The ebook launch of The Never Never Land, CSFG’s speculative anthology of
Australian myths, yarns and campfire stories, is coming on 1 July 2016.
We interviewed some of the authors to hear what inspired
their unique version of the sunburnt country.
‘The Swagman’ by Angus Yeates is a post-apocalyptic reimagining of one of modern Australia’s most enduring mythological figures.
Tell us a bit about yourself
I grew up in a remote town (Kalgoorlie) in Western Australia before moving to Perth. After studying a Bachelor of Arts at university I moved to Canberra where I’m currently based.
As a child, my time was split between city and country Australia. I think this, combined with a healthy amount of travel, gave me a love of learning and an intense curiosity about the world and other people. I think this more than anything drew me to writing.
Currently I divide my life between my full-time job in the public service, and family and friends, writing and some of my hobbies, which currently include martial arts and acting.
What was the inspiration behind your The Never Never Land story?
The theme certainly helped. In ‘The Swagman’ I wanted to explore a quintessential myth from colonial Australia and not just get a story and throw in eucalypt trees and red dirt.
At the risk of sounding hopelessly metaphysical, I also wanted to explore the link between man, myth and the landscape. I think Australia is hugely underrated for dystopian fiction, to which it lends itself to so well. Australia is a haunting and lonely landscape and a place where the old and new blend uneasily. Hence the story of a man on the run from the ghosts of his past.
What did you bring from the rest of your life to your story and writing that you think enhances it?
I think that all art-forms can teach something about writing. The more I’ve done public speaking, stand-up comedy and acting, the more I’ve learned about writing. What patterns of speech should a character have in dialogue? If you’ve done enough public speaking then you gain more clarity around dialogue. How should I structure the story for a reveal? Stand-up comedy teaches you about structure and different ways to treat reveals. How should I pitch this character? What mannerisms will he have? Do I know how he speaks? Acting helps with these because it’s absolutely necessary to think about these things before playing a character – it removes you from just thinking about a character’s thoughts and gets you thinking about their actions more broadly.
Was there anything hard you found about writing the story?
Of course. For me it was my perennial problem of keeping my short story ‘short’. It’s not something that comes naturally to me, but it’s an important discipline and, unsurprisingly, was where I learned the most. There should always be something hard about writing every story or I’m probably not stretching myself enough.
Why did you decide to submit to The Never Never Land?
The decision was a no-brainer. I’d read some of the previous anthologies published by CSFG, so I knew it was a high-quality publication. I also had some ideas that I thought fit well.
What did you learn about the writing/publication/editing process from your experience of being involved with Never Never Land?
It was my first publication, so more like ‘what didn’t I learn’… That it’s not as easy as I thought it would be? That writing is fun, but sometimes editing feels like hell (and if it doesn’t then I’m probably being lazy)? That I need to edit until I’m sitting rocking in a corner and praying to the writing god to make it stop? (Well, maybe not that last part).
But seriously: that competition is a good thing and producing a final product is a group effort. That beta readers are like gold and editors are like diamonds and their advice should be treated as such. The importance of listening and accepting feedback, and sometimes the decisiveness and wisdom to reject it if I feel it does a disservice to the story.
What was your favourite other story in TNNL?
Oh such a hard choice!
For example, I’m envious of the writing in Dan Baker’s ‘Against the Current’, which is so rich, languid and otherworldly, like the river the protagonist travels up. It’s like Australia’s answer to Heart of Darkness. I love the wryness of Thoraiya Dyer’s ‘Tirari Desert, Saturday’ and the whimsy in Kimberley Gaal’s ‘The Nexus Tree’.
But I’m going to say Charlotte Nash’s ‘Seven-forty from Paraburdoo’. I grew up in Kalgoorlie – a remote mining town in Western Australia. I’ve been along some of those roads at night and they’re long and remote and lonely. If it’s just you and the darkness then that can be a scary thing. The fear of breaking down or hitting a kangaroo is constant. Sometimes there’s no phone reception and no one to help you. The story captures this anxiety fantastically. It also captures the salt-of-the-earth characters that work in the industry perfectly. It won me over with its writing and finely-nuanced mix of darkness, loneliness, mateship, distance and death.
What are you working on now?
I have a novel that’s cooking away in the background (burning on the stove?) that I go back to whenever some other shiny short story idea hasn’t caught my attention.
At this immediate point in time I’m working on a short story about a girl who travels to fix her sometimes artificially not-so-intelligent toy. Through it I’m exploring humanity’s relationship with technology and how it can make us more human. I think that too often (in Hollywood particularly) technology is portrayed as bad (e.g. Elysium, Terminator) or shown in how it makes someone powerful and good or evil depends simply on the user (pick any superhero movie). But I think these dominant views are over simplistic. What do machines teach us about ourselves? How can technology bring us closer together and make us more human than we are?
Where do you want to take your writing? What are your writing goals?
I’d like to complete a novel and hopefully get it published. Once I’ve done that, I’ll see where I go to from there. Don’t get me wrong – I dream big like any writer, but baby steps…
Where can we find you?