"Writing Fresh Apples helped me find out what a story really is."
Photo: Lisa Hocking
Rachel Trezise is a very busy woman these days. Her first novel, In and out of the Goldfish Bowl won the Orange Futures award and her recent collection of short stories, Fresh Apples, won the prestigious Dylan Thomas Award. And soon she's off to Texas. Rose Widlake met her to talk about washing up, lesbian garage owners and speed.
You've written for magazines, and you've written stories. What do you prefer?
Writing short stories is the best, because they're short. You don't have to go into great details about anything; you just show the reader a glimpse of something interesting. And writing short stories keeps the money coming in!

What's easier to write?
Definitely short stories again. With articles, you have to get it just right to fit the genre of the magazine. With novels, you have to be careful of what a short story is and what a novel is. You have to know its shelf life. When you write a short story, you just get an idea and write it.

A lot of authors have special places to write, do you?
I'll write anywhere, I'm not fussy. If I'm in the house and I find writing difficult, I'll find absolutely anything else to do. It's usually something daft like doing the dishes.

What's Fresh Apples about?
Fresh Apples is a collection of eleven short stories about ordinary people just trying to get along with their lives.

Where did you get your ideas from?
From absolutely anywhere and everywhere. A lot of them are love stories - but they're based on real life, and aren't all romantic where everything works out perfect in the end. I got one idea when I was reading Kurt Kobain's diary about how he was pressured into losing his virginity very young. Sometimes it's harder trying to write about every day occurrences. You have to keep it interesting.

Do you have a favourite? Why?
My favourite is actually the oldest one, 'The Break Fluid at Gina's'. It's about a lesbian garage owner and I wrote it when I was sixteen and very bored. I never in a million years thought it would get published!

Are the characters based on people you know?
Yeah, most of them. You tend to base it on somebody, but then you change aspects of their personality until they become their own character, and not a copy of someone else.

Fresh Apples recently won the Dylan Thomas Award. What's all the attention like?
I'm quite shy, but I enjoy it when I'm drunk.

In your first book, In and Out of the Goldfish Bowl, you get the impression you don't like Rhondda. What changed?
I definitely didn't want to stay there when I was younger. It seemed like it was the middle of nowhere with nothing to do. The older I've got, the more I've wanted to stay and base my stories there.

How did you get In and Out of the Goldfish Bowl published so young?
I was first published in Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe with Parthian when I heard you could send in short stories to be published. Richard Davies, the owner of Parthian, kept asking about anything else I had. I didn't want to give him the book at first, because I was terrified he would think it was awful and then I'd lose a good contact. I'd already sent it off to a few publishers in London and they'd all rejected it. In the end I did send it to Richard, and it just went from there.

It must be weird seeing it in Italian and not being able to understand your own work.
I love looking at it, and not recognising a single word until you reach one like Rhondda. It's sold four thousand copies in Italy, it has some sort of cult following.

Tell us a bit about your recent adventures with Midasuno...
I originally wanted to do it on a big rock band, but it dwindled right down to a small band from Rhondda. The plan was to tour for two weeks, but the bus broke down a few days in so it went a bit tits up. I was really worried how I was going to fill 60,000 pages when I knew I was going to be drunk most of the time.

What are the members of the band like?
Crazy. Just plain crazy. Scott, the lead singer, is on speed all the time. Never stops. I thought, oh my god, what have I let myself in for?

Would you rather have gone with the Lost Prophets?
It would have been good, but I'd rather write about something up and coming rather than a band like Lost Prophets where everything has already been said. If they offered, I'd still go round with Lost Prophets, just to see how different their lifestyles are purely because they're so much more famous.

What are you up to next?
At the moment I'm working on my first novel. I've incorporated some of my old characters and subplots into it. Based in Rhondda, it's basically about a drug dealer moving in and all the local girls going nuts. It's going to be called Sixteen Shades of Crazy. After In and Out of the Goldfish Bowl, I found it really difficult writing anything decent for about three years. My novels didn't really go anywhere. They were basic ideas, which were crap. None of it linked together and I should have shoved it in a diary or something. Writing Fresh Apples helped me find out what a story really is.

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