Today I am joined by Kate Vane, author of new release ‘The Former Chief Executive’.
‘The Former Chief Executive’ is described as ‘a sharply drawn short novel that explores the distance between the generations – between health and wealth, owners and workers, guilt and blame’
Kate has written a very interesting post about why her latest novel is a short one, so please do continue reading…
Why I wrote a short novel: The Former Chief Executive
by Kate Vane
I’d like to be able to tell you how I planned to write a short novel.
The truth is, it just happened that way. My previous novels were both around 300 pages and when I started writing The Former Chief Executive, I assumed it would fall into line.
But by the end of the second draft it was clear that it was only around half that long and it was happy that way.
Eventually I felt that it needed to be a short novel.
It’s an intense story, centred on two characters. The story takes place in one town, much of it in one house (or more particularly the garden). I wanted it to feel slightly claustrophobic, to build the tension, to make the world of the characters a very small place.
In ‘The Former Chief Executive’, Deborah has been forced into early retirement following a tragedy at the hospital she ran. She is experiencing a number of losses – the death of her husband has come on top of the end of her career and the damage to her reputation. Deborah comes to know Luca when he takes care of her garden. He is young but appears to have had a troubled past. Deborah relies on Luca at a time when she increasingly doubts her own judgement.
Fortunately I seem to have stumbled upon a trend. In the last couple of years, books like Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin, Margaret the First by Danielle Dutton and Wyl Menmuir’s The Many have made the form popular again.
Long novels, of course, bring a feeling of involvement. You live with them over several days, even weeks. They insinuate themselves into your dreams. That is something you can’t get with a short novel. But there’s another pleasure, the pleasure of diving into a story and not coming up till you’re done, the feeling that is all the more intense because it is short-lived.
I often remember where I was when I read a short novel, because the reading and the moment are inextricably linked. I can tell you that I read The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie while on holiday in Nairn, on the Moray Firth, one beautiful June. I read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy on a crowded train between Leeds and Bristol, getting odd looks from other passengers as I laughed out loud. And I read The Great Gatsby when I was still at school, squeezed into precious moments alone, and was enthralled to learn that language could do this.
Writing a short novel was a new experience and I enjoyed the focus on a tight cast of characters and uncluttered plot. Ultimately, I think some stories demand a particular form and it’s up to the writer to oblige.
Without your past, who are you?
Deborah was a respected hospital manager until a tragedy destroyed her reputation. She has lost her career, her husband and even her name.
Luca wants to stay in the moment. For the first time in his life he has hope and a home. But a fresh start is hard on a zero-hours contract, harder if old voices fill your mind.
When a garden share scheme brings them together, Deborah is beguiled by Luca’s youth and grace. He makes her husband’s garden live again. He helps her when she’s at her lowest. But can she trust him? And when the time comes to confront her past, can she find the strength?
This sharply drawn short novel explores the distance between the generations – between health and wealth, owners and workers, guilt and blame.
Purchase Link ~ The Former Chief Executive
She has written for BBC drama Doctors and has had short stories and articles published in various publications and anthologies, including Mslexia and Scotland on Sunday.
She lived in Leeds for a number of years where she worked as a probation officer. She now lives on the Devon coast.