Courttia Newland tells us about A Book of Blues

by flambardblog

Courttia Newland is the author of six books, including The Scholar and Music for the Off-Key, and his stories have featured in many anthologies and magazines. Here he talks to Kerry Lagan about his new and continuously inventive short-story collection, A Book of Blues, describing the music that inspires him, the places that he felt compelled to write about and his enthusiasm for different writing styles. His website is


Although your discography points to a number of different inspirations, is there a single track which sums up the central ideas of A Book of Blues?

If I had to pick one it would be ‘Tereza My Love’, by Antonio Carlos Jobim, from the album Stone Flower. The track reminds me of my book cover, something that might be playing in a lonely hotel corridor. I think it was sampled by A Tribe Called Quest too, on Midnight Marauders, their finest album.

Which is your favourite location used in the collection?

Has to be Ladbroke Grove, although Kenya comes a close second. I knew I would write about the Grove extensively at some point, and I’m pleased with the results.

Was it an active decision after Music for the Off-Key to keep writing short stories rather than novels?

No, I made the decision after The Scholar and ended up with Society Within, which is made up of interlinked short stories. I always like to write novels and short stories at the same time, it’s like a literary affair!

Do you see yourself in a tradition of urban writers from London? 

Very much so. I try to read up on who’s come before me, and am in the process of researching just how far that tradition goes.

A Book of Blues is highly versatile with elements of magical realism, the gothic and comedy, but which genre do you think A Book of Blues falls under and which writing style best encompasses your personality?

I’m not sure this book falls into a specific genre, as that’s what I was attempting to ‘write out’ of. I wanted to showcase diverse voices, some serious, some sarcastic, some realistic and others less so. My only criteria was that no two stories were the same. While I like collections that maintain a cultivated style I thought it might be fun to do the opposite. I admire so many of the methods used to create fiction I wanted to pay homage, and find my own somewhere in between. I think the stories as a whole express the range of my emotions and personality. Sherin Nicole, who designed the cover, told me that this book is more like me than any of the others. I think it’s closer to the me I am now, finally accepting that I actually am a writer.

A Book of Blues can be ordered here and at other online retailers, or found in your local bookshop. Courttia will be reading at bookshops in London and beyond throughout May.