Spineless Wonders asks Erin Gough
I lived in Vancouver briefly a number of years ago and remember a Canadian friend of mine telling me proudly that instant mashed potato was a Canadian invention. This struck me as a hilarious thing to be proud of, until I remembered how Australians always boast about the Hills Hoist. I researched the inventions for each country and when I realised I could rhyme “Trivial Pursuit” (Canadian) with “Ute” (Australian) I knew I had to write this piece.
2.Tell us about that process. (Do you start sparse and widen out, or do you write down every possible association and cut back? Do you research the subject matter you are writing about? Is it pure intuition?) Take us through an example if you want.
I usually write a whole lot, then read it through and cut the parts I hate, which is generally most of it. I read it again, decide it’s too short, and start putting things back in. On the next reading it becomes clear that I have totally overwritten it so I delete swathes of paragraphs. This goes on, back and forth, for about eight years. I end up with a 300-word story by the end of it, if I’m lucky.
3. What advice do you have for other writers ? about the first or last line? About how to choose the title? Do you follow any rules?
My only advice is that the process is different for everybody, so ignore people who tell you there are rules. What I can say of my own process is that I sometimes focus too early on getting the first and last lines right because I end up cutting the top and bottom off the story in the editing process in any case. This can be a good way to plunge the reader into the middle of the action and drag them out wanting more. I try to choose titles that I think will make people want to read the story.
4. Who or what inspires your writing?
Everyone and everything. The toaster blows a fuse and I think: how can I turn this into a story?