After reading amazing fiction, I always ask, who writes like this? What drives them? Where do they get their ideas?

Last month, we announced our Writers Mastermind Short Story Contest winners. In this series, I interview each of them to discover the soul behind the story.

Meet Samuel Parr – The Knowable Failures (FINALIST)

Sam is a writer from North-West Leicestershire, in countryside man-made and wild. He is fascinated with the mundane fantastic of the day-to-day, and writes about these in the breathing spaces of his life. He was first published with his story ‘Undertow’ in 13Dark, and after a writing break now has short stories upcoming in Metaphorosis, Pridebook Café, & SpaceCat press’s ‘Aliens and Otherness’ anthology.

He barely goes on social media and has no website, but you can always receive a warm welcome from him by reaching out at samjamesparr at gmail dot com.



11 Questions with Samuel Parr

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from? Where are you now? What has your life been like?

I’m Sam, and I’m from Leicestershire, UK. I grew up in a world cross-hatched between nature and industry; think pockets of rigorously planned forest squeezed between motorways, warehouses, and industrial estates. I spent my childhood exploring these spaces alongside hundreds of fantasy worlds in fiction and haven’t stopped as an adult. I wrote my first story ten years ago and have been writing on and off since then (though never as much as I’d like)!

My life has been great overall. Not without a few challenges like all of us, but they’ve been so worth it for everything I have experienced.

2. What kind of stories do you like to write?

I absolutely adore reading fantasy, and I can’t help writing mostly fantasy too. In the last six years I have written one story without an overt fantastical element. Why? I don’t really know, but I do know I’m interested in fiction that evokes a sense of otherness in time and place, grounded by relatable characters. So, I try to evoke this in my stories.

3. What sets you apart from other writers in your space?

To be honest, I’m still figuring this out. I’m still trying to find my ‘voice.’ That said, my friends feedback that I often build unique, interesting fantasy worlds. My partner also tells me I have a recurring ‘Sam’ character in most of my fiction: a middle-aged man, usually a little overweight, isolated and uncertain. He has a subterranean anger decades in the building, but also feels things deeply, and can be exceptionally kind. Who is this man? Why does he keep popping into my fiction? I don’t know! But maybe he’s one of my unique selling points…

4. What drives your writing? What do you mean to accomplish with your stories?

I’m not sure I have an answer for this! I’m driven to write perhaps to give back something to the rich world of fantasy and fiction I have drank from all my life. And to get the colours out of my head, for at least a while. But honestly (like many of us I suspect), I don’t know. I just know that, if I haven’t written for a couple of months, I start getting the urge to create again.

I’m a careers advisor as a day job, and with that head on, I wonder if part of the reason a lot of us write is because the role becomes embedded in our imaginations from a young age. Writing as an occupation is very visible to us even as toddlers (who isn’t read stories as children?). When you’re seven, you also find it far easier to imagine what a writer’s life is like compared to, say, an accountant’s. It’s also far more appealing, especially as, when we’re children, creativity often comes so easily to us (was it Ursula Le Guin who said the ‘the artist is the child who survived?’).

So, perhaps what drives my writing deep down is that childhood identification with this fascinating occupation.

I don’t have any specific defined goals for what I hope to accomplish in my writing, but I always want to build cool worlds, and ultimately entertain the reader and myself. I also want to create characters that are complex, mysterious, and emotive.

5. Who are your favorite writers and books? What are your other creative influences?

Ah Christa, so many good ones! Recently my top three favourites from the past year’s reading would be Piranesi by Susanna Clarke, Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer, and the Wolf Hall trilogy by Hilary Mantel. They all have a majestic sense of time and place, grounded through a unique character. Each work is something you feel could only be the product of a playful, deeply introspective imagination, paired with some major writing skill.

In terms of wider influences, I am fed by everything: TV, video games, art, history. However, I particularly find myself influenced by locations. For example, I have always been a little captivated by the idea of transitory spaces like service stations, or the middle of a road. Something about their nature appeals to me; they are nondescript, unremarkable, powerfully mundane, and uniquely of this modern moment (I find them quite relatable). The feelings they evoked in me is what I channeled while writing The Knowable Failures.

6. Tell us about your writing space. When and where do you write? Do you work in silence? Or music?

I’m a sucker for a nice café. I particularly like big cafes, where I can feel anonymous, a little like ShorelessSea in the story.

Apart from that, my most popular writing spot is likely at my desk in our spare room. It overlooks our garden, and a host of magnificent birds.

I sometimes write with classical music, but anything with words distracts me too much!

7. What is your favorite thing to do when you are not writing?

I love lots of activities, but I think the crown would have to go to a pleasure that is wonderfully simple: reading/watching something cool, while eating good food. It’s a simple pleasure, but we all have access to it every day, and that’s awesome.

8. Who is your current artistic muse?

I don’t really have a ‘muse’ in the general sense. But right now I’m enjoying reading various texts on history and mythology, particularly from religious traditions like Buddhism. The worlds they reveal are so grand, rich with meaning and image, in a way that feels fresh and exciting to me.

9. Why do you think it’s important to write fiction?

To go back to Ursula Le Guin, in her essays she writes about how the purpose of art should fundamentally be to ‘entertain and delight you’. I think there’s a lot more reasons that fiction is important, but this one is enough for me. I am entertained and delighted by writing (though that’s not to say I find it easy) and I hope my readers can be too.

10. Who would be the best writer, alive or dead, to tell the story of your life?

Hmmm. I think I’ll nominate my good friend and writer Joseph Sale. He’s a stunning writer of fantasy, horror, and epic poetry, and I enjoy the idea of him turning my life into an epic tale in 33 cantos.

11. What are you working on right now?

I’m currently editing the only non-fantasy story I have written for six years; a short story about grief and pigeons. Alongside that, I’m also slowly working my way through a high fantasy novella set in a world loosely inspired by feudal Japan, where a warrior’s reputation gives them literal magic powers. Progress is slow as my mental/physical health hasn’t been as tip-top as normal over the past few months, but the world is starting to take weight now. It’s the longest thing I’ve written (if I finish it) and I’m excited to see where it goes.


Thanks to Samuel Parr for letting us into his world. Look forward to interviews with other winners in the coming weeks.

Read Sam’s prizewinning story.

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