Your story ‘The Gingerbread Man’, published in Lost Boy and other stories, charts parental rivalry in a delightfully subversive way, with the stay-at-home Dad taking ownership of a couple’s son in intricate and deliberate ways. How did you come about this story, and in what ways did it change during the drafting process?
In ‘The Gingerbread Man’ the father (Geoff) has cultivated power over his family very deliberately. He is well aware that to control his wife Sophie effectively it is necessary to have the complete loyalty of their child. By gathering the support of those around the family (including his mother in law) he has cut off any avenue Sophie might have had to leave a violent and threatening situation.
This story had its germination in observing the interplay between families – particularly couples with children – who, often without even realising it, set up power plays between each other using their children as currency. In this case Geoff is very aware of what he is doing and Sophie has been caught unawares. The story is not meant to be a comment on gender and power. These power plays can be executed by either parent in a relationship. I twisted this the way I did so I could play with traditional notions of male/female roles.
In the initial drafts of this story Geoff’s violent nature was much more overt and Sophie was extremely passive. After letting the story sit for a while it became clear that the narrative needed to be more discreet, there needed to be more shadows at play and so I began to cut out sections and modify dialogue to suit that.
You also visit the difficulties in continuing one’s career and maintaining ones parental responsibilities via the story’s protagonist, Sophie. Is this something you’ve wrestled with in your own life?
Balancing career and children has luckily never been a big issue for me and I don’t envy people who have to really struggle with it. When my children were young we were living in the Kimberley on a cattle station so our jobs involved the whole family and the kids were educated at home via Kimberley School of the Air. It’s a great way to bring up young children. Having such a large involvement, one on one, with your child’s education means any issues can be highlighted very early on. It’s also a lot of fun, a lot of angst and a real connection is forged with other families involved with the school.
As an author from the south west of Western Australia, it’s sometimes difficult to get your work out to a greater readership. How important was being published by Margaret River Press in terms of your own career?
The opportunity to be published in the Margaret River Press Anthology is just an amazing outlet for emerging and established writers in the South West of Western Australia. I have been very lucky with the support and mentorship of the staff and students at Edith Cowan University South West. Between that encouragement and the opportunities afforded by having a respected ‘home grown’ publisher such as Margaret River Press, I’m confident there will be a lot more regional voices heard in the wider literary world.
Do you have your own favourite stories in The Lost Boy and other stories, other than ‘The Gingerbread Man’? If so, which stories speak to you personally from within the collection?
The Lost Boy and Other Stories is such a strong collection. I enjoyed all of them for different reasons. If I had to pick an absolute favorite it would have to be Backing Vocals by Catherine Moffat. A story written with a sure hand about the wreckage of the human condition. I loved it on first read and love it still, wish I’d written it myself. I can’t go past The Lost Boy which won deservedly, Ali Jarvey’s Relic, Glen Hunting’s Human Traffic so relevant and true. I could go on until I had named the whole contents page. They are all so different and enjoyable on many levels. Credit to Estelle Tang for terrific editing as well as judging the longlist chosen by Richard_Rossiter and Laurie_Steed.
You’re currently studying at Edith Cowan University’s Bunbury campus. Tell us a bit about your experience thus far, and your plans for the future.
I began studying for A Bachelor of Arts degree at Edith Cowan University in 2012, majoring in writing. I study part time on campus, work as well and have a family. The university community, staff and students, have been steadfastly encouraging. Coming to the university as a mature student who hadn’t studied in twenty five years, there was a steep learning curve early on. I had very little confidence in my ability to write, only knowing it was something I had always done and was drawn to. From the beginning my efforts have been supported and I always knew I could ask for help and it would be freely given. We are so lucky to have the opportunity to attend a campus in the region that is both innovative and nurturing.
In the future I would like to continue my writing journey, complete my degree (with Honours if I’m lucky enough) and see where words can take me.
Leslie_Thiele had a nomadic childhood, great training for observing human nature. Lived on a cattle station in the Kimberley region of Western Australia for twenty five years, great training for observing and living with the natural environment. Moved to Capel in the South West of Western Australia in 2012 where all these skills came in to their own.
When she can squeeze it in, she writes down all the things she thinks she has learnt in that time. She puts them into stories She hopes people will enjoy and find out, usually through her characters, that she is not nearly as clever as she thinks she is.