Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Blog-hopping via Rebecca Jessen

My writing friend, Rebecca Jessen, will be launching her very impressive debut novel Gap—a crime story in verse—at Avid Reader early next month. Bec won the Queensland Literary Award for Best Emerging Author in 2013, and she was also the winner of the SLQ Young Writers Award 2012. We studied at QUT together and I had the privilege of reading Gap when it was still a tiny baby. My, how it has grown! Bec is currently working on a collection of memoir, which you can read about here. Her blogs are always thoughtful and moving and I am a big fan. Recently, she tagged me to participate in a blog-hop and answer some questions about my writing process. (Her answers, to the same questions, you can find here, and from there you can hop backwards to numerous other writers.) 

What are you working on at the moment?
Two things. I have another gothic manuscript underway – this one’s about a man having a mid-life crisis – of which I’ve got around 12,000 words down and I’m really enjoying the journey. And then I’ve been collaborating with a writing friend producing short stories. We’ve done two each so far. She writes the first couple of sentences and emails them to me or vice versa, and I add another paragraph and return it to her, and we go on like this until we feel it’s time to take the story our separate ways. It’s really interesting what we’ve come up with and how different our stories are. The main thing is that the collaboration seems to inspire us, and that without it neither of us seems capable of thinking of anything original at the moment! It’s a lot of fun. 

How do you think your work differs from that of other writers in your genre?
There aren’t many gothic novels being written these days, and so I like to think that I’m reintroducing an old-fashioned genre to readers, but with a modern take and new energy. By inverting some of the traits, for instance changing the weather from cold and dismal (think Wuthering Heights) to hot and sunny in Australia, I’m bringing vitality and intrigue to the form. 

Why do you write what you write?
I don’t read crime, fantasy or science fiction, although of course I’ve read Harry Potter and The Passage and I read Peter Temple—I mostly read contemporary literature and I mostly seem to write the same. That seems to be what happens at any rate (although just this week I’ve written a short story which is definitely crime). I also find that very often the things I write about are tinged by my own experience.

What's your writing process, and how does it work?
I don’t have any peculiarities, like a play list or chocolate by my side, but I do like to be in my own study at my own computer, and I work better in the mornings than at any other time of the day. I don’t plan my work. I start with a character and a setting usually, and sometimes I have a vision of something happening, and I go from there—I go along for the ride— although having said that I almost always know how the story’s going to end before I start writing it. I’m also not a person who writes in a hurry. I take a long time to mull over everything, and I like to have a scene as near as perfect before I move on. My reasoning behind this is that when I revisit my work, it’s not fresh anymore, I’ve already been there in my head, and capturing its allure is not as easy the second time around. 

So, who’s next?
Emerging writer Julie Kearney. I met Julie only last year, but already we have a warm and flourishing writing relationship. She is an award-winning visual artist but nowadays she writes to the exclusion of all else. Fiction, memoir, book reviews and art essays, much of it published. Her work has appeared in anthologies and several times in Griffith Review. At the moment she is working on the second of a trilogy of historical novellas. Julie blogs here and in a week she’ll post her responses and tag another emerging writer for your enjoyment.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

A good week

It’s been a good week. Topping it, a friend and I completed a writing exercise that resulted in a complete short story for her, and the skeleton of a short story for me. Coming a close second I was asked to read from my gothic manuscript, Sargasso, at a book launch. Third, I did some work on Charon House, which is the working title of my current work-in-progress, and lastly, I received a rejection slip for a short story. You will be wondering how this last one qualifies…I look at it this way: okay, I was rejected, but I am now free to submit the story elsewhere…which is exciting, and where it might just fare better.

The writing exercise was great. Julie started it by emailing me two sentences. I added four sentences, one of which was very short, and sent it back to her. By lunch time she’d emailed me a whole new paragraph, and shortly after lunch I emailed her a new paragraph, and so it went on. We stopped the story at about 700 words and each went away to finish it. Well, she went away to finish it. I got bogged down with chores and it’s still waiting to be finished but I’m looking forward to getting back to it. Julie’s story is complete—it’s just under 2,000 words—and I can tell you now it’s a ripper. To my delight she’s called it something I came up with in the story. I had a lot of fun and I’d be happy to play again anytime. If you want to play with your writing buddy here are some guidelines: Don’t play games of one-upmanship. Be faithful to the growing story and the characters created on the spur of the moment. Take note of the other person’s quirks of storytelling. (This was helpful. Our story was in the first person, which meant that we each had to take special care and work at getting an authentic voice.)  Let someone else’s manner of creating a story guide you and influence your own story-telling style. The two stories that result from this exercise ought to be quite different from one another.Have fun!

The other highlight of the week that's worth mentioning: Lost and Found by Brooke Davis is going to be launched at Avid Reader this Thursday, 17th July, 2014—see here for details—and, together with my writing friend Laura Elvery, I’ll be reading from Sargasso. I am of course terribly excited and terribly nervous. (And honoured to be included.) Wish me luck.