When I’m asked what I write about, I say that my stories often deal with loss and displacement; they can be dark, and they can be suspenseful. They can even be amusing. Tom Thomson told me years ago, that my stories are harrowing. Good, I like to entertain. He also told me he loved Roddy’s line to Cath about looking for frogs in the swamp, in my novel Falling Glass. What a treasure.
It is not an uncommon theory that a writer bases thoughts and experiences on the writer’s personal life. Some writers may do it, and even base a character on a person they know, but I do not. Why write fiction if you’re going to do this? I encountered this misconception on at least two occasions.
When I included my story FALL in an early collection of stories for a publisher, I had a very encouraging response with positive remarks about several stories. But not Fall. I asked why, and I was told that the reviewer felt I must be homophobic to have written such a story and she most strongly didn’t approve. It didn’t matter what I said, I had to be like that or how could I have written the story? Fall has been published in Meanjin and broadcast on ABC RNs Book Reading program.
The second such comment was following my reading of short story DOGS at the Harold Park Hotel’s Writers in the Park (Glebe, Sydney’s inner west if you’re a stranger). How to deal with an unwanted litter of puppies posed a huge problem for my narrator, who decided she had better kill the pups before their eyes opened. After the story was finished, a woman from the audience said to me, How could you do that? I said, ‘Do what?” and she said, ‘you must’ve killed those puppies to be able to write like that’.
Dogs was published in Wollongong University’s SCARP and been broadcast several times on ABC RN.
It’s quite gobsmacking… and given those mad ideas in reader-land, it’s just as well I don’t write about extreme violence or murder. Obviously our jails are full of violent writers.