1. Last year, your self-described ‘unpublishable’ PhD novel, ‘Trucksong’ was published by Twelfth Planet Press, after revision of the original devolved post apocalyptic language. Did the revision (and publication) change how you felt about your novel or your PhD? In what way did the critical/research component of your PhD inform your understanding of how language changes, and how did you apply this to produce your original devolved language?
I was delighted that Twelfth Planet picked it up. In many ways I felt they were the ideal home for it. They were prepared to take a risk on an unknown writer with a project that sat kind of awkwardly between literary fiction and cheesy genre schlock. I mean, not every publisher would jump at the idea of a book about flashy cyborg trucks that like to do battle on post-apocalyptic highways, and which also has a linguistic/philosophic impulse to examine the search for meaning in a world of incomplete information.
The process of revising the book for publication was instructive, in that I realised I didn’t need to cling to the experimental nature of the PhD version – which was written in a much more distorted form of dialect. I was initially a little resistant to the idea of changing it, but once I got started on the work, it was an incredible relief to see that just by standardising the spelling, I could make the book a lot more accessible and open, and it didn’t alter the character’s voice at all.
In the end the critical component of the PhD project focused more on the idea of recursive history, which crops up in a lot of post-apocalyptic fiction. A famous example of this is Walter M. Miller’s A Canticle for Leibowitz, which tells the story of a post-holocaust world that has put a taboo on science, and which gradually re-discovers it, only to destroy itself again at the end.
The use of language as an index for social and cultural change faded into the background, and I became more interested in the idea of creating a post-apocalyptic narrative that was open, rather than shackled to the deterministic concept of eternal return.
But mostly it was an excuse to write about garish and vain cyborg trucks that like to do battle on desert highways.
2. At the same time that ‘Trucksong’ the book was published, you released a soundtrack (which is fabulously atmospheric writing music, for those reading at home!). Have any other writing projects inspired you write music? (Or have music projects inspired you to write words?) At what point in production of the novel did the soundtrack come into fruition?
I’ve always been interested in music and sound. I don’t necessarily have an informed approach to it – it’s more intuitive or naive I guess – but I’ve played in bands my whole life and it’s a big part of who I am. I thought it would be a cool idea to produce some music to go along with the novel, so I set myself the challenge. As it turns out, it’s really hard to write, record and produce an album all by yourself. Who knew?
As far as inspiration goes, it was more about meeting a goal I set myself. I mapped out some basic emotional textures I wanted to evoke for different scenes in the book, and I went about doing my best to capture them. It’s the first time I’ve thought about coming up with music to accompany a piece of writing, but TRUCKSONG is also the first piece of writing I’ve produced that felt fully formed.
The soundtrack took about a year to do, on and off, with greater intensity towards the end as the publication date loomed.
I doubt I’ll do it again, but it was a fun challenge.
3. You have talked in other interviews about the importance of multiple streams as a free lancer, for both inspiration and stability. How do you see your fiction writing balancing with your editing business and music in the future? What particular streams are you currently pursuing?
Well there’s no real balance. I don’t have any separation of work and creativity. My time is all in one big bucket and I work on what is most urgent. Which is no doubt a terrible way of working, because paid work inevitably takes precedence over self-indulgent art projects.
But I’m at a stage in life where getting paid is more important than not getting paid, and I have carved out a little niche for myself that allows me to get paid doing something I enjoy, so I’m going with it.
I’m working on another book, but it’s a big project and years of work. I’m a slow writer and I’m comfortable with that. The great thing about being middle aged is finding out what matters to you and what doesn’t, and frankly flogging myself to death to produce creative work on top of running a small business does not appeal so much. Maybe it’s a waste of potential, but then again, maybe things just take as long as they take.
4. What Australian works have you loved recently?
Ticonderoga are doing some great work at the moment. I bought a bunch of their books recently, including Janeen Webb’s brilliant collection Death at the Blue Elephant.
Ben Peek’s Dead American collection is really good, and I’m anxiously awaiting the arrival of my hardback copy of The Godless.
I re-read Rjurik Davidson’s The Unwrapped Sky when it arrived in the post from Tor this year.
Stephen Ormsby is publishing some interesting stuff at Satalyte Publishing. Adam Browne’s ‘Other Stories’ and Other Stories is a corker.
Look out for Keith Stevenson’s science fiction novel Horizon out through Voyager Impulse on 1 December 2014.
Kirstyn McDermott’s Perfections is a great read.
5. Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?
Not really, I mean I’m aware of the great seething overthrow of traditional models of publishing and distribution, but for me that’s all separate from the creative process. In five years I expect to be reading generative fiction produced by intelligent algorithms that mine pinterest and tumblr feeds for idea patterns.
This post is part of the 2014 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from 28 July to 10 August and archiving them at SF Signal. Snapshot 2012 is being conducted by Tsana Dolichva, Nick Evans, Stephanie Gunn, Kathryn Linge, Elanor Matton-Johnson, David McDonald, Helen Merrick, Jason Nahrung, Ben Payne, Alex Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Helen Stubbs, Katharine Stubbs, Tehani Wessely, and Sean Wright. To read the interviews hot off the press, check our blogs daily from 28 July to 10 August, 2014.