David Savill’s novel They Are Trying To Break Your Heart came out last month with Bloomsbury Publishing and is available here. David shares an extract with us and talks about the novel and his writing process on the Birkbeck blog.


Christmas Day, 2004

Kao Lak

Anya went under, the slap of the skiff’s hull a dull punching in her head. She began to count. The cold came up from the depths. She kicked against it. She didn’t want to look down until she had reached the main reef. William had already paddled ahead. He hovered over the giant white bloom in the sea; a reef so big it made the tall man look no bigger than a parasitic fish cleaning the mouth of a whale. One, two, three, four kicks and the coral came to meet her. She could feel the water warming. Plucking up the courage to look down, she saw the dead city of white rock like skulls looming from the black depths. A blue fish darted out of one eye and back into another. She reached the spot where Will was, where the coral almost broke the surface. She had to feel her way over the outcrop to reach him. The dead reef was suddenly alive. Beneath them, a shower of yellow fish shot past and turned as one, striking a perfect right angle around a bush of blood-red fingers. The bush projected from a carpet covering the coral in sulphurous orange, pink and green. Feathery nets of sea cucumbers, and banks of rubbery yellow filter-feeders ticked as though in admonishment. A translucent fish hovered in front of her mask, blue streak pulsing through its body like a cardiogram. With a snap the fish disappeared, and she found herself drifting towards a rock covered with bulbous growths the size of large vases, and painted with the blue veins of fine porcelain. She had an urge to touch one of the vases, just as you do the exhibits in a museum, but as soon as her finger made contact, the thing disappeared, setting off a chain reaction, like the folding spines of a frightened hedgehog. The ‘vases’ were one organism. Far from being solid growth, this was the skin of a living creature. Alarmed, it shrank to a brittle ball of shells clinging to the coral.

As she kicked back, her flipper scraped against something and before she could orientate herself, a cloud of sand ignited and bloomed.

When the cloud cleared, Will had gone.

She turned around and kicked. She was hovering over a plateau, no sign of movement in the water. She turned again, and couldn’t remember whether she was facing the direction she had come from, or the direction in which she was going. She broke the surface. The air burned her throat. She pulled the snorkel out of her mouth. The sky wheeled overhead. Ripping the fog of the mask from her eyes, Anya turned, trying to locate the thin black line of the coast. But for a panicked second she couldn’t. Then she saw the skiff. It was much farther than she had imagined and there was no one aboard.

She couldn’t see the yellow pipe of his snorkel. Nothing but the flat sea. Where was he? And then right in the teeth of her panic a story formed. She would sit at a dinner table, or a gathering of their friends, many years from now, telling the story of how she believed William lost, and how he had turned up again, on the boat, on the shore, back at the cabin. It would be one of the legends of their relationship. Like the legend of their three years apart. Then something moved in the corner of her eye – maybe twenty metres behind her, a tail disappearing into the water.

Anya kicked for the boat, gathering armfuls of sea, but the flippers were rocks tied to her feet and it was like reeling in an endless sheet – Something touched her ankle and she couldn’t kick it free. ‘Anya! Anya – I was waving!’ Will said.


Anya had read it somewhere. You make memories of an event even before it happens. Which means in a certain sense, memories exist in the future. But she hadn’t really understood it until now. Until in her panic at losing Will, or drowning, or whatever it was she was panicking about, she had turned her loss into the memory she would have. It was like taking out an insurance policy, a way of mitigating the trauma to come. Except this time, the trauma she expected hadn’t arrived, and her insurance policy wasn’t needed. Anya wasn’t at all used to panicking. She was not a panicker.

Will pulled on the cord of the outboard motor, and she felt the exhilaration of being in the present again.

Will. The Indian Ocean. A skiff.

May 23, 2016

They Are Trying To Break Your Heart

David Savill’s novel They Are Trying To Break Your Heart came out last month with Bloomsbury Publishing and is available here. David shares an extract with us and talks about the novel and his writing process on the Birkbeck blog.
May 16, 2016

The Art of Not Breathing

Sarah Alexander’s debut novel, The Art of Not Breathing was released on April 1st and is available to purchase here. She shares her first chapter with us as part of our published alumni series. Sarah talks about the novel and her writing experiences in  interview which you can read on the Birkbeck Website.
April 26, 2016

We Go Around In The Night And Are Consumed By Fire

An extract from Chapter One of We Go Around In The Night And Are Consumed By Fire by Jules Grant, out on 28th April with Myriad Editions.
April 18, 2016

When We Say Goodnight

Short Fiction by Aliyah Keshani
April 11, 2016


Short fiction by 2013 Bristol Short Story Award Winner, Paul McMichael. 
April 4, 2016

The Don

Short Fiction by Paul Goodman
March 29, 2016

The Night Shift

Short fiction by Jo Holloway
March 22, 2016

Broken Promises

  Short Fiction by Kate Nkanza.
March 14, 2016


Short fiction by Federica Lugaresi, shortlisted for the 2015 Fish Publishing Short Story Prize.
March 7, 2016

See Emily Play

Short fiction by Jamie West.
February 29, 2016

A Jailor

A new short story by James Wise.
February 1, 2016

Paddy and Agatha

A short story from Toby Litt’s new book, Life-Like, published by Seagull Books.
August 20, 2015

The Authenticity of Ash Creek

A short story by James Mitchell, first published in MIR11.
August 20, 2015

Olivia in 4 Parts

A short story by Jacquelyn Shreeves-Lee, first published in MIR11.
August 20, 2015

People Watching

A short story by Julia Gray, which was first published in MIR11.
August 20, 2015

Our First Lesbians

A short story by Rebecca Rouillard, first published in MIR11. Rebecca’s story ‘The Window’ is featured in MIR12.
August 20, 2015


A short story by Dave Wakely, first published in MIR11. Dave’s stories have appeared in MIR10, MIR11 and MIR12.
February 2, 2015

The Longest Fight: Excerpt

An excerpt from Emily Bullock’s debut novel The Longest Fight, an exploration of love and family loyalty set in the gritty, ambitious world of boxing in 1950s London.
November 17, 2014

Burnt Oak

A new short story by Frances Gow about family, loss and pyromania.  
May 26, 2010

The Cock Thief

Short fiction by Parselelo Kantai.