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.
with Deborah Biancotti
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.
have a collection in mind when you were writing them?
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?!
you choose which stories to include and in what order?
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!
does the word "story"
mean to you?
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."
Do you have a reader in mind when you write stories?
She said, "It's not a story! It's real!"
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.
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.
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?"
it feel knowing that people are buying your book?
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.
What are you working on now?
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.
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!