What is your fail-safe book recommendation?
For readers, I always recommend Elena Ferrante’s superb Neapolitan novels. For writers needing motivation, I like to recommend practical ‘how to’ writing books. My current obsession is the screenwriting classic Save the Cat! I have become quite evangelical, giving copies away like Gideons Bibles to wannabe writers. Some of my friends are dubious: ‘Can we really trust a guy who wrote the script for Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot?’ Well, why not! Even though Blake Snyder goes over familiar ground in unpacking the ten story archetypes, the most valuable thing for me (as a ‘pantser’ who sometimes struggles with overcomplicated plots) is the Beat Sheet. I can’t say that I have mastered beating out a story yet, but I love buying index cards and writing Dark Night of the Soul on the top of them.
What was your reaction when you found out your manuscript was going to be published?
Elation then fear when I realised that people will probably think that all the screwed-up people in the stories are me.
How many hours do you write a day?
I bench my progress by word count rather than time. I try for 1000 words a day and inevitably fall short. Stephen King apparently recommends 2000 a day but I figure that, for short stories, I can get away with half that amount.
Writing on paper or typing on a laptop?
I use a journal for story ideas, poetic images, snatches of conversation. I then switch to the laptop to begin writing the story, always shifting text around (sometimes between different stories) until the particular story reveals itself.
How did you come up with the title of your short story collection?
Trial and error! I knew I wanted to name it after one of the short story titles, but most fell short according to friends and family: Dying (too depressing), Bees of Paris (other books with ‘Paris’ in the title), Warm Bodies (already used by a teenage zombie movie), People Who Look Worse After a Haircut (what the??). It was only when I renamed one of the stories as Fabulous Lives that I realised that I had also found the title of the collection. My editor, Jo Taylor, particularly likes the mythical, surrealist qualities implicit in the word ‘fabulous’.
Can anyone become a writer?
Everyone is wired to tell a story—just listen to a group of six year olds in the playground. Not everyone will be able to get their stories heard though. Sometimes a good story is not enough. Luck, determination and a perverse willingness to have one’s words scrutinised and rejected are obviously also essential.
What is a book that made you cry?
The Velveteen Rabbit. My eldest daughter always made me read it to her until I twigged that she was more interested in triggering an emotional reaction in me rather than in the story itself (which left her strangely dry-eyed and unmoved).
Do you have any quirky writing habits?
I can only write very early in the morning but I have to limit my coffee intake. The more coffee I drink, the more adverbs I add.
Describe your writing space in three words.
Coffee-stained laminate desk (not sure if that counts as three or four words…).
Best writing advice you’ve ever received.
The Australian novelist Natasha Lester once advised that ‘voice’ is the most important thing in a manuscript and the hardest to fake. Everything else can be fixed in the redrafts. That advice really worked for me. I just try not to get in the way of a story’s voice and that makes the writing process much easier. I can always turn to Save the Cat! afterwards to fix up those plot holes.
Bindy Pritchard is a Perth-based writer, whose short fiction has appeared in various anthologies and literary journals such as Westerly, Kill Your Darlings and Review of Australian Fiction. Bindy has a Graduate Diploma in Creative Writing from Curtin University. Her debut story collection ‘Fabulous Lives’ will be released through Margaret River Press later this year.