Your story ‘Hot and Cold’, published in ‘Lost Boy and other stories‘, cleverly employs mnemonics used in society to tag people by certain key personality traits, or styles that help the subject to remember them. When were you first exposed to mnemonics? Have they always interested you as a writer?
To be honest, I don’t think about them as a technique when I’m writing. For me I find the process of crafting the voice and personality of the character very instinctual. For example, when writing ‘Hot and Cold’ I drew a lot from my memories of conversations with my younger sisters (I have two). I like writing dialogue that captures the intimacy between siblings, the reader should be drawn into the quick patter of exchanges heavy with shared experiences and games of shifting power.
Is ‘Hot and Cold’ part of a larger work? It feels almost novelistic in its scope, the characters thoughtfully and lovingly drawn for such a brief moment.
It’s very interesting that you picked up on this. I’m working on a novel at the moment and as a way of developing the ideas I decided to write a collection of short stories as a sort of map to the novel. Each story would encapsulate a key idea or character and it would serve to help me decide if the ideas were strong enough to hold up as both a short story and in a novel. This is the first story in what will be a set of three.
What are your aims and intentions as a writer? What’s most important to you in terms of key ideas and themes?
My intention has always been to tell the truth in my writing. I’m committed to writing about all the hard and shameful parts of growing up, all the incarnations of family dynamics and the volatile nature of sibling relationships. In particular, I focus a lot on children on the cusp of adolescence, siblings growing apart as they grow up and the sexual development of young adults.
I think the area of child sexual development is under explored in adult fiction and it is a fascinating and taboo area to write about.
Are you inspired most by literature, or do you take inspiration from other platforms, such as music and cinema too? Ideally, what would be your dream way to tell your story?
I’ve been known to listen the same song obsessively when writing. Sometimes if a song or album captures the mood that I’m trying to evoke, I won’t stop listening until the story is finished. I’ve had this with many genres of music from classical to pop.
In some ways I believe that the same story could be told through different forms and be very different. I have worked as a playwright and I’m still interested in how some of the ideas I have can work as both a stage play and a novel.
The absolute crazy dream would be to have a play, a movie and a novel come out concurrently and see how they differed and how the form changed the way the story resonated with you as a viewer/reader.
You’re you, in five years time. What do you tell the present ‘you’?
Keep going. Slowly, steadily and with great care, carry these stories onto the page.
Erin Courtney Kelly is a writer from Melbourne, Australia. Her writing has been shortlisted for the Margaret River Press Short Story Award and the Alan Marshall Short Story Award. Her work has appeared in various journals both nationally and internationally and she is currently working on her first novel.