Deborah Biancotti lives in Sydney, Australia. Winner of the Aurealis and Ditmar awards for her short story writing, she launched her first book, A Book of Endings, with Twelfth Planet Press this year. She is now working on her first novel, a near-future psychological thriller, and has a novella lined up for 2010 publication with Gilgamesh Press.

Short Story Collections

A Book of Endings
(Twelfth Planet Press, 2009)

Reviewed by
Mario Guslandi

Interview with Deborah Biancotti

The Short Review: How long did it take you to write all the stories in your collection?

Deborah Biancotti: Well, the collection is part-retrospective, so it contains stories from when I started writing about 10 years ago, and more recent stories. I wrote 6 new stories for the collection. With editing time & thinking time, they took about six months in total to finish.

TSR: Did you have a collection in mind when you were writing them?

DB: Only the new ones. I wanted them to be diverse, and my editor suggested I use the new stories to show where I think I'm going with my writing. So that the collection would be a bridge between old and new, what I used to write and what I'm writing now. I mean, "no pressure", right?!

TSR: How did you choose which stories to include and in what order?

DB: We chose the best stories from the last 10 years, then we narrowed it down to stories that fitted most clearly with the title, A Book of Endings. Which means at least one story wasn't included because its ending was considered (by me, also) to be too weak. With a title like that, you're just going to end up drawing attention to bad endings!

TSR: What does the word "story" mean to you?

DB:  I got into trouble once from a friend who was explaining something that had happened historically (in China, I think, though I can't remember what it was). She got to the end of the explanation and I said, "That's a good story."

She said, "It's not a story! It's real!"

But whether it's real or not, there's a good story in the way we draw meaning from events. Writing teacher Robert McKee makes a distinction between facts and truth. Facts, he says, are what happened. Truth is the human interpretation of those facts, the human meaning we attribute to the facts.

That's what I think story is: human meaning.

TSR: Do you have a reader in mind when you write stories?

DB:  Sometimes I start with one particular reader in mind, just to kick off the mood or direction of a piece. But once I settle in I forget all that in favour of the characters. It becomes about what the characters do to get through the story, and what they need to happen. Or don't need to happen, as the case may be.

TSR: Is there anything you'd like to ask someone who has read your collection, anything at all?

DB: I think I'd ask, "Really? You read the whole thing?! Can I buy you a drink?"

TSR: How does it feel knowing that people are buying your book?

DB: Weird. I was so focussed on getting the project finished I didn't stop to think what it'd mean to really have a book out there being bought and - even weirder - being read. Writing is something I do alone. It's odd to see the results of that having a social life.

TSR: What are you working on now?

DB: Right now three things. A novella (about 20,000 words) about the goddess Ishtar turning up in modern-day Sydney. It's part of a trilogy about Ishtar that Gilgamesh Press is putting out next year. Also an essay, a gothic interpretation of No Country for Old Men, by Cormac McCarthy. This is for a book on 21st Century Gothic by Scarecrow Press.

And in case you accidentally think everything I do is already commissioned, I'm also writing my first novel, which I'm calling The Great Unsaleable Novel. Which I actually hope WILL be saleable ... one day, after a couple thousand more drafts.

TSR: What are the three most recent short story collections you've read?

DB: I read Robert Shearman's soon-to-be-published collection, Love Songs for the Shy and Cynical, which is fabulous and quirky and warm and wonderful. And I recently read Ellen Klages' Portable Childhoods, which is lovely and multi-layered and smart. And before these two, I read 2012 from Twelfth Planet Press, which is a collection of my favourite types of stories: near-future, frequently cataclysmic tales of a frightening future-state. Though I actually have a story of my own in 2012, so perhaps it was just self-interest that propelled me to read it!
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Find out what other authors, from Aimee Bender to Sana Krasikov, said about their collections, what the word "story" means to them, and how it feels to know that people are buying your books! More interviews >>>

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