Melanie Whipman’s debut collection of short stories is a tour de force. Read Llama Sutra in one go or bite off a delicious morsel one sitting at a time. But beware. Whipman’s fast-paced, dark, powerful stories full of twisty turns and tense moments will lure you in until The End. I read it in one go.
I caught up with Whipman for writer’s group 26. Myths, legends, inspirational writers, how to build suspense and character versus plot, Whipman reveals all in our Q&A.
Mrs Noah falls in love with a lion in After the Flood, a teenager wants to shoot her teacher in What You’d Do for Love, Rapunzel feels trapped by her prince in After Ever After. All sixteen stories stay with you. They stay with Whipman too, so much so that she may write more to flesh a few out.
My characters are all still with me too, Whipman says. But the Lithuanian girl is the worst – she won’t leave me alone!
Let’s hope the Lithuanian girl in Baking Blind – a tale on the surface about a girl who’s trafficked to England with the real story being about the relationship between mother and daughter – does get fleshed out by the talented Whipman.
The first short story Llama Sutra (same name as the book) starts with a kick.
The llama winks at me. The liquorice lashes of its left eye sweep down for a long second, then up again.’
A woman and her husband are trying to get pregnant. His sperm count is low. She works on a llama farm and watches two llamas mate hungrily.
She’s enthralled. And then she gets pregnant, a very long pregnancy. No more clues. Read this seamless, surprising, modern tale of magical realism. Whipman doesn’t over-write or under-write. She hits the perfect note, keeping the reader engaged throughout.
Never under-estimate the intelligence of your reader, says Whipman, quoting an old adage.
You can listen to Llama Sutra broadcast on BBC Radio 4 here. Also check out Tracy Fell’s insightful review . And obvs, read the book!