Short fiction authors I admire (not in any order):
Ernest Hemmingway, Robert Drewe, Michael Sala, Petina Gappah, Tim Winton, J.D. Salinger, Oscar Wilde, Junot Diaz, Kerstin Ekman… There are SO many!
2. What is the most memorable short story you have read? And why does it stand out for you?
In Another Country by Ernest Hemmingway is my favourite story. I read it often. I keep it on my desk and even though I almost know it by heart, it gives me chills every time I read it. It is written simply with a kind of truth that I feel in my heart.
In the fall the war was always there, but we did not go to it anymore.
To me it is an important anti-war story and I find it incredibly moving. It is the story I turn to when I need to ground myself in good writing. I very am grateful for it.
3. What do you like about the short story form?
Short stories are very difficult to write – to get right. It takes so much hard work, drafting, time. I admire writers that take the time – put in the work to give us these seamless and complete worlds.
4. How would you describe your own writing?
I would describe my writing as simple. I think most of the story is told off the page, in the spaces behind the words. Someone who reviewed my book said ‘… deceptively simple writing that resonates long after the final pages have been read.’
5. Which of your stories are you most fond of right at this moment and why?
I have been working on a few short pieces set in Africa. Set in African airports to be more specific. I suspect they are part of a larger work, but for now I am enjoying the feeling of arriving at Livingstone airport, smelling frangipani waft through the arrival hall and stepping out into that golden light that is like no other light in the world. Africa!
6. Where do the ideas for your stories come from? (Take us through an example)
I will use the Livingstone airport example.
When I was in Botswana last year I briefly met a man who was from Melbourne. We got talking and he told me he had just come from Zambia. He said he had had a wonderful time and he was glad because he was actually born in Zambia. He never thought he would remember it because he left when he was very small. However, when he touched down at the tiny airport of Livingstone and saw that giant flame tree growing by the runway, he got chills. He was very moved by the whole experience.
That conversation stayed with me for many months. When I can’t get something out of my head, it usually means that it is a lead for me to try and follow. Sometimes it turns into a story. Here’s an extract from Welcome to Livingstone.
A bald man winked at him, stamped his passport. And with his bags in hand, he made his way through the crowd of visitors being met by guides. He walked out of the glass doors, out into the light. Not blinding like his home in Perth, but warm, golden. Illuminating every leaf, every blade of grass.
And he knew it.
The courtyard outside like a quiet and sacred avenue of honour. Lined with full-grown jacaranda trees, frangipani trees. The sleepy, sweet smelling airport of Livingstone like a dream.
His own memories. Ones that he was sure did not exist. He was only four. How could a four year old know anything, remember the substance of a place. A country. A home.
Faces that held a certain light – a glint of life from long ago. Open faces – a song in voices.
Welcome! Welcome! Welcome to Livingstone.
7. What is your writing process – from idea to publication? (Do you go it alone or are others involved?)
I have a small room in the city where I work. Notes, reading and ideas are for home and other places, but my studio is where I do most of my writing. I draft A LOT. I go from the raw rough draft and then I cut it back – tighten and streamline. I usually do 7 or 8 drafts. It seems to take me a long time. My stories always start off long and end up tiny. I wish I could write long short stories. Welcome to Livingstone was 1500 rough draft and ended up being 470 by the end.
I workshop some of my work in a writing group and this is always very helpful.
8. Do you feel the short story form is valued in Australia? What makes you say this?
I am hopeful that short stories are becoming valued. There seem to be more anthologies coming out which is great.
9. How do you feel about your work being published in non-print forms such as digital and audio?
I am really happy for my work to be published in any form. The wider the audience the better.
10. What advice would you like to offer Spineless Wonders?
My only real advice is for writers…
When your story is the best you can make it, send it out to journals, comps, etc. When you get a rejection put it out of your mind and send your work somewhere else. Don’t give up. Believe in your writing. Keep working and keep writing.
You have to back yourself and put your work out there. Be your own champion.