Monday, July 19, 2010

Author Interview I did for

Why did you decide to submit your short stories for publication?

There comes a point for every writer I think where the goal is to be published and, as a result of that, to be read by people other than your family, friends or writing buddies. I needed a project to focus on - I decided putting together a short story collection might be a good way to get my first solo publication "under my belt" so to speak. I knew other writers who had done it and decided "I can do that too!" and went for it.

Reflections is your first published book, how did it feel when it book was accepted by Ginninderra Press?

I had to read the email a few times to let it sink in. I was relieved in a way because I knew I had put a lot of effort in to the collection and it was gratifying to have it accepted for publication. There was still work to do though. The editor gave me feedback on some of the stories that he thought weren't working as well as others. It was a wonderful process working together with an editor to make the work the best it could be.

What tips do you have for writers who hope to, one day, have their books or short stories published?

Persistence! Don't give up. Writing is like anything else you want to learn to do well - you must practice, get into the habit of writing regularly, and be prepared to redraft your work. Don't generalise - it's the specific details that bring your writing to life. Write! I know that seems simple, but to be a writer you must cultivate that habit or you'll find that doing the washing has sudden appeal. Even writing badly is better than not writing at all - you can redraft and edit bad writing. Be brave! Once you have worked on a piece, taking it from a first draft to a well-crafted piece of poetry, fiction, or non-fiction, send it out. Find the magazine that fits your piece of writing and submit it. If they say no, and you're sure it's the best it can be, and then send it out again to a different magazine. Keep good records.

Where does the title, Reflections, come from?

Reflections is the title of one of the stories in the collection, but it's not as simple as that. I got to thinking about the way I write, the process, the things that spark ideas and, sometimes when I'm lucky enough, fully formed stories. I think as writers what we are often doing is holding a mirror up to the world, capturing a moment, a snapshot in time and recording it. Not literally, though it can be that way sometimes, but what we think or feel about it. Perception is a funny thing. No two people will see the same event in the same way, and how we see it will say something about us. That's why writing takes courage, because that mirror that we hold up will inevitably show something of ourselves as well.

What are your future writing goals?

I dream of being a novelist. I'm struggling along at the moment writing a novel that may not even want to be written. It's an historic novel set in Melbourne in the late 1800s. I say it might not even want to be written because I'm trying to tell the story of a real person, a girl who immigrated from Ireland to Australia with her parents, and it might not be my story to tell. Having invested months in research and five months writing, I will persevere to at least finish the first draft. Then I will reassess and decide if the project is one I should continue with. I also have an incomplete draft of a fantasy novel in my filing cabinet that I am keen to get back to when the time is right. Whatever direction I decide to take in the future, I will be writing. I have come to understand that writing is a way of life for me, it's something that I can't "not" do.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Last Days of Summer - Vicki Thornton - Review

Vicki Thornton is a Victorian writer who lives in the picturesque Dandenongs. Last Days of Summer (Mockingbird) is her first collection of short stories.

Thornton’s style is sparse, her stories brief. Brief enough to fill the smallest moments in a day. Those moments between the usual domestic chores and family pressures, but though the stories are brief they have a depth and subtlety that can linger for hours or days. Longer.

In ‘For a Moment’ we are introduced to Billie, as seen through the eyes of an innocent unnamed girl; as someone wise, someone worth seeking out, someone to sit beside quietly and listen to. We also see Billie through the unforgiving eyes of the girl’s mother, as a homeless person, someone to distrust, someone to avoid. It’s all a matter of perspective. Billie might seem to be someone worthy of pity; she is poor, old and homeless, but she is also independent; free. She rejects the entanglements of the material world, chooses for herself how she will live and how she will die.

In ‘Aerodynamics of Love’, the writer experiments with structure as she dissects and deconstructs a relationship with perfect detachment. The structure itself gives added meaning to the story. Each word is necessary. Believable. There is no need for embellishment.

‘Cicada Song’ reads like a list. This is a story of summer holidays by the beach, a story of childhood. The memories are specific yet there is much for the reader to relate to. These are happy memories tinged with sadness and loss. In childhood, feelings—happy, sad— are equal and depend on each other for context. In adulthood, memories are often the same.

In ‘The Sweetness of Musk’ we are plunged into Jake’s world; a small rural town gripped by drought, where everything is either dead or dying. Jake is a child not yet tall enough to see over the lolly counter; naive to the world beyond the boundaries of his town and the future that awaits him, yet in some ways he is old beyond his years and all too aware of what it means to be mortal.

The characters who inhabit these stories are broken; bowed by circumstance, steeped in sorrow. Thornton lays bare their secret lives, exposes what is usually kept hidden from public view. It is human nature to hide parts of ourselves; to wear a mask. Thornton’s characters are people caught at their most vulnerable, with their faces naked and their private lives on show.

You probably won’t laugh while reading these stories, but you may feel uncomfortable, and you will think. Through her choice of topic, Thornton’s collection explores what it is to be human – the doubt, the struggle, the simple joys, the pain.