Interview with Philip Charter, Second Place Winner

Interview by Neil Clark

Saudade, the concept, really got us editors gabbing away and going on all sorts of tangents when we were discussing your piece during the judging. It was a lot of fun! Could you tell us a bit about how and when you came across the word? Was it your starting point in the process of writing the story, or did it pop into the narrative at a later stage?

I came across the word (pronounced saudahdji) on a tour of Porto. The guide explained it was the feeling of ‘missing’ that wives had when they looked out to the sea. For years, the word stuck in my mind, and eventually I got to wondering who might experience this sensation without knowing the word. That’s how the story started.

I loved the bittersweetness of McManus contently moving on and saying farewell to his life at sea, but also parting ways and breaking that bond he shared with his crewmates. Do you think McManus keeps in touch with the rest of the crew these days?

That’s one for the reader to decide.

“McManus got a delivery job, which is sort of the opposite of catching fish when you think about it.” That line really tickled me, and the whole narration has a wonderful (and discernibly Scottish, if I may say!) sense humour running through it. How did you find that voice? Was it inspired by anyone you’ve met on your travels, perhaps in The Angus Arms or somewhere similar?

I lived in Scotland when I was a kid and I’ve been back many times. Their wit and dour sense of humour is something I’ve always loved. Back in the day, I watched the BBC TV show Trawlermen, (a less exciting rip-off of Deadliest Catch) and I used their thick Peterhead accents as inspiration.

The Portugese have the whole bastard Atlantic to stare at, but where do you go to get lost in thought as a writer?

Getting lost in thought is what I do best. I can do it anywhere.

We hope your placing in the anthology will give you some well-deserved exposure, and I’m sure loads of our readers will love “Saudade” as much as we did. Where can they find more of your writing? Is there a particular other piece of yours you’d like to highlight here?

If readers would like to read a longer story of mine, they might look at Thanks for The Ride, a piece set in Michigan, USA. The story can also be found in my collection Foreign Voices.