At long last, I have collected together my Indian, short stories for publication in a volume. I call these stories, my orphans, because they have lived many years in obscurity. Every writer has things that live in the gloom at the back of a drawer, whole novels, short stories, articles, poems, that can get published long after they were written, sometimes even posthumously.
Many of my stories have been published individually, yet I have never gathered them together in a volume. You will probably ask me why, because it seems like a no-brainer, the most obvious thing to do. Yet, I have found, it is not so easy.
Publishers, especially large Western publishers, do not like short stories. Every time I offered my agent my collected stories, I was told, ‘give us a novel, and then maybe after that…’
Although short stories are easily picked up and put down, and short bursts of reading fits in with busy schedules, it seems they are difficult to sell to the reading public compared to novels. People prefer to dig themselves in for a long read, where they can experience another world for a period of time, get to know a new set of people, have exciting experiences in unknown places. In the end I gave up and thrust my stories into the darkness of a deep drawer.
So why am I taking the step right now? Because time moves on, and I do not want my stories posthumously published, so I am having another try. And in bringing these stories out into the light and reviewing them once again, I have realised how much I love the form.
The short story is deserving of the deepest respect. It is a pristine little thing, rather like a dewdrop in which the largeness of the sky is reflected. It may not use the great trundling trainload of words the novel requires, but its brevity does not mean it is easy to write. Short stories are complete miniature works of fiction with all the same devices found in a novel, plot, setting, character, conflict, and theme. At their best, they are exquisite jewels, whole worlds found in just a few pages, and as deeply rewarding and enlightening, as a great novel.