We will be releasing digital long stories from the Michael McGirr Selects series over coming months. Each fortnight we’ll be featuring one of the twelve stories on our online bookclub where we will be joined by the author.
We’ve also asked each author to respond to five questions about the story which has been chosen for the Micheal McGirr Selects series and about their writing life.
Here’s our interview with EROL ENGIN whose story, ‘A Tintoretto for the Soul’ will be featured on bookclub Thursday July 16 at 8pm. You can preview and purchase Erol’s story below.
1. Do you remember the name and personality of the first character you ever created?
My first attempts at writing occurred in my teen years when I wrote a predictably gory and melodramatic story about a very old museum and its wax figures that – you’d never guess it – come alive at night! I was in thrall to classic weird fiction writer H.P. Lovecraft then (and still am, to a large degree), so the first character I can remember creating wasn’t actually a living, breathing person, but a house. Did I need therapy? Probably.
2. What drove you to write the story which is in the Michael McGirr Selects series?
Sheer arrogance, what else? Seriously, though, I thought I had a pretty good premise: a couch-surfer and literary has-been/never-was who is mistaken for a real author. The idea seemed to ‘have legs’, as they say, and the long story format gave me the scope to explore issues such as the vanity of writers and that old chestnut of talent versus luck.
3. 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?
I had the main premise – guy gets mistaken for a real author – for yonks but couldn’t progress with it until my lovely wife, Kate, told me, entirely by chance, about how she’d heard of a desperate husband who asked a poet to write something that would bring his errant wife back to him. This was exactly the kind of development that I’d been waiting for. It lent an extra dimension to my story, and helped me to create the character of Daphne. In this case, holding off writing until I had a pretty clear picture of what would happen really benefited me.
4. Is there one particular author or book that you look to as a source of inspiration for your own writing? What are you reading now? Any recommendations?
I shouldn’t really admit to this, but I don’t read very much fiction these days. I’m currently doing a lot of historical research for a novella I am writing set in the town of Oswiecim (Auschwitz) during WWII and in my hometown of Toronto, Canada. My unofficial models for ‘A Tintoretto of the Soul’ were the brilliant comedians/writers Larry David and Louis CK. Since the story has for me a kind of teleplay or farce-like quality about it, I’d like to imagine that it could serve as perhaps a lesser episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm.
5. How does writing fit into your day-to-day life? Do you have any unusual writing habits? Any advice to share for those stuck in a writing slump?
In a parallel universe, there is another Erol of Stephen King-like industriousness who rises early each morning to bash diligently away for at least two hours until he reaches his 2000 word per day target. The Erol in this universe, however, is rather slothful of a morning, and writes as he can, when he can, which is far from ideal. I don’t think I’ve earned enough literary stripes to give advice to anyone about writing, but I’ve always believed that ‘just write’ is all the advice anyone needs. One of these days I’ll take that advice myself.
Erol Engin lives and writes in Newcastle, NSW. His stories have been published in various journals including Aurealis, AntipodeanSF, Etchings, and the anthology, 13 (Busybird Press, 2013). He is also a past winner of the Page Seventeen short story contest.
Book available at Tomely