I had decided to retire the literary Would You Rather series, but didn't want to stop interviews on the site all together. Instead, I've pulled together 40ish questions - some bookish, some silly - and have asked authors to limit themselves to answering only 10 of them. That way, it keeps the interviews fresh and connectable for all of us!
Today we are joined by Tania Hershman. Based in Manchester, Tania's second poetry collection, Still Life With Octopus, was published by Nine Arches Press in July 2022 and her debut novel, Go On, a hybrid memoir-in-collage, by Broken Sleep Books in Nov 2022. Tania is Arvon's writer-in-residence for Winter 22/23, and is publishing a multi-author anthology of prize-winning flash fictions, Fuel, to raise funds for UK fuel poverty charities. Her poetry pamphlet, How High Did She Fly, was joint winner of Live Canon's 2019 Poetry Pamphlet Competition and her hybrid particle-physics-inspired book 'and what if we were all allowed to disappear' was published by Guillemot Press in March 2020. Tania is also the author of a poetry collection, a poetry chapbook and three short story collections, and co-author of Writing Short Stories: A Writers' & Artists' Companion (Bloomsbury, 2014). She is co-creator of the @OnThisDayShe Twitter account, co-author of the On This Day She book (John Blake, 2021), and has a PhD in creative writing inspired by particle physics. www.taniahershman.com
Why do you write?
always written, I started making up stories when I was little. So the first
reason I write is to tell myself stories. I don’t plot in advance,
whether that’s for short stories, a novel, or poems, so whatever I write has to
surprise and delight me first! The other reason - which I came to slowly over the
years as I discovered that if I don’t write for a few weeks I start feeling a
little weird - is because it’s my way to engage with the world, to grapple with
it. Not to find answers to anything, but to better express my questions and
explore what this odd thing called life might actually mean to me.
What’s the most useless skill you possess?
Identifying 80s songs within ten seconds or less. I really
wish this was useful. It’s fun, though!
Would you and your main character(s) get along?
Oh definitely! I’ve been writing for 25 years, I’ve
written hundreds of short stories and flash fictions, and all my characters are
real to me, there are ones that I really miss after finishing a story, I love
spending time with them. My new novel, Go On (Broken Sleep, 2022), is what I
call a “fictional-memoir-in-collage”. It weaves together quite a few threads,
as well as having some standalone pieces, so there are a lot of characters –
and one or two which are quite close to being autobiographical! I think I might
get on better with the characters that are least like me. I’d very much like to
chat to the Narrator character, and I’d love to visit the town where all the
women are angry, to learn more about the beautiful and useful ways they
approach rage. Also, Sarah, Mary and Marion, the dead women in the cemetery
that one of my characters talks to – I think we’d all get along wonderfully!
They’re in the cemetery up the road from me, I visit them often. They seem
pretty excited that my book is out in the world.
What is your favorite way to
waste time? I watch a LOT of
television. Although in my defense, I do believe that a lot of what I watch –
the dramas etc...- are data, they’re feeding my Story Sense of how stories can
be shaped. I actually think that the novel I am writing now I am writing as if
it was a TV series, scene by scene. Over the pandemic I became newly obsessed
by Star Trek, and this has turned into a source of inspiration in a way I
wouldn’t have imagined: I have just been awarded an Arts Council Developing
Your Creative Practice grant to write a hybrid pamphlet colliding non-human
characters in Star Trek with observations from a neuroscience podcast I listen
to every week to “examine ourselves as other”. I can’t wait!
What are you currently reading?
I have a pile of at least 20 books on my
bedside table, many of them from the local library. I have certain things I
like to read at night which don’t overtax my brain – I’m very drawn to fantasy
books involving magic, often set in libraries, of which there are several
series by different authors. Something I’ve recently loved is A Marvellous
Light by Freya Marske, which is queer magical crime, a really fun collision of
genres. I’m also reading 100 Queer Poems, and the new poetry collections by
Angela Readman and Tara Bergin, as well as Giselle Leeb’s wonderful debut short
story collection, Humans, I Think We Are Called.
What genres won’t you read?
None. I learned what my prejudices were around fifteen years ago when I was
running The Short Review, an online journal reviewing short story collections.
I had dozens of reviewers writing for me, but I also tried to review a story
collection each month myself – and decided to ask for review copies in genres I
never would have considered, namely science fiction, fantasy and crime. I
discovered that I’d been an idiot, restricting myself like that: genre doesn’t
matter, what matters is all these amazing stories out there! Genre labels are
stuck on by the publishing industry, and as someone who tries to write things
that aren’t easily labelled, I try and do this in my reading life too.
Do you think you’d live long in a zombie apocalypse?
As previously mentioned, I watch and read quite a lot
of science fiction and fantasy so I am going to take this question very
seriously. Would I live long before being turned into a zombie? Well, I’d like
to think that, given all the data I’ve amassed by now, I’d have some pretty
good zombie defence strategies, so yes. I’d like to imagine I’d be one of the
people banding together to fight the zombie hordes, and maybe even be part of
the discovery of some cure or vaccine, something to allow the zombies to die
and save humanity. I didn’t know I felt like that until I was writing that last
sentence. Quite reassuring, actually.
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve given as a gift?
I once gave a friend a year’s bacon subscription
for her birthday. She received a packet of different kind of bacon every month
through the post. In a dog-proof package, so it wouldn’t be chewed before she
What songs would be on the soundtrack of your life?
Me, myself and I by Joan Armatrading, that’s kind
of an anythem. Tilted, by Christine and the Queens, is one of my happy songs,
and I do love Galileo by the Indigo Girls, a little bit of science always
What’s the one thing you wish you knew when you were younger?
That it’s okay to say no. I only learned
that around the age of 49 and it’s a gift, especially for women, we are often
taught to be people-pleasers. It’s perfectly possible to be kind to people
while also being kind to yourself, while also looking out for your own energy
levels, your own wellbeing.