About the guest blogger:
Aliya Whiteley is the author of numerous short stories and the books, Three Things About Me, Light Reading and Mean, Mode, Median. Her most recent short stories will appear in The First Book of Classical Horror Stories, and a collection of short speculative fiction to be published by Dog Horn Publishing later this year.
What’s your favourite colour?
Whenever I’m asked that question, I say green. Green is a beautiful colour. Green is the colour of leaves and grass and kiwi fruits. Telling everyone that green is my favourite colour says something about me as a person. I’m a natural kind of person. You would like to go hiking with me, and maybe you’d make the assumption that I’d cook you a great meal that involves really fresh salad.
But it’s a lie. I do like the outdoors and fruit and healthy stuff occasionally, but would I choose it over a roaring fire and a packet of barley sugars on a winter’s day? Maybe I should say my favourite colour is orange. I’m also a sucker for clear skies and lakes; and blue does suit my complexion. For the sake of argument, I’ll tell you green is my favourite colour but the truth is that there’s no such thing as my favourite colour. It changes from season to season, from hour to hour.
My writing is no different.
When I first started writing, if you’d asked me what kind of writer I was, I would have told you that I wrote romance. This is true. I wrote terrible romances and I’m glad none of them survive today. I discovered I couldn’t fit in the box of the romantic storyline; I got the urge to write long paragraphs about politics or to present an entire chapter in a long column. So I decided I should be a literary novelist instead.
Literary novelist sounds like quite a forgiving term. Can’t you write about anything in literary terms, as long as the quality of the writing is up to it? Anything but aliens, apparently. Add some robots and a planet or two along with a fast-moving plot and you have to get your cloak, move out of the literary shed and hang about at the playpark of fantasy and science fiction instead.
So that’s what came next.
And then I went and wrote a comic novel. A novel with no robots or aliens in it. And after that I wrote a comic novel with death and crime in it, and I became a darkly comic crime writer. At that point my writing CV was beginning to look messy. So I decided to throw away all the monikers and just write whatever I was going to write. It turns out what I was going to write, what I’d always get the most pleasure out of writing, was short stories.
I think it’s because I’m a changeable person. Today I like green, and I like aliens. Tomorrow it’ll be black daggers and a protagonist with a heart of evil, who also happens to be a children’s entertainer with a crush on somebody’s mother. If I was attempting to fit all this into one novel, it would be barely readable, let alone marketable. But short stories free me to create all of this and more.
And I refuse to believe that all the readers out there only like one flavour either. If asked, you may say pink is absolutely your favourite colour, but do you really mean it? Is there no time when, just for a moment, you fancy a bright yellow sunshiney experience instead? Or maybe you’d like to just try on a purple jumper for a change.
If so, please come and dig in to some short stories. The only thing I can promise is that it won’t be the same old storyline with the same old characters. Short stories don’t work that way. When you only have a few pages as a writer to make an impression, you don’t do it by painting the wall grey.