Steve Dearden

"I feel a twist, a glass fleck in the flesh between my forefinger and thumb, a long sliver shock shooting up inside my wrist almost to my elbow, so deep in the scar tissue my palm flexes, connects to my finger ends so I’m not sure whether my hand jumps or pushes, whether I go to slap, strike, scratch, paddle, claw but suddently we are standing her mouth open, my mouth open, my hand frozen in the air between us. She knows I have performed a trick, I have thrown something and caught it, made it disappear just before it became a red mark on her cheek, or blood on her lip, a new territory, a place we would need reverse gear." 

Steve is the offspring of a nurse and an architect, he grew up near Manchester, lived in Durham and London, stayed longer than anywhere else near Leeds, and is on his way back to Manchester, though he prefers to be elsewhere, especially in northern european cities and near Valencia. He produces cultural and found reading projects and co-founded The Writing Squad, a programme for young writers in the north or England. 

He has edited books for the Light Transports series, and two novels for Route.  His own fiction has appeared in the anthologies Interland (Smith/Doorstop), Brace (Comma Press).  He was the Writer in Residence for Wakefield Literature Festival for 2013 & 2014 producing the online novella Wakelost Wakefound.

His collection of short stories, Single Skin, was published in eBook format by Smith/Doorstop in 2012.






Listen to Steve's interview with ELFM online radio station here.

'Steve Dearden’s short prose epiphanies are perfectly placed at the beginning of the book. There’s a carefully organised and mellifluous quality to Dearden’s prose that carries you along. There is also a great variety of location in these texts: his city centre office, the reservoirs on which he sails, the moors surrounding and draining under his house, the rugby pitch of his school days and the Manchester Ship Canal. Throughout his pieces there is a marriage of detail and resonance that is both beguiling and revealing.' — Ian Pople, Staple


'I am fascinated both by Steve's texts and his attitude to writing. There is a strong element of physicality in his handling of language, almost as words were, literally, a substance that is shaped through the act of writing. In significant respects, encoding and decoding reality is a tactile experience...' — Ralf Andtbacka


‘The unexpected and the extraordinary presented in a terrific matter-of-fact way – it startles the reader. Nothing's redundant but there's a strange expansion of space inside these stories so that they seem to grow when you've read them.’ — Patricia Dunker


‘Not long into a Steve Dearden story, I’m always a bit lost, bewildered almost. I mean in a good way – compelled not confused. There’s a mystery I have to solve. Part of the mystery is in the meticulous unfolding of the story and the other part is the powerful force and density of his language; dense and then suddenly the language is very spare, oddly abstract, yet I always feel present in the physical event.  Enigmatic. I guess that’s the best word. I’m far away, third person far away, then I’m so close I can smell the breath coming at me off the page.  In a moment, the story can go violent, almost too violent, then sexy, really sexy, then funny. Not just funny, hilarious.  Strangely obsessive.  And very very smart. Wonderful moments of existential clarity. And then he breaks my heart. Bastard.’ — Tom Spanbauer


'Steve Dearden's stories are populated by real people with real jobs and real desires and real fears; and yet, somewhere in the rhythms of the dialogue and the scaffolding of the terse descriptions, you can find loneliness, and majesty, and a belief in humanity that gives your heart a lift. In these offices and departure lounges and bedrooms and kitchens, lives are made vivid by prose that pins down meaning and ideas without artifice...'  – Ian McMillan

Steve on his work

The first influences were teachers, Bill Thurston in primary, DH Burt in secondary, both of my writing, reading and life in general. When Bill Thurston left, rumour had it that he went back to Liverpool to run an ice cream van to attract, talk to and reel truants back in. I can believe that. DH Burt used to read us plays, acting all the parts out. There was another, Robert Hamilton, only a few years older than me, he taught us Paradise Lost for two years and we got to about line fifty. I read the lesson at his ordination, then he died.

As for writers, Thomas Hardy and Lawrence Durrell, DH Lawrence too, then people like Kundera, Kureishi and Svorecky and of course the Americans Anne Tyler, Martha Gellhorn, James Salter. The person who sits on my shoulder as I write is my friend Tom Spanbauer, keeping me close to the body and burnt tongue.

Smoke and wind and fire are all things you can feel but you can’t touch. Memories and dreams are like that too. They’re what this world is made up of. There’s really only a short time that we get hair and teeth and put on red cloth and have bones and skin and look out eyes. Not for long. Some folks longer than others. If you’re lucky, you’ll be the one who gets to tell the story: how the eyes have seen, the hair has blown, the caress the skin has felt, how the bones have ached. What the human heart is like.

By telling your story, the knowledge you have will become understanding. And that – knowledge becoming understanding – is better than anything there is to feel.

Here’s the story. Life is a dream. It’s all a story we are telling ourselves. Things are dreams, just dreams, when they’re not in front of your eyes. What is in front of your eyes now, what you can reach out and touch will become a dream.

The only thing that keeps us from floating off with the wind is our stories. They give us a name and put us in a place, allow us to keep on touching.

All Tom S....


I am interested in location and work, where people are and what they do. I start with the truth then push or invert it. I try to write as cleanly and as succinctly as I can, clearing away anything that is redundant or literary, but rather than try and make the writing disappear like some of my heroes do, I aim for an intensity of language that while fluid is also loaded and powerful.


[I'm currently working on] a novel about the civil war in Somalia with my friend Amina Souleiman.

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