Best writing advice you’ve ever received?
The best writing advice I ever received came from Robyn Mundy, author of beautiful novels like Wildlight, who encouraged me to write the way I wanted, about the things I wanted to, not what I felt I should. My writing practice is very eclectic but has never been very edgy. It’s about everyday people going about their lives, navigating the day to day issues we all face at some time. I struggled for a long time with the feeling I wasn’t writing anything important enough, that my work was never going to be contemporary or exciting and tried to fill what I imagined those spaces to be. Needless to say, the writing became lifeless and devoid of enjoyment—for myself as writer and, no doubt for any hapless reader the work was forced upon! Now I write about the things I’m interested in and don’t worry so much about trying to fit the work to a market. It is so easy to fill your mind (and work) with doubt about the value of the writing you are producing. I like bouncing around between genres, timelines, landscapes and it was Robyn who gave me the confidence to do that, and with it, a renewed joy in words and writing.
Quirky writing habits?
I’m in the habit of writing snippets of conversation and other interesting things on the back of anything I can find then shoving them in my bag so as not to forget the specific nuance I want to recapture later. Every now and then I upend the bag and out fall a selection of random words on faded receipts or torn bits from magazines. Sometimes these make perfect sense, some I puzzle over endlessly. What was I trying to remember? Large, orange, dark (?). Bent mistletoe (?). Where is my DNA(?). I have shoeboxes full of these strange snippets of life, mixed in with the odd feather I’ve found or a dried-out leaf. An organised sort of person would sort them all, no doubt scrapbook some, but I enjoy the rustle as I scrabble through them and the endless sense of discovery.
The last book that made you cry?
You Belong Here by Laurie Steed. I spent my high school years in Perth and was right back there with this novel.
Can anyone become a writer?
Why would anyone want to? Writing is anti-social, excruciating, lonely, underpaid (mostly), full of potential embarrassments (is this about you? Come on now, it must be!) and really hard work once the fun of the initial idea gets tangled between your brain and the paper.
It is also one of the most rewarding, mysterious, exciting process to be involved in.
Can anyone become a writer? I think everybody is. Journals, interesting lists, great letter writers—even better—the pithy postcard sender. Does everybody want to pursue writing once the fun is over and it’s just you and the work and a massive sense of insecurity? I’m imagining those people as the writers. Carving the wood, planning it smooth, wearing out seven grades of sandpaper till the story is smooth to the touch and all the joints snug and seamless. Facing down the gnawing sense of all that effort just being extra words in the world no-one asked for.
So, yes. I think anyone can become a writer— keeping it up is down to sheer bloody-mindedness.
The mix of stories in your collection?
I’m a huge history buff so some of the stories have come from various times in the past—Inshallah grew from an exploration into the origins of gothic architecture for instance, and I’ve long been entranced by the fate of Timothee Vasse and the Baudin voyage of discovery to the Great South Land, so Ashore has it’s origins in that research.
I spent years in the West Kimberley so that has had a huge influence on much of what I write about. The landscape there is something I carry with me. I have great respect for the people who live and work in that environment so some of the stories are set there.
I have concerns about where we are headed socially and environmentally in our headlong rush for ‘progress’ so that has had an influence also. Wilding and The Slaughterman fall into that area.
Studying the past, living in the present and thinking about the future. People are just people, through time, space and continents the human condition repeats itself endlessly. I hope all my characters, wherever they are, come off the page with that common denominator. So, though the stories range across all those elements, the common thread are the hearts and minds of all of us trying to make sense of our world.
What is your writing process and practice like?
I begin with an idea, a phrase, a situation. Then I write around that, usually in a huge circle (ask anyone who has edited something I’ve written!). I write long and use far too many words. I go off on tangents and flounder about. Then I cut and cut and cut. Draft and draft and draft. I’m sure there is a better way but I have yet to discipline myself to learn it.
I write on my computer and edit on paper.
When I have a perfect day, I write in the morning and edit at night. Usually I’m trying to squeeze bits of writing in amongst the thousand threads of everyday life—work, family, etcetera.
If I’m excited about something I’m writing I have huge powers of concentration and can write all day, for days, until I get where I am trying to go. Other times I am the world’s greatest procrastinator and will do literally anything rather than the work sitting there waiting for me, type half a sentence and decide to sort through odd socks.
What was your reaction when you found out your manuscript was going to be published?
Failsafe book recommendation?
In Another Light by Andrew Greig.
What is your cure for writers block?
Walking. Doesn’t matter where. It’s the feeling of moving forward, I think.
Failing that, writing in longhand always frees up what I am trying to say. Hand brain connection. Always with the finest point pen I can find or a sharp lead pencil.
Describe your writing space in three words!
Chaotic, comforting, bookish.
Leslie is a writer based in the south west of Western Australia. Her short fiction centres around her characters reactions to the world they live in and social change. A keen student of human nature in all its manifestations, Leslie drops people into imagined situations and environments and waits to see what they will do. Recently completing her Bachelor of Arts in creative writing and literature at Edith Cowan University’s regional campus in Bunbury has further refined her writing and led to her gaining recognition for pieces of her work in various competitions, events and spoken performances.