Our Slinkies editor, Laura Barry put some curly questions to our latest Slinkies’ author, Nick Couldwell.
LB: Do you remember the name and personality of the first character you ever created?
NC: My Mum kept a story I had written when I was in the early years of primary school. I don’t remember how old I was, nor do I remember what the character’s name was; however I think it was an Asian name. The character lived in a forest in Switzerland and found a trap door with fairies inside. That’s all I remember, I’m sure it got weirder.
LB: Do you have any unusual writing habits?
NC: When I get frustrated or anxious while writing a story I tend to check and refresh the latest world news. Then I get sucked into the most comical mind-boggling articles for pages and pages and pages. And there once was a time when I couldn’t write unless the Beatles discography was playing.
LB: Any advice to share with other young writers?
NC: I’m not really in a position to give advice but I’d just suggest sticking at it no matter how shitty your work may seem, no matter how daunting it is trying to write that story; just stick at it because there are people out there who will want to read it. Even if it’s just one or two people, your story will resonate with someone and there’s nothing more rewarding than that.
LB: How do you approach a new story? With a clear plan of where the narrative is going, or is it more of a ‘well, let’s see how this goes’ kind of approach?
NC: I write like someone drunk trying to find their way home and that’s saying something because I don’t drink. I usually have a very small moment, idea or event in my mind and I just follow it; I start writing. I don’t know where it will lead me. Sometimes it strays away from my idea entirely, other times I write until I find that point in the story. There’s nothing pretty about it. I usually just follow the character’s voice (as corny as it sounds) and wait until something happens. I knit slow and steady compared to quilting big patches of story together at a time.
LB: Are you a procrastinator? A keen procrasticleaner or procrastibaker?
NC: Ahhhh procrastination: the writer’s 2nd or 3rd job. Do I bake or clean under procrastination’s spell? Well I don’t bake as it takes timing, precision and detail and I couldn’t muster any of those things under the duress of writer’s block. I tend to tidy, read, eat, pat my dogs, eat and eat.
LB: ‘Kill your darlings’ – easier said than done?
NC: I don’t have any problems with killing off characters, even if it doesn’t happen very often in my writing. If they cry, they buy!
LB: Is there one particular author or book that you look to as a source of inspiration for your own writing?
NC: Tim Winton’s first novel ‘An Open Swimmer’, which he wrote when he was a teenager, is often used as a source of inspiration. It’s not particularly one of my favourite novels, however I find myself flicking through its pages when I’m looking for a kick up the bum. Australian authors like Tim Winton, Nam Le, Tony Birch and Robert Drewe usually inspire me to write every time I sit down at my desk.
LB: Any advice to share for those stuck in a reading or writing slump?
NC: I like rereading the story I’m stuck on to get the flow going. Also, rereading some of your other stories is another good way of getting rid of a flat spell. I think reading in general is the best way to get out of a slump. Maybe it’s from your favourite book, non-fiction or fiction, maybe it’s the newspaper or the TV guide? Who knows!
B: What are you reading now? Any recommendations?
NC: I was absolutely blown away by D.W Wilson’s short story collection ‘Once You Break A Knuckle’. The writing is beautiful, brutal, honest. I highly recommend it. Other than that I’ve got Elephant by Raymond Carver on the go as well as Shadowboxing by Tony Birch and See You In Paradise by J. Robert Lennon
Nick Couldwell is twenty-four years old. His fiction has been published in visible Ink and Writing to the Edge (Spineless Wonders, 2014) and Spineless Wonders’ forthcoming Out of Place anthology. His short story ‘Presents’ placed third in the 2013 Rockingham Fiction Award. More recently, Nick won The 2015 joanne burns Micro-Lit Award for his story ‘Dancing’, judged by Kirsten Tranter. Nick lives with his partner and two daughters in Byron Bay. He has just completed his first novel.
You can preview and purchase Nick’s story here:
Book available at Tomely