To celebrate Dazed's literary themed 'Feed Your Head' issue, we chat to the Irish author about this weekend's book festival in Wales
Dinefwr Literature Festival is a new boutique festival held in the grounds of Dinefwr Castle, Carmarthenshire, West Wales. The three-day event boasts performances from the likes of Howard Marks and Joe Dunthorne as well as other performances from an array of writers, poets and musicians. In light of the recent literary issue of Dazed & Confused, we chat to one of the writes in attendance at the festival, the award-winning Claire Keegan, author of 'Antarctica' and 'Walk The Blue Fields'.
The advantage of the festival is that it finds new books for readers. It spreads the word. Writers and readers find texts we might not otherwise have discovered. It is in this way that the festivals help the writer. It can also be fun to meet other writers
Dazed Digital: What is it about the short story format that appeals to you?
Claire Keegan: The short story as an art form is as interested in and as dependent on the unspoken as it is in what obviously happens. It begins late, after some or many of the difficulties have already developed and is told with varying degrees of reluctance. The high level of intensity ensures it cannot go on for too long as this level of intensity would be impossible to sustain. So it's a high wire act for the writer -- a huge challenge. One must create and face into high tension, turn the narrative in a hairpin bend and then, through a thoroughly imagined point of view, articulate the consequences. I believe Auden was quoting the French writer Valery when he said that "the artist should be excited by the limitations of the art form." I occasionally run intensive fiction workshops -- and I'm constantly teaching and renewing my knowledge of these limitations.
DD: Do you feel that length is a liberating or limiting factor to your writing/creative process?
Claire Keegan: A story must be as long or as short as it needs to be. Length therefore is neither liberation nor limitation. If a piece of prose feels too long or too short, it is. One cannot know how long or short a story will be until one is almost finished. My longest story, Foster, was longer because the events within it take place over the course of a summer, during long days. And it involves two families, two households. I could not have done justice to the story in a shorter text. The New Yorker abridged the story for its publication but I had already made it as short as I could and so the abridgement did not satisfy me in the way the longer text (published by Faber) does.
DD: What have you gained from literary events? Are they helpful?
Claire Keegan: The advantage of the festival is that it finds new books for readers. It spreads the word. Writers and readers find texts we might not otherwise have discovered. It is in this way that the festivals help the writer. It can also be fun to meet other writers. I'm now on my way to Cardiff via Paris after a festival in Corsica where I met Tariq Ali -- who was great fun and interesting company. In fact every one of the writers at that festival (we are all published by the wonderful Sabine Wespieser) was interesting. Often you will meet people scouting for writers and so one festival can naturally lead to being invited to another. I don't believe my interaction with people at the festivals has influenced my writing.
DD: What are you most looking forward to next?
Claire Keegan: I'm looking forward this autumn to Sabine Wespieser's publication of Walk the Blue Fields in France. Both Antarctica and Foster were very well received there so it's possible this will hold true for this collection. And I'm looking forward to finishing my latest story.