Today we welcome author David Cohen to share the story of how his new book The Hunter and other Stories of Men (a short story collection) came to be published.
The Hunter is a collection of loosely linked ‘stories of men’, but I didn’t write them with that idea in mind. In fact, the stories were written at various points over the last twenty-odd years.
Early versions of a few of them went into a collection I put together in the late 1990s. I spent many years submitting the manuscript to publishers, but to my surprise, those publishers weren’t tripping over themselves to bring out a rather uneven book of stories by an unknown author.
Eventually, it occurred to me that if I wanted to get a book published, I’d better stop messing about with short fiction and try to write a novel. After many false starts, I wrote one, which was eventually published. But I continued writing stories all the while because, as much as I like novels, I’ve always been more of a short-story kind of guy; even the novels I’ve written are probably short stories in disguise.
Then in 2015 when UWA Press announced their inaugural Dorothy Hewett Award for an unpublished manuscript, with a shot at publication for the winning entry, it seemed like a good opportunity to revisit my collection. By this point I’d written a lot of new and better stories, rewritten the earlier ones that had potential, and tossed out the earlier ones that didn’t (nearly all of them), thereby developing what I felt was a respectable manuscript.
But this time around I tried to be a bit more strategic. I wanted to give my collection a focus—something for readers (and potential publishers) to grab hold of.
Following the example of various other published collections, in which the stories are connected in some way—by recurring characters, or a specific geographic region, or maybe a common theme—I tried to locate some sort of thread in the twenty-five or so stories I had to work with.
It struck me that most of them were about male characters fixated on misguided, occasionally delusory, projects (perhaps not unlike my early attempts to publish a short-story collection). Thus I came up with the idea to re-package the collection as ‘stories of men’. I eliminated those that didn’t quite fit with this theme, and changed the title of the opening story to ‘The Hunter’—it had originally appeared in The Big Issue as ‘Regarding the Ibis’—which I thought would make an apt title for the collection as a whole.
Of course, the title and subtitle are ironic: the men in these stories are not particularly manly, even when engaged in traditionally masculine pursuits. In ‘The Hunter’, Henrik’s solution to the ibis invasion is little more than a parody of hunting. Similarly, the woodcutter in the story of that name is only playing this role for the benefit of tourists.
As it turned out, The Hunter was shortlisted in the Hewett prize. Although I hadn’t bagged the publishing contract, this endorsement of my collection convinced me that I should submit it elsewhere.
In 2017, thanks to Barry Scott at Transit Lounge, my second novel was published. On the strength of this, I asked him if he would be interested in taking a look at The Hunter. Then, after taking a look, he actually agreed to publish it.
I like to think that this was because it’s a good collection and each story stands on its merits, but I also like to think that the ‘stories of men’ angle (ironically, quite at odds with the current zeitgeist) helped get it over the line.
The Hunter and Other Stories of Men Synopsis
A property developer fears that a burgeoning ibis population will prevent the construction of a high rise apartment complex; a bus stop outside a dementia care facility in Düsseldorf suffers its own identity crisis; a young man’s new job requires him to pose as a woodcutter and wave at a trainload of tourists; an aging, reclusive archivist becomes locked in a strange battle of wills with a courier; a backpacker in Israel has a bizarre religious experience.
In these award-winning stories, David Cohen explores the oddities of human behaviour with wit, affection and startling brilliance.
(Transit Lounge Publishing, August 2018)
Booklover Book Reviews had the pleasure of reading this short story collection >> Read our review
Genre: Short Stories, Literature, Humour, Drama
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About the Author, David Cohen
David Cohen grew up in Perth, Western Australia and now lives in Brisbane. His first novel Fear of Tennis won a Varuna/HarperCollins Manuscript Development Award and was published by Black Pepper. His short fiction has appeared in The Big Issue, Meanjin, Seizure, Tracks and elsewhere. In 2016 his short-story collection The Hunter was shortlisted for the inaugural Dorothy Hewett Award for an unpublished manuscript. His second novel Disappearing off the Face of the Earth was published by Transit Lounge in 2017.