time from their book schedules, despite the numerous disadvantages of the form: not the least of which is that hardly anyone publishes short stories. Which, you know, is quite a significant drawback.
There are lots of answers I could have given to the question - and I'm sure you'd collect more answers the more writers you asked - but there is one obvious reason which is not often mentioned.
Short stories are short.
I like writing short stories because I can complete more of them, in a given lifespan, than I can novels. There is a type of short story which is really just a pre-edited novel; it's all there, it's just shorter, which means you can do more of them.
So, that' s one answer: I like writing short stories because I like finishing things.'
The paperback is available from his website (or on order from bookshops and libraries, of course) and the ebook is at available here.