What inspired you to write this story?
Some years ago I met someone at a party, a seemingly ordinary sort of person, who happened to mention how he liked to drive up the freeway of a Saturday with a group of mates and jump off the top of a cliff. I’d never heard of BASE jumping before then but after this conversation I kept hearing about it. I met a couple of other people who had done it, and I saw a lot of news stories about people who had died as a result of it.
What do you like about the long story form?
Shorter story forms are fun, but sometimes they’re over so fast they barely touch the sides. The longer form gives you just enough time to go in, get under the reader’s skin, and duck out again, leaving the reader (if all has gone well) moved and satisfied.
The Carmel Bird Long Story Award was open to women writers only – how does the fact that you are a woman writing in contemporary Australia impact on you and your writing?
I think there are unspoken rules about what women should and shouldn’t write about. Men are bound by certain rules as well, but perhaps not as stringently. One of the insecurities I have about this story, for example, is that there are no women in it. Sometimes it seems like women writers are expected to tell women’s stories, and women’s stories only. The most important question for a woman writer when deciding on subject matter should be what inspires her.
How does your usual writing process work? Where do the ideas for your stories come from?
By the time an idea hits the page it’s generally been kicking about in my head for years. I go through periods of jotting down notes on paper or on my laptop in response to stuff that happens in my life, and what I find is that some of the ideas I write down act like magnets for other ideas. Next thing I know I’ll have a couple of pages of jottings that I can turn into a story. For example, right now I’m working on a story inspired by the theme of “distance”. The stuff I’m collecting ranges from a panoramic photo, to a series of Google Directions, to a failed conversation with a friend.
What writers do you turn to when you’re feeling uninspired? Do you have any tricks for getting motivated?
Ali Smith, Peter Temple, AS Byatt, Cormac McCarthy, Helen Garner and Richard Ford are some of the writers who inspire me. Nothing is more motivating than reading your favourite writers, wanting to be able to write as well as them, and knowing that you have a lot of work to do, to have any hope of achieving that goal.
Erin Gough’s award-winning short stories have been published in a number of journals and collections including Southerly, Overland, Small Wonder, Going Down Swinging and Best Australian Stories 2012. She is currently writing a novel for young adults.
Book available at Tomely