Getting into writing – an interview with Errina Mettler

Errina Mettler

Erinna Mettler is a Brighton-based writer, editor and mentor. Her first novel, Starlings, was published in 2011 and was described by one critic as doing for Brighton what The Wire did for Baltimore. She is a founder and co-director of The Brighton Prize for short fiction and of the spoken word group Rattle Tales. Her stories have been published internationally and short-listed for the Manchester Fiction Prize, The Bristol Prize, The Fish Prize and The Writers & Artists Yearbook Award. Erinna’s new short story collection on the theme of fame, Fifteen Minutes, is out now with Unbound Publishing.

What got you interested in writing/publishing?

I came to writing late in life. I’d  just had my second child and decided it was go back to college or go crazy so I enrolled on a creative writing course because it fitted in with the childcare hours I could get. A week later I was in a room full of strangers reading out a piece of fiction. Luckily they liked it and it I was hooked from then really. I finished the short course and then did an MA, wrote my first novel and helped set up a spoken word group. It’s like therapy, I write every day now.

What are your happiest memories in your writing career?

At a Word Theatre event in the literature tent at midnight at Latitude Festival. It was pouring with rain outside. I was sitting on a cushion listening to actors Gethin Anthony and Dianna Vickers read a story I had written about vintage underwear. They were amazing – while I listened I forgot I’d written it. Afterwards I felt like I was actually quite good at this writing thing. Then being short-listed for the Manchester Fiction Prize and going to the prize-giving gala. The only thing better than that would have been winning it.

How do you handle success and failure?

It’s actually quite hard to celebrate success. It’s much easier to dwell on failure. I have to remind myself of my successes – I have a list of them on my website that I constantly fail to update. If something good happens you should take time out to celebrate – have a drink or some cake – really revel in it for a few hours because by morning the next rejection will probably have pinged into your inbox. Accepting failure has to be learned and the only way is to be rejected so often it doesn’t matter anymore. Having said that a couple of recent failures really stung – but only for a day and the I was back on it.

What is your advice to young and new writers?

Write! I bet everyone says that but it’s true – you can’t be a writer if you don’t write. Make sure you are competent before you experiment but then break all the rules you can. Also read. If you want to write short stories or flash fiction read a lot of it good and bad.

15 Minutes by Errina Mettler

Are you a traditionalist or a digital? (paper or eBook)

My latest short story collection, 15 Minutes, was crowdfunded as an e-book with Unbound Publishing, about halfway through the process I found out it would be on paperback too. Physically it is a thing of beauty but personally I read on digital. If I absolutely adore something I’ll buy it in hard copy otherwise I just don’t have the shelf space for the volume of books I get.

Do you self-publish?

Rattle Tales self-publish the Brighton Prize Anthologies. Two of us edit all the stories and proof read. We commissioned a cover from Brighton artist Pinky and the book looks absolutely amazing. I don’t self-publish my own books.

How did you gain a publisher?

The first time was relatively easy. I sent the manuscript for Starlings out to around fifteen publishers and agents and two came back to me. Both were small independents and I chose Revenge Ink because they really got what I was trying to do.

With Fifteen Minutes it was more complicated. It’s a short story collection so I knew most publishers and nearly all agents wouldn’t even read past the covering letter. I half-heartedly sent it to a few, it got quite far on with one or two of them before the rejection emails came. A writer friend suggested crowdfunding with Unbound. They are like a traditional publisher in terms of submissions, about 10% get taken on, they edit stringently and have amazing cover designers but the author raises the cost of publication. It was fully funded within four months – which is pretty good considering agents and publishers always tell you that people don’t like short stories. I don’t like unimaginative agents.

Why did you start your website?

I started it back in 2011 when Starlings was about to be released. I do like blogging but I don’t do as much as I should. I write about the writing process and about Rattle Tales. Rattle Tales and The Brighton Prize have their own websites run by co-director Alice Cuninghame where you can find news about the competition and events, interviews with winners and tips on writing prize-winners.


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