You know it by now, it’s day four of our #authorinsights! Today we were joined by Rosie Manning who discussed her shortlisted short story and first publication, ‘Juice’!
Before her publication, Rosie spent many years travelling, working and studying. Recently she completed an MA in Creative Writing at the Open University, graduating with a distinction. Now, Rosie works in a local library and is in the process of writing her first novel and a short story collection.
In Rosie’s shortlisted entry, a teenage boy oversees a secret that his neighbour wants hidden. With themes of bullying and sexuality, the two young boys are left choosing between morals and self-preservation.
1. It’s absolutely incredible that your first publication was shortlisted for the Rhys Davies Award, that must have been so exciting. Was it your first piece of writing or was there a reason you were confident in this specific piece?
Yes, it was amazing. After the email came through, I danced for joy around the house for an embarrassingly long time! It was my first finished piece of work post-MA. I’d written two stories previously which I had sent to other competitions knowing full well they weren’t ready but I just needed to get over my fear of rejection. This story was different in that it all seemed to click into place and I knew there was nothing more I could do to it.
2. What was the inspiration behind ‘Juice’?
Oh, so many things. There’s quite a lot going on in the story really. Being a teenager is so intense, and there are many moments of realisation from my own teenage years that are just as vivid to me now as they were then. But the fact there were no camera phones and no social media meant we had a freedom that teenagers today don’t have. There is a pressure to project everything (true self or not) outward, through screens, 24/7. Everyone is watching each other, judging each other, comparing each other, on a global scale, and there is a digital record of it all. It must be utterly exhausting to grow up within that system.
3. The relationship between Dominic and Owen is quite intense because of the secret they share, and the story ends before they talk – was there a message behind their relationship that you wanted to put across?
I’m a bit ambivalent about stories having messages. I certainly don’t think stories should preach to people. Obviously, the themes depicted and how they are depicted will give rise to certain questions, but I don’t think it’s the author’s job to provide the answers by wrapping up a story one way or another. With short stories, I love the view that they are glimpses or windows into lives that existed beforehand and the story captures the turning point, the moment of change. As a reader, I love being left to imagine what will happen after it finishes. The story widens my awareness and helps me work out how I feel, in general, about the themes it covers.
4. Do you have any plans for your writing in the future? How is your novel progressing?
My main plan for my writing is to keep doing it and try and speed up a bit! I write very slowly because I overthink pretty much everything and I find it difficult to move on before I get each part right. I also have a bit of a scattergun approach to projects at the moment, I have so many ideas whizzing around my head and I keep stopping my novel to outline a story before I lose it. But the novel is my main focus, it began as my MA dissertation but it’s a story I’ve wanted to explore for a long time. I’m hoping it’ll be ready for submission by the time the big 4-0 comes around next year.
Thank you so much for taking part in our #DecemberDialogues Rosie, it was so interesting to hear your answers and to find out more about your intentions for ‘Juice’!
Rosie’s short story can be found in the Rhys Davies Short Story Award Anthology 2021, available here. Other stories within the anthology focus on themes of family dynamics, loneliness, and realisation. Together, the collection plays with language, characters, and Welsh writing traditions, to create artistic stories that emotionally move you.
If you missed our last interview, where we chatted with Philippa Holloway, you can find that here.