Staying in with Miriam Burke

I think there’s a certain magic about short stories because they allow the reader a real sense of satisfaction in completing a read even when life is challenging, and a full length novel might feel too much. Consequently, I’m delighted to welcome Miriam Burke to Linda’s Book Bag today to start off the blog tour for her debut collection. Let’s find out more:

Staying in with Miriam Burke

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Miriam. Thank you for agreeing to stay in with me.

It’s a pleasure to be invited into your world of great thoughts and fine feelings.

Tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?

I’ve brought my collection of short stories called Women and Love. It’s my first published book of fiction and the wonderful Renard Press are just about to publish it.

How exciting. Congratulations on your debut fiction. What can we expect from an evening in with Women and Love?

The stories are set in contemporary London and they explore how women deal with different kinds of love. The women come from very diverse cultural and social backgrounds.

I grew up in the West of Ireland when it was culturally very monochromatic and I was fascinated by the cultural and social diversity of London when I came to work here as a clinical psychologist in hospitals and GP practices. One of the joys of working in the NHS is that you can see someone who is homeless in the same room on the same morning as someone who is extremely privileged. So the collection was inspired by the richness and diversity of life in contemporary Britain.

Goodness. I expect you see all kinds of life in your day job Miriam. Has that influenced your characters?

Quite a few of the characters are gay or lesbian, but the stories aren’t about being gay; they portray the gay and lesbian characters dealing with the challenges everyone faces in love and life.

That sounds as if you’re writing about people rather than labels to me. Brilliant!

Many of the stories involve characters from one social world having to interact with characters from a very different world. And if the pandemic has taught us nothing else, it has taught us that our lives are interconnected. We have a responsibility towards each other.

Oh I couldn’t agree more. The fragmentation of society concerns me. We need to support one another because we are, as you say, interconnected. Why did you choose to write short stories rather than a novel?

I love short stories and I hope the genre becomes more popular, because it is very well suited to fast-paced lives and new technologies. Irish people and Americans love short stories, but the British haven’t been so keen on them, so you’ve been missing out on the hidden treasures and pleasures of the form!

Not me! I love short stories and they often feature here on the blog. You’re right, though. Too many readers dismiss them and they are missing some simply wonderful writing.

What else have you brought along and why have you brought it?

I’ve brought along a song called ‘Streets of London‘. It’s by Ralph McTell and he asks listeners to look around them at the other people with whom they share the streets. His song focuses on people who are down on their luck, but my stories portray people who are up on their luck as well as characters who are struggling. All lives have their challenges and we’d probably be very bored if they didn’t.

I agree and I love that song. It’s timeless. Thanks so much Miriam, for staying in with me to chat about Women and Love. I think it sounds just my kind of read and I’m delighted it’s on my TBR pile!

Women and Love

‘I couldn’t sleep that night; our conversation was like a trapped bird flying around inside my head. The next morning, I texted to say I wouldn’t be coming back. I lied about having to return to my country to nurse a sick relative. I couldn’t bear to see my story mirrored in his eyes, and to see what we never had. I knew he’d understand.’

Women and Love is a thought-provoking collection of seventeen tightly woven tales about the power of love, all its trials and complications, and the shattered lives it can leave in its wake.

The stories explore a huge variety of sorts of love surrounding women in wildly differing settings, and features an unforgettable cast including GPs, burglars, inmates, emigrant cleaners, carers, young professionals, and many more. Navigating heavy themes, with a par­ticular focus on LGBTQ+ experiences, including gender dysphoria and searching for a sperm donor, the stories leave the reader burning with indignation, full of empathy and wonder.

Published by Renard Press on 23rd February 2022, Women and Love is available for purchase from Waterstones, Blackwell’s and directly from the publisher.

About Miriam Burke

A writer from the west of Ireland, Miriam Burke’s short stories have been widely published in anthologies and journals, including The Manchester ReviewLitro MagazineFairlight ShortsThe Honest UlstermanBookanista and Writers’ Forum. She has a PhD in Psychology, and before becoming a writer she worked for many years as a Clinical Psychologist in London hospitals and GP practices. Women and Love is her debut collection.

You can find out more about Miriam by visiting her website.

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4 thoughts on “Staying in with Miriam Burke

  1. Women and love does sound interesting, intriguing and promising, given the inspiration Miriam has gained from her many interactions with patients.

    That experience of coming across all kinds of people in her work life made me think of my recent read Marzhan mon amour, which is almost like interconnected short stories, as a writer retrains to become a chiropodist and each chapter is about another of her clients, in this case the diversity of a working class neighbourhood.

    Lovely interview and introduction to the book Linda.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Short stories are becoming more recognized ever since Alice Munroe won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2013. What many readers don’t realize is that writing a short story can be more difficult than writing a full-length novel. You have to use your words wisely. It is a small canvas to paint a complete picture.

    Liked by 1 person

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