I am always struck by how much I like the novels of writers who also publish short story collections. Andrew O’Hagan told me about a German film-maker who describes good writing as “giving the reader two plus two but allowing them to come up with four themselves”. I think that’s what a good story does and there’s a precision and a willingness to leave space between the lines in the novels of, for example, Ali Smith, William Trevor, Daphne du Maurier, Margaret Atwood and Sarah Hall.
The same is true of linked collections of stories. Daniel Kehlman’s Fame, Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge, Melissa Bank’s A Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing have all the advantages of short fiction spread over the longer form.
Polly Samson is the author of two highly acclaimed story collections and a novel, Out of the Picture, which was shortlisted for the Authors’ Club First Novel Award. Her most recent linked story collection, Perfect Lives, was a Sunday Times Fiction Choice of the Year and was read on BBC Radio 4. She has been shortlisted for the VS Pritchett Memorial Prize and The Edge Hill Short Story Prize. She recently wrote the introduction to Daphne du Maurier’s The Doll: Short Stories. She has written lyrics for three bestselling albums and was a Costa Book Awards judge in 2007. Polly Samson’s second novel, The Kindness, has been picked out by the Independent on Sunday and Harper’s Bazaar as a fiction highlight for 2015.