1. Who are the short fiction authors you admire (Australian or otherwise, alive or dead)?
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Robert Shearman, Kelly Link, Margo Lanagan, Terry Dowling, Peter M. Ball, Christopher Green, Ben Francisco, Jason Fischer, O. Henry, Ray Bradbury, Lee Battersby, Simon Brown — the list goes on and on. Mostly writers of speculative fiction.
2. What is the most memorable short story you have read? And why does it stand out for you?
There are dozens I love, and that stand out. I’d really have a hard time pinning it down. Some are horrifying, some are milk-snortingly funny, some are weird enough to wrench your brain.
3. What do you like about the short story form?
I love the economy of it, and the power that brings for deeper meanings. Paradoxically, because the form is so short, it forces the writer to create almost poetically: each word, each action, almost becomes emblematic for something larger and deeper. Something that can change how it resonates for each reader. It’s magic.
4. How would you describe your own writing?
I try to write as straightforwardly as possible. Lush descriptions and intricate similes don’t — for me, at least — accomplish that economy that I talked about above. I strive for the spare image, the punchy, pungent dialogue that says more by saying less. Meaning and resonance only come into a story when you hint and glance, not when you shout and shove.
5. Which of your stories are you most fond of right at this moment and why?
I have two current favorites. One, “Turcotte’s Battle,” was published in Wet Ink last year, and I love it because it’s one of the few genuinely funny things I’ve managed to write. I also love my story “Water Cools Not Love” (still seeking a home), because I set out to draw global politics, climate change, and the nature of human destiny down to the scale of one single cricket test match, and I pretty much managed to do it with a bit of style.
6. Where do the ideas for your stories come from? (Take us through an example)
Well, “Turcotte’s Battle” came from watching an episode of “Iron Chef” not too long after I’d read Ben Elton’s Dead Famous, which blows the lid off reality television. I suddenly wanted to write a story that blew the lid off cooking shows. “Water Cools Not Love” came from the fact that I’d heard one too many times that you mustn’t EVER infodump in a story. The pompous rigidity in that pronouncement irritated me deeply, and I set out to write a story that would make the infodump work as a valid technique.
7. What is your writing process – from idea to publication? (Do you go it alone or are others involved?)
Hm. I get an idea, I write, I polish, SOMETIMES I send a story to friends for a crit, I let it sit, I polish it again, I research a few markets, I start sending it out. Each time it comes back, I try another market. If the rejecting editor has been kind enough to give feedback, I ponder whether they have a point, and if I decide they do, I refine the story a bit more. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
8. Do you feel the short story form is valued in Australia? What makes you say this?
I actually don’t have a strong opinion on this matter either way. Certainly in the speculative-fiction sphere, short-story markets — particularly online markets — are proliferating at a frantic rate. There are more stories accessible to more people than you could ever, EVER hope to keep up with. I guess that indicates that short stories are valued. At least by the people who write and publish them!
9. How do you feel about your work being published in non-print forms such as digital and audio?
Oh, yeah, bring it on. Bring it on.
10. What advice would you like to offer Spineless Wonders?
Stay open to all genres and approaches. Don’t spurn unicorn stories or space-ship stories or zombie stories just because they are what they are. Give them a fair hearing and have fun with them! Whimsy is a valid artistic choice!