How to write fiction like Wells Tower

There’s been a real buzz about the short story experiencing a revival and for this we largely have the hotly tipped (and impossibly named) Wells Tower to thank. His debut collection, Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned, has 9 stories sharing the theme of lonely people looking for someone or somewhere to seek shelter.

The New York Times is among those praising Tower, saying that his style has ‘tensile strength’ while his syntax is ‘supple enough to wrap itself around several shades of meaning in the same sentence’.

And if that sounds tricky to pull off, it’s heartening that Wells himself has been explaining how he writes with the kind of advice that any of us could follow. In an interview for the BBC World Service he said his secret was having ‘a very clear notion of what I describe before I put it on the page’. This advice came from George Orwell originally and it still holds true today. But before we go all bright and breezy, Tower also sights his ‘concussively depressing’ canon of influences in this interview over at Bookslut.

Like this post says on Reading is Breathing: Bookslut, it features ‘a LOT of good stuff’.

Claire Fogg

(Publisher, Yearbooks, A&C Black)


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One response to “How to write fiction like Wells Tower

  1. Huple's Cat

    I totally vouch for Everything Ravaged, it’s one of the few story collections I’ve counted down the days for. Worth it. ‘Wild America’ sticks in my head as the best.

    Much as the brilliant Viking workplace drama of title story, ‘Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned’ does tell you everything you need to know about the ‘blood eagle’ technique of monk-bothering, turns out there’s already a surprisingly lengthy literary canon on the topic (

    Damn, Seamus Heaney. You nasty.

    It sometimes feels like he doesn’t quite trust the strength of his style: there are a couple of instances (the near-miss sea-cucumber-in-the-crotch moment in ‘Brown Coast’, the fight in ‘Down in the Valley’) where the grotesquery is overdone at the expense of the overall effect of the story, or at least as an aside to it. [That is, if anyone feels like talking shop.]