What are you working on at the moment?
I guess this question is not aimed at me talking about the course notes I’m writing for the ‘Introduction to Short Story Writing’ I’m giving this weekend at the Bracken Ridge Library?
The plan was to be working on the second draft of my gothic horror novel ‘Dalhousie’, but recent changes in circumstances here at home have left me devoid of the head space to unravel and rewrite 90,000 words, so it’s currently on the back burner. I’m certain the characters from “Dalhousie” are hamming it up with those from “Encrusion” (my birthpunk, in hiatus, novella) in my Scrivener Green Room.
Over the school holidays I had a piece of flash fiction rejected. Nothing terribly interesting or earth shattering in that, but it gave me the impetus (and the frame) to write a collection of flash fiction for a UK competition. It was perfect timing as my writing partner Adam was home on holidays too and did some epically fast beta reads giving me a completed collection of eight pieces in 10 days! Over the next few days I will be rewriting the opening story and doing the final tidy of the other seven stories under the guiding razor of my crit partner Dan Powell.
Beyond that there’s the inevitable short stories. I have five in various stages of finishedness: one about clones that has been brewing for a very long time, another that looks as though it will come out as a bit of a sci-fi meta-narrative about creativity, free will, writing and reading (thank you ‘If On A Winter’s Night A Traveler’), one which is a near futuristic interview, one which looks at rewriting history from a personal perspective and a last one which will be a horror set on the Go-Between Bridge in Brisbane.
How do you think your work differs from that of other writers in your genre?
How I differ as a writer, is perhaps more apt than how my writing differs. For a start, I write across genres, preferring to write stories and then work out what genre they fit into. I also write across mediums. While my first love is (and probably always will be) the short story, I also write poetry, short film scripts, serials, novellas, novels and I am hoping this year there might be time to write a feature length script and radio play. I also actively seek out chances to collaborate with other authors.
Why do you write what you do?
I write across genres and across mediums because I’m happy to be a jack of all traders, rather than a master of any one. I enjoy different aspects of each genre and each medium. For me, story is more important than the box it goes in and I’m always looking for new challenges to pit myself against in telling them.
From a genre POV, I write speculative fiction because it lets me explore social issues; poetry is permission to play with the beauty, power and catharsis of words, flash fiction forces me to think of a story in a different way as do scripts. I have always been lure by the darker aspects of humanity and I write horror to see if I can scare myself. So on, and so forth…
At the heart of all that, medium and genre aside, I write because words and stories are my anti-depressants. I am a happier, more grounded and satisfied when I’m writing, especially when I’ve had a deep immersive experience where the world around dissolves and I am at one with the words and the story. It will always be the first and only high worth pursuing.
What’s your writing process, and how does it work?
I often begin with a concept (this is probably more apparent in my work as a publisher and editor): could I co-wrote fictional letters with a friend, could I write a time travel story backwards, could I write a story that only contains dialogue. If it’s not a concept then it is the seed of a big idea that I will then whittle down as other ideas synergise and the characters, setting and general plot reveal themselves. Sometimes it’s a fast chain reaction (like the stories I wrote for my collection) and other times its a an excruciating process of unearthing and piecing together.
For example, the in-progress clone story, “I Wish I Could Tell You I Love You” came from the comment we bandy about all the time: I wish there were two of me. I put it in a domestic setting and waited for it to brew. It’s taken almost a year to get that original idea to fire. The catalyst came (as most of them do) by accident. I went down to the local shops and noticed a new business in the list out the front. I immediately knew the clone story was based around some kind of agency. Affinity Nursing became something a little different. With that laid down the central conflict finally revealed itself. The rest is in the writing and rewriting.
In terms of an every day practise, I have taken the advice of Jack Dann to heart. I always give the best part of the day to writing. This means, on the days when I intend to write, I get up and write before I do anything else. I have come to appreciate the fact my creativity and the impetus to write ebbs and flows like the tide, and to make the most of it when its flowing and to not beat myself up when its ebbing.
In a reflection of my own practice as a writer, I’d like to share with you insights from a few friends of mine, who are in their own rights poets, screen writers, wranglers of fiction and non-fiction.