This micro flash is so rich with emotional history. Can you tell us a little about the genesis of this story?
It is based on a real event. I didn’t know I had been adopted until 1988, when I was 23. I found my birthmother early in 2002, and met her a few months later. She lives in this tiny country town in the northeast of Victoria, Australia. My friend drove me there, from the city of Melbourne (about 4.5 hours), and snow was just appearing on the mountain tops. The bushfires didn’t occur that year, but the next. The images of burning and memory seemed to reflect what we had both been through to get to that point. It was as if she were standing in the middle of the remains of a great fire, that she had survived all that had happened to her when she had to give me up, and subsequently. That moment of seeing, for the first time, the woman who gave birth to me, is never to be forgotten. I carry it with me.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
In utero. I can’t remember not writing. The first story I wrote that made some impact was called The Laughing Skull. It was read out in class by the teacher. I quietly beamed, if it’s possible to do that quietly. Lots of other things have supplanted writing temporarily, but it was always there, buzzing away in the background, ready to come back when I had come to my senses. Now I have stopped pretending that there’s anything else I want to do with my life, or any other way I want to face the world.
How do you feel about flash fiction vs. other forms of literature?
It’s a completely different process, isn’t it? I really enjoyed, and benefited from, writing this 100 word piece. It made me think about each word and what it was doing there, very carefully. Every word had to work hard, or out it went.
But I don’t favour them over novels or longer stories. I think each form has its special appeal, both to write and to read. It’s exhilerating to grapple with the intensity of flash fiction, but the expansiveness of longer work gives you space to explore characters and their lives.
Are you a fan of publishing online?
I think it’s great, but I like any form of publishing. Any way to get work published is fine by me. I do think it makes work more easily accessible for those with internet access. Everyone can read it, it doesn’t matter if you don’t have any money. And it goes worldwide!
If you could spend an afternoon with one famous fictional character, who would it be?
Oh! Jane Eyre, when she’s locked in the red-room, to help her plot revenge against the horrible aunt who put her in there… Or Werther, to obsess with him about his thwarted love… Or Joseph K, to commiserate with him over living in an insane world… No, no, no! It would have to be Quentin from The Sound and the Fury… Or… Nancy from Requiem for a Nun, to just sit with her and listen. Oh God, I can never give one answer to these sorts of questions! Couldn’t I have a roomful? Or several afternoons? Or maybe I prefer to leave them be, in their own stories, without my interference…