Our LoveReading Industry Insight pieces are going to be slightly different for the next four months, as we will be focusing in turn, on each of the other judges for our LoveReading Very Short Story Award 2020. 

I am hugely thrilled to be able to introduce you to Rachel Edwards, Matt Bates, Joanne Owen, Maxim Jakubowski, (and I will be the fifth member of the team). We have asked our judges a number of booky questions, and they have answered beautifully. Their knowledge really shines through and I’m sure you will be able to appreciate that each will bring their own unique talents, as well as a love of writing and books to the table. 

Our first judge to be introduced is Rachel Edwards, Rachel’s debut novel Darling, was one of our books of the month, and of the year in 2018. Powerful, vibrant, punchy, and full of vivid intensity, Darling truly wowed me. I have to admit to giving a yelp of excitement when Rachel agreed to be one of our judges. Here Rachel opens a window into her writing world.

Rachel Edwards is the author of Darling, described in the national press as ‘the first Brexit thriller’. An alumna of King’s College London, she worked in publishing, won an Arts Council award for her fiction and became a freelance writer for over 12 years until she chose to focus full-time on writing novels. Since Darling was published in May 2018, Rachel has appeared at literary festivals and events around the UK. Her articles have featured in The Guardian and The Sunday Times, and she is a regular guest on BBC radio. She is currently writing her second novel.

We are thrilled that you have agreed to be one of our judges for the LoveReading Very Short Story Award, what in particular do you love about short stories?

From a reader’s perspective, I love the way in which a short story can shine an intense spotlight on the tiniest moment, which may turn out to be of great importance in the life of a character, or bear some other, broader significance. As an author, I appreciate the challenge of brevity, of trying to imbue very few words with memorable meaning, emotion and interest.

Do you have a favourite anthology of short stories, or type of short story that you like to read?

I have no one anthology in mind, but a short story that moved me to the core was Sonny’s Blues by James Baldwin – I was stunned with admiration for the writing, and for the sensitivity within. In a completely different vein, Shirley Jackson’s famous story, The Lottery, genuinely shocked me. I’ve also read a few of Hilary Mantel’s short stories which are, unsurprisingly, masterful.

If reading a short story anthology, do you start with the first story, look for a favourite author, or open at a random spot?

Unless one particular story has been highlighted, I tend to open all books right at the beginning, just like the novel-devouring good girl I always was. However, once I immerse myself in a truly enjoyable short story anthology, I tend to jump around a little, get a touch wild and free with it.  Hell, I may even read it in the bath!

Where do you like to read, do you have a photo of one of your favourite reading spots? 

I mostly read in bed, or in my Writing Room at home, but come the summer I might take a picnic to what I call the Secret Garden. It’s just an area within our quiet acre or so which is hidden by high trees and hedges, and not all that secret, but I’ve always managed to lose myself in reading there.

What (and why) are your top three favourite books of all time (sorry, mean question, and I’m sure your answers could change from one day to the next!)?

Such a tough question. I have many favourites, but if we take out reading the Complete Works of Shakespeare and Dickens, the three that completely reconfigured my understanding, at the time of reading, of what books could be are:

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, Money by Martin Amis, and Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

(Oh, but then there’s Beloved by Toni Morrison, the unexpected pleasures of Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus and Tom Wolfe’s The Bonfire of the Vanities and… I demand a recount!)

What was your favourite book to read as a child, do you still have that book, and have you read it since?

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë. True treasure: I picked it out for myself on my first ever trip to Foyle’s, during what was, I believe, my only solo trip to London with my father. It was bound in classic brown and embossed with gold; I adored the novel and read it more than once, aged 10 or 11. I believe that copy still lies somewhere in my mum’s attic. I must re-read it.

Do you have one particular booky moment that still stands out for you and makes you smile?

As a debut author, I’ve had many outstanding moments in the past year or so, but it probably has to be the first time I held a copy of Darling in my hands. It was such a joyful milestone; I’ll never forget it.

Have you ever been star-struck by an author, who was it and what happened when you met them? 

I was a touch starstruck when I bumped into Ben Okri at an authors' event: the trademark beret caught my eye. I soon relaxed as he was pretty friendly and offered me some great advice that I’m bearing in mind as I tackle my second novel.

Which author, no longer with us, would you loved to have met, and what is it about their work that calls to you?

I had always hoped I would one day meet the extraordinary, recently departed Toni Morrison. Alas, no. She was a writer of such stature, her contribution was of such magnitude, and yet her words touched me as intimately as a friend when I was a teenager.

Is there anything in particular that you will be looking for when you read the LoveReading submissions?

Many aspects of writing can resonate – an intriguing plot, lyricism, wit and ideas – but above all I will be looking for a voice that strikes me as something that stands apart from the rest. A writer needs to be good company for a reader and I think a remarkable voice is one of the most significant markers of talent. 

You can find Rachel Edwards on social platforms here: 

Author at 4th Estate, HarperCollins

Website: http://www.racheledwards.com

Twitter: @RachelDEdwards

Instagram: racheledwardsauthor

Bio: https://www.lovereading.co.uk/author/8081/Rachel-Edwards.html

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