I didn’t set out to write a collection of Tragedies but, like life sometimes, it just worked out that way. A challenging year full of professional and personal setbacks was the driving force behind Some Days Are Better Than Ours: A Collection of Tragedies, and although the stories are fiction, they are drawn from a well of emotional truth.
To me, this is the most urgent responsibility of a writer — to never shy from the truth as we see it and give voice to the unspeakable. No matter how painful; no matter how exposed or embarrassed it makes us; always, always, dig deep into your gut and spill it all over the page. What results may be devastating both to writer and reader, but it is always honest and as such, moving.
What is a Tragedy and why would anyone want to write, let alone read one? Life is harsh, surviving, harsher still and everyone struggles but uniquely. What is the appeal of being reminded of the vagaries of fortune? Do tragedies make us feel better about our own lot? Enable us to empathize with another’s troubles and traumas? Are they a repository for collective suffering?
Writing that moves profoundly is frequently about the most painful of circumstances and I feel those are the two essential components of any Tragedy. How did I come to write not just one but a collection of them? Some Days came into being quite recently and was compiled last winter during one of the worst years of my life. But the stories within stretch back to 2015.
I was coming down from the high of being an Irish Writers Centre Novel Fair winner and considering next steps while querying agents. Writing is a lonely affair, so I founded a writers’ group to help combat this isolation for myself and other local writers. In order to give some structure to our sessions, we had weekly writing prompts with a target of around 500 words.
At the time, none of us had even heard of “flash fiction” and it wasn’t until 2017 that I actually submitted a piece. Scrolling through Twitter, I came across a literary zine’s callout for stories and thought, Why Not? I was delighted when The Fiction Pool accepted my first publication, Porcelain—an alternative-view story about a tragic love affair in Dresden during the war.
My focus, however, remained on my novel and towards the end of 2017 I was offered a contract with an independent UK publisher. After a year of edits, I was beyond myself with excitement as my publication date of May 2019 approached. Unfortunately, just before Christmas, 2018, publication was pulled. This was through no fault of my own and I was completely devastated.
At the same time, my ten-year marriage was disintegrating, and to top it all off, I was unemployed. It was a bleak Christmas—all my dreams crashing at once—but instead of giving up hope, I wrote. Wrote more than I had in years, channeling everything into cathartic sawed-off shotgun flash pieces and had six pieces published in as many weeks.
I pulled this new work together with some of my strongest writing group pieces into a collection which was long-listed for the EllipsisZine Flash Fiction Collection Competition and in April 2019, Reflex Press, UK offered to publish it. I was going to have a book published in 2019 after all!
From past wars to future menace, from road trips to relationships, the stories in Some Days Are Better Than Ours are vastly different but share one theme—each is tragic and each springs from that well of truth. And the truth as I see it? Life is harsh. History, harsher still, but hope persists and if we as writers are brave enough to expose those most vulnerable parts of ourselves, the soft underbelly of pain, grief, and rage, then our worst moments can lead to our best, most vivid and deeply felt work.
And readers of Tragedy? Readers can peep into the keyhole of different lives or stare into the mirror of a similar one and feel gratitude or vindication. They can face their worst fears about themselves and the ones they love and be brought closer to their own humanity, empathy and what they believe to be most important in their lives.
(c) Barbara Byar
Some Days Are Better Than Ours – A Collection of Tragedies will be published on November 5th, 2019 and is available from Reflex Press UK . Please join Barbara at the Irish Writers Centre at 6:30pm, Tuesday, November 5th when Some Days Are Better Than Ours will be co-launched with Angel Fur, a collection from Csilla Toldy. All are welcome to this free event.
About Some Days Are Better Than Ours – A Collection of Tragedies:
Some Days Are Better Than Ours is a startling collection that explores human life in all its forms. These stories will make you draw breath as you race through compelling accounts of the dark places people escape to and from.
Through her masterful use of language, Barbara Byar skilfully invites the reader into imagined futures and regretful pasts – from war to childhood to road trips to relationships. Her pieces are visceral, sometimes brutal but sliced through with hope. These stories, and the characters in them, strike straight at the realist heart of the human experience and will linger long after reading.
Order your copy online here.