Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Angela Slatter: Australian Short Story Queen

Angela Slatter (photo by David Pollitt)
Angela Slatter is the Australian Queen of short stories with more than 70 published titles to her name.  Her hard work and university studies have led to an initial collection 'Black-Winged Angel' and two 2010 releases 'The Girl With No Hands & Other Tales' and 'Sourdough and Other Stories'

Tell us a bit about your current University Studies.

I’m doing a PhD at QUT in creative writing. It’s a practice-led PhD, so the idea is that your creative work is your contribution to new knowledge – mine is the Sourdough Collection of interlinked fairytales, or ‘mosaic novel’. I’m now working on the exegesis, which explores how you use the form of the mosaic novel to ‘unpick’ the remembrancer in traditional fairytales; how you write a coherent story if you take away the old woman or man who in traditional tales inevitably holds a lost child’s history for them until they are ‘of age’. It’s also an exploration of memory and what happens when we are cut adrift from the collective memory of a family.

Tell us about what influenced you to pursue a career as a writer?

I’ve always been a voracious reader and I guess eventually it just morphed into a desire to tell the stories as well as read them. Writing is as much telling myself a story in the first place – keeping myself interested in where the story is going to go as much as the reader.

I scribbled for a lot of years without finishing anything, all the teenage years of writing angsty poetry and ghostly romances. Finally in 2003 I decided it was time to get serious and I sold my first story in 2005 and it was published in 2006.

Share with us your journey to getting your first short story published?
The first stories I had published came out of my MA creative work. I was lucky in that my supervisor encouraged me to send my work out – actively encouraging me to seek publication of my fiction, rather than just be an academic. My first two sales were to Shimmer and Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet.

You have two anthology of short stories released in 2010, 'The Girl With No Hands & Other Tales' and 'Sourdough and Other Stories', and you have the 'Black-winged Angel' collection of reloaded fairytales – how does it differ for you to have a whole book dedicated to you when you more often than not share the pages with other authors?
It’s quite daunting. If you’re in an anthology you’ve got a few buffers around you! You’re not the only one in the spotlight. But a single author collection means it’s just you out there on stage, trying to tap dance. The awesome thing about it is that you get to make it your very own thing. It’s what you want it to be – so you get to sink or swim all on your own!

You are currently working on two novels, tell us a bit about those?
The first one is Well of Souls, and it’s about a young witch, Zira, who flees an arranged marriage and a lute-maker called Beatriz. They end up having to try to find the legendary well of souls to locate an artefact that restores the health of the ailing. The second book is Gate of the Dead, which follows them into the well of souls and their adventure trying to save the ruler of the land they’ve ended up seeking refuge in. Publication? Will occur when I finish them and if a publisher takes up them! I do have offers to read from three publishers – I just need to carve out the time to finish the duopoly.

What has been the most surreal moment for you on your writing journey?
Going to Orbtial in 2008 and meeting China Mieville! He’s very nice, but not so surreal. Actually, I think it was at Conflux in 2008, when we launched the Jack Dann edited anthology Dreaming Again. It was quite strange sitting down signing with all the other authors and having people line up for my chicken scrawl! And then a couple of people hunted me up later for book signing – it was rather weird.

The Australian Literary Market is quite hard for local writers to break into, what advice would you give an aspiring author?
We are a bit hampered by the fact we’ve got a small population (although a comparatively large book-buying public), so the kind of market share an author gets in the US is very much larger than here. We’re competing for piece of a smaller market. Also, we only have about 20 working literary agents in Australia – not a lot for the number of writers seeking representation – and they don’t seem to be making any more!

Best advice: if you can, start with short stories, get them published in magazines and journals – don’t just focus on the Australian market, be brave and submit overseas. A publication list can help lift you out of the slush pile of an agent or a publisher, but it shows you’ve managed to finish something and you’ve got a record of achievement. Be polite to everyone you meet – it’s a small community and everyone talks. A bad reputation will travel even faster than a good one. Always research your markets, send the right stuff to the right place. Don’t be a prima donna. Join a writers centre and learn everything you can from them about the writing and publishing industry, because your job doesn’t end when you finish writing the book.

You can purchase Angela's anthologies below:
Sourdough and Other Stories http://www.tartaruspress.com/sourdough.htm

To find out EVEN MORE about Angela then check out her website:

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