Everyone Dies Famous in a Small Town is a collection of short stories linked by towns in Alaska and the American West.
Meet the teenagers who live in the small towns across these states, separated by distance, but whose stories are woven together in the most unexpected of ways. Whether they are brought together by the spread of wildfire, by the priest who’s moved from state to state or by the hunt for a missing child, these incredible tales blaze with secrets, rage and love.
We had the honour of chatting with Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock on her Carnegie Medal shortlisted novel.
Congratulations on the nomination! How does your work as a radio journalist inspire these short stories?
Thank you! Twenty years writing for radio basically inspired all of my writing. Short stories, like radio, need to be succinct and every word must be essential. It was a wonderful training ground to write for radio and I’m very grateful.
What do you like most about living in Alaska / a small town?
I like the ease of being in a place that you know down to your bones. The people, the secret hot spring spots, and over time, the memories that keep me tied to this particular place. Alaska has less people and cars and is generally slower paced, which I also like.
Each short story is so unique and tells of a different struggle. Delia’s story was particularly touching. Was the writing process for that story much more different than the others’?
I think it was a bit different. For one thing, the first draft of it was terrible and notes from my editor and other early readers pointed out that it didn’t sound like me. I sat down and re-wrote it in 24 hours, to what it is now. Most stories aren’t written that quickly, but I think because of the difficult nature, I needed to stay in Delia’s head so it was something I couldn’t come and go from easily. It was much more immersive for me.
How and when did you decide the connections between the characters? Did you first write the short stories before linking them together or did that come earlier?
This was not an easy process. It actually took four years to complete this book and we even cut some stories at the end because while they were good stand alone stories, they didn’t flow with the larger narrative. It was very intentional that the connections not be over done, so I tried to write each one as a stand alone keeping in mind where I was going overall. A few I knew would be linked and others came later. It wasn’t an easy, streamlined process but it was fun (mostly).
Following up on that, is there a reason why you put the stories in this order or can a reader read the stories in random order?
The order was re-done many times over the four years and when I landed on this it made the most sense to me and my editors. It never really flowed in any other order that we tried but I would be curious to know if anyone has read it randomly. It might work and be another experience altogether. But I do think this makes the most sense for the slow build up that I wanted readers to experience.
Everyone Dies Famous in a Small Town by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock (Faber) has been shortlisted for the 2022 Yoto Carnegie Medal. The winners of the Yoto Carnegie Greenaway Awards 2022 will be announced on 16 June. For more information visit carnegiegreenaway.org.uk.
Grab your copy of Everyone Dies Famous in a Small Town here.