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Meet the Intern: Aden Curran

Published 6th December, 2018 in Meet the Intern
by


Tell us a little bit about yourself.

When I was seven I wrote, over a period of three years, a series of superhero comics called ‘The Adventures of Frogman and Tadpoleboy’. Set in a future where frogs have evolved into sentient, humanoid creatures with an advanced technological society, the comics follow Frogman and his super-sidekick Tadpoleboy in their adventures through thinly veiled Doctor Who knockoff narratives across the Galaxy. As they defeat their opponents using their vaguely defined superpowers, soon enough (spoilers) Tadpoleboy betrays Frogman and becomes his evil arch-nemesis!

My sense of story has barely changed since this time, apparently. But I still hack away at my various creative writing projects year-round. Apart from writing stories and poetry, my hobbies include photography and hiking. I love the bush and I hope to one day be able to capture exactly what I love about it in a story.

I am also a graduate of UWA, where I majored in English and Cultural Studies, and Law in Society. Both insightful, important, engaging bodies of study. My three and a half years at university opened my eyes to an entire world of ideas and issues that I never would have discovered without it. In a lot of ways it was at university that I finally learned how to learn. It was incredibly valuable and will help me throughout my life, I think. It’s sad to me that not everybody has the opportunity to experience this. I’m incredibly fortunate.

I’ve always had dreams of walking into Dymocks or Boffins and seeing my book sitting there on the shelf. Then going home and reading rave reviews of it online. I imagine people, strangers, sitting in their rooms with my book in their hands touching their hearts. Maybe one day this will be a reality. Or maybe not, but even then I’ll be happily writing away, enjoying the process. I don’t think I could ever not be creative.

What were you studying at university and what’s next?

I finished my English/Law in Society degree halfway through this year. I may go back one day to study a Grad Dip in Philosophy or Anthropology, or do Honours, but for now I will be traversing the so-called real world.

Do you have a favourite book or favourite authors?

Tehanu by Ursula Le Guin. Yes, it is also the most recent book I have read. Yes, the most recent book I have read is almost always my new favourite book. Nevertheless, allow me to explain a little about why I love it:

Perhaps this fantasy book is a heretical choice for an intern at Margaret River Press. Yet, I implore you to realise that this is no typical fantasy fare. Ursula Le Guin was an incredibly insightful, intelligent author. Tehanu, the fourth book in her Earthsea series, represents her at her most insightful, at her most poignant. We follow the misfortunes of Tenar, a forty-year-old widow trying to forge herself a living in the pastures and ploughlands of the island of Gont. As both a foreigner to this island and a woman, she faces all kinds of everyday social suppression of any chance to express herself fully as a human. I don’t think you can rightly break any book down into snappy, generic themes; it’s the journey that I love about Tehanu. I can’t describe it without reducing it in some way.

One thing Le Guin does in the book that I love is take what came in the books before and spin them in a new light. Le Guin felt that for the first three books, she as an author was ‘pretending to think like a man’. It took her seventeen years to figure out how to tell Tehanu, the story of the woman introduced in the second book, Tenar. She introduced ideas of privilege, power and domination to what had previously been a flighty series of heroic journeys. All of a sudden, I was reading Earthsea from the perspective of the disempowered. The world flipped on its head, and as it did, it expanded, spread out, grew ripe with meaning.

Aside from this, some of my stock book recommendations are: Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami, The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson and Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky (an original suggestion, I know, but reading it really opened my eyes to an entirely new level of characterisation).

Overall, in a book, I enjoy something unique and meaningful and powerful. Something that feels like it speaks to me intimately, in a way nothing else has before. I love it when a writer is confident enough to tell the truth. This inevitably means making something extremely personal, but not self-obsessed, and making something very original, rather than leaning on cliché. This means ‘capturing the human condition’ in some capacity. This doesn’t mean trying to capture it in its entirety – that’s an impossible task – but capturing some facet of it. Some glimpse of that place where difference meets with similarity.

What did a typical day involve as an intern at Margaret River Press?

I rock up between 9:00 and 9:30 depending on how punctual my bus driver has been. I say hi and beeline for the coffee grinder in the kitchen, or, if I’m feeling frisky in the wallet, wait till 10 when we all go down the road to buy coffee.

Hard work ensues, either marketing books and events through Margaret River Press’s various social media accounts, or helping out with marketing in other ways, as I work my way dot point by dot point through the to-do list.

Just after midday, having crossed off a satisfying chunk of my list, we settle down for lunch. This might involve a) going to the Re Store for pasta; b) heating my famous ‘bean lunch’ dish in the microwave; or c) reheating the dinner leftovers I brought.

A lot of work is dedicated to the book that we published right at the beginning of December. Not editorial work, unfortunately. More of the social media promotional kind.

Is there a particular area of publishing you’re looking to head into or another type of work?

I want to get my writing published one day – so I’ll definitely be aiming for the ‘author’ side of publishing. The other side is also interesting to me: editing, or working in a publishing house in some capacity. It’s all fascinating, working in the industry, seeing the steps a book goes through to transform from ideas, to words, to paper, to the shelves. For what I’ve seen of it the West Australian publishing industry is amazing and there’s a lot more going on under the surface than I ever imagined before. I would love the chance to one day be a part of it.

Having said that, there’s a lot else in the world I want to try. Maybe I’ll get a haircut and become a lawyer. Who knows?

 

And here is a short piece written by Aden himself…

Altern and the Wizard

It was said that the greatest wizard in the world lived by a stream in the woods that ran out from the River Bald. Altern thought of this, sitting in the sun, the morning a merchant woman and her donkey passed his house on way to the village green.

This thought gave Altern hope after for so long feeling despair: for a plague had come to the crops and the animals of his village, and wizards were known for their generosity. Having become unable to bear his father’s worrying, he asked directions from the merchant woman for the price of a copper piece, and set off that day.

The journey to the wizard was long and tiresome. As night fell, he followed the stars west against the river’s flow. The undergrowth was too thick to walk by the river itself, but he followed the direction of the river valley by travelling across its slope. Altern, as he travelled, tried to prepare himself for the tests the wizard would surely make of his will, for wizards did not suffer the company of fools – nor, most certainly, did they listen to fools’ requests.

Finally, he found the stream, unmistakably clear and cool-watered. He followed its tinkling waters until he saw the house, sturdy and tall, with a large area around where the bush had been cleared. It was not at all the hut Altern had expected. The front door was open.

As Altern entered he felt his skin crawl. Not with fear, but with some similar feeling, a feeling of the age of the place. It wasn’t dusty – it was rather well-kept, swept of cobwebs and dirt. But the walls were made of stone, still and ancient, and the air smelled of cold earth.

There was no door on the entrance to the study, out of which, as Altern approached, drifted the faint, warm scent of burning sage.

The boy stopped just before entering the room and watched the grey-haired man as he hunched over his desk, reading the crusted pages of a manuscript bound in leather. The room had no windows; instead, a single candle flickered over the wizard’s book.

Altern’s heart fluttered. He opened his mouth to speak, but no sound came out. He cleared his throat, feeling his cheeks flush, and tried again.

“Great Wizard,” he whispered, hoarsely, struggling the words out.

The old man read on until he flipped the page. Then, sighing he turned towards the boy.

Altern felt his body freeze when the wizard cast his eyes upon him. They were red from reading, and drew themselves painfully over the boy, up and down, judging his worth. It was now that Altern realised the silence was a test – a menace the wizard put on to dissuade those who came to him out of petty desires.

He spoke, drawing on his courage for more resonance, “I have come, Great Wizard, to seek your blessing. Our village is struck with a curse. Our wheat is brittle and breaks off in the wind. Our goats’ children are deformed, and their milk comes out with blood. My – my pa bought a plough horse last year with all his savings, to help us in the fields, but she’s gone lame now. Even – the kids in the village are restless… they hurt each other.”

The old man listened expressionlessly.

“Please, Great Wizard. I beg you to turn our curse.”

“I will help you,” said the man, “if you can answer me one question: Why?”

“Why?” Altern repeated blankly. Another test. He thought of his family and finally answered, “Well, it’s a good thing to do. People help each other out.”

The man closed his eyes and pressed his fingers to his head. “No, no. That is not it.” He stood, slowly, and shuffled towards the fireplace in the main room of the house. Altern moved out of his way, though it seemed the wizard would have pushed right through regardless.

The wizard stopped beside the mantle, and leant on it heavily. “Scrape this ash out for me, would you, boy?”

Altern put his bag down and grabbed the scrape leaning next to the fireplace. He cleared the ash and threw it outside while the wizard placed down logs. Then he knelt, placing both hands over one of the logs, and ran his hands along its surface until it caught fire.

He spoke, staring at the upstart fire. “I have this recurring dream: A woodpecker flying across a boundless ocean. It’s tired but it can never stop, flapping, flapping. Sometimes when I close my eyes I still see it, going along on the currents of air.”

The boy did not know what to say to this. This was not the lesson he was expecting.

“You see, boy, I am very old. I have known a thousand years. I don’t even remember my mother’s name. Her face disappeared long ago; her name: that, I thought would be hard to lose.”

The old man took a seat close to the hearth.

It would have been rude for Altern to take a chair without invitation, so he stood and warmed his legs by the fire. “But why is my answer wrong?”

“I have talked to many boys like you. When you are as old as me, as old as the mountains, you see the same faces come and go. Different clothes, perhaps – different customs and ways of speaking. But underneath it all, they are the same. You see it unveiled before you, the patterns in which people act, like threads in a tapestry wound again and again and again.”

“I still don’t understand…” said Altern, feeling his legs grow hot from the fire. “What about my answer?”

The wizard’s eyes flared and he sat stiff on his chair. “Because there is no point in a kindness that just washes away. You’re happy for a moment, then you die, then it’s wasted. I am eternal. A kindness done to me lives forever.”

Altern did not know what to say. He stood awkwardly, blinked, and then moved to pick up his bag. Perhaps the wizard was right, perhaps it would be a wasted effort, like avoiding stepping on ants. He thought of his ma and pa, and how disappointed they would be. Another year would pass by, and they would go on working the plough by hand; they would go on looking over their fields, and wondering how they would feed themselves when the winter came.

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