Lynn Coady rides creative spark

Short stories explore terror of adulthood

“It’s hard to explain but I sort of fall down a rabbit hole when I’m writing a story” says author Lynn Coady. It’s easy to get equally lost in her new collection of bittersweet short stories Hellgoing . It packs a serious punch.

“I think there’s a separation of heart and mind that most writers undergo when they start to write a story” she says. “Unconsciously you might be working out a lot of profound emotions but consciously you don’t experience the story that way… you’re too busy doing your job building a world that feels believable.”

Writing short stories and novels are completely different experiences says Coady. “You go into (a novel) with the foreknowledge that at some point maybe 200 pages in the creative spark that first grabbed your imagination and drove you to the keyboard is going to fizzle out and you’ll still have to slog through another 200 or so pages plus revisions before you get to the end of the project” she says.

“The joy of a short story is you can ride that creative spark right to the last paragraph — you never have to experience the demoralizing fizzle midway through. But then of course there are still the revisions….”

Many of the new stories explore 40-something womanhood something Coady says was an inevitable product of where she’s at in life and what themes currently interest her.

“Women of my generation are every bit as intimidated by the looming spectre of ‘official adulthood’ as Gen-X men are but I haven’t seen the female side of that equation… explored as much culturally” she says. “What does it mean when a demographic brought up to prize cynicism and a kind of pathological hostility to consumerism find themselves staring down the barrel of 40?

“There’s also a phenomenon that characterizes this time of life wherein couples come to the end of one relationship separate and start up new ones” she adds. “A lot of the stories revolve around that particular terror.”

Her favourite story in the collection and the hardest one to write also happens to be the one she likes to read at author events: “Mr. Hope.” The opening details including a boy with an eyeball coming out of his head tend to grab audiences right away. And aside from the occasional stage fright she enjoys readings. “I think I like reading from my work because I’m a bit of a control freak — I’m delivering my stories to readers ‘exactly’ as I think they should be read.”