Backstories ~ A #QandA with author Simon Van der Velde #ShortStories @SimonVdVWriter #TuesdayBookBlog

I note that your publisher, Smoke & Mirrors Press describes Backstories as, ‘the stand-out most original book of the year’.  Isn’t this just marketing hyperbole?

Perhaps a little, but perhaps not.  What I do in Backstories, in defiance of creative writing 101, is withhold the protagonists’ identities, and this omission is what makes Backstories so utterly unique.

Unique, perhaps, but confusing?

The writing is in fact deceptively simple, but yes, I can see that a little explanation is required.

Backstories is a collection of accessible, literary stories with a famous, (or infamous) person hidden in every one.  They are all characters you know, or as the tag-line says, characters you think you know, but what makes the reading experience so unique is that I don’t tell you who they are.  This means your job is to find them.  That’s the game.  It’s what gives you that Eureka moment of discovery, when you realise who’s mind you’ve been living inside for the last twenty minutes.  It is also what gives these stories their particular resonance.

So, it’s a game?

Only in so far as I disguise my truths as a game in order to smuggle them into the reader’s mind.

For example:

I could tell you a straight biographical story about some little known moment in say, Katharine Hepburn’s life.  The difficulty is that you would inevitably bring your preconceptions with you into the story.  By withholding her name, I can take you on a journey into the life of a young American tom-boy who liked to call herself Jimmy.  Show you her anxieties, drives and conflicts, and allow you to rediscover her wholly anew – which in turn means that when you do realise her identity, your existing view of Katherine Hepburn will be overlaid onto your fresh insight into the character in the story.  This leaves you with two different but equally valid truths to take away – and that is what Backstories’ is really about.

Backstories is about actors?

Backstories is about my childhood heroes, (and villains).  Actors, activists, musicians and murderers, many of whom were famous in the 60’s and 70’s.  Believe me Cathy, I’m not a ‘celeb’ kind of guy.  These people are famous for a reason, and your readers will know who they are.

To younger readers Backstories is biography condensed into that one pivotal moment, or perhaps history brought to life, but to people of my generation it is far more personal.  A chance to finally get that backstage pass we always longed for, and become intimately acquainted with the heroes and villains of our childhood.  

How are readers responding to this unusual book?

Fantastically well.  Backstories has hit the market with a bang.  In our first month we’ve outsold Ernest Hemingway in short stories and topped Sherlock Holmes in mystery.  I’m amazed.  But when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains must be true.  So I am delighted to say, I guess it must be.  

And you’re giving 30% of all profits from Backstories to charity?

Yes, I’m proud to be sharing 30% of all profits from Backstories between Stop Hate UK, The North-East Autism Society and Friends of the Earth.

Thank you for your time, Simon – and from a personal view, as I’m reading Backstories at the moment, I look foward to Backstories II.

Backstories, (Smoke & Mirrors Press) is available in paperback, ebook and audio formats now, from

51yJPAqCN1LDreamers, singers, heroes and killers, they can dazzle with their talent or their unmitigated evil, yet inside themselves, they are as frail and desperate as the rest of us. But can you see them? Can you unravel the truth?

These are people you know, but not as you know them. Peel back the mask and see.

This book is dedicated to the victims of violent crime, the struggle against discrimination in all its forms and making the world a better place for our children. That is why 30% of all profits will be shared between Stop Hate UK, The North East Autism Society and Friends of the Earth.


Simon Van der Velde has worked variously as a barman, laborer, teacher, caterer and lawyer, as well as traveling throughout Europe and South America collecting characters for his award-winning stories. Since completing a creative writing M.A. (with distinction) in 2010, Simon’s work has won and been shortlisted for numerous awards including; The Yeovil Literary Prize, (twice), The Wasafiri New Writing Prize, The Luke Bitmead Bursary, The Frome Prize, and The Harry Bowling Prize – establishing him as one of the UK’s foremost short-story writers.

Simon now lives in Newcastle upon Tyne, England, with his wife, labradoodle and two tyrannical children.

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