Christopher Currie is an award-winning fiction writer, whose first YA novel, Clancy of the Undertow, took the Australian YA scene by storm. AWM intern TJ Wilkshire took some time to talk to Chris about the writing process, small towns, and writing as a bookseller.
I am (very slowly) working on another YA novel. This one is a bit different in tone to Clancy of the Undertow. Think bad schools, zombies and middle distance running.
Has your process of writing changed since the publication of your first book? If it has, how so?
Anyone’s first book is more often than not a reflection of the author’s own experiences, and carries the baggage of many, many drafts. This was certainly the case with The Ottoman Motel. As it was a mystery novel, any rewrites meant tiny changes to many, many parts of the story, which added up to a long editing process. Clancy was written and edited much more quickly, partly because it was a more straightforward story, and partly because I had become better at writing longer pieces. At the moment, I’m primary carer of a six month-old baby, so my writing routine is virtually non-existent at the moment unfortunately, but I am able to grab snatches of time here and there!
Your novels are largely based around small rural towns. What inspires you to have your characters those places?
Basically because I grew up in one. Ottoman came more out of a fascination with Australian coastal tourist towns, especially what they become in winter when their primary economic purpose disappears. The town of Barwen, in Clancy is much more similar to the town I grew up in, i.e. regional and arterial.
Between 2008 and 2009 you did a project on your blog called 365 stories, where you tried to write a story per day. That’s an incredible undertaking. What did you learn through this process, and is it a project you’d recommend to other writers?
I learned that shame is a great motivator. I told as many people as I could (especially other writers) that I was doing it, which meant I felt compelled not to stop. Most pertinently, I learned the importance of routine to a writer. Even though I’m not necessarily doing it at the moment, regular daily writing will make you better. I would thoroughly recommend it to other writers, providing you’re up to the challenge!
It’s a double-edged sword, really, as you obviously become inspired by other books (and your market knowledge increases), but you also get a glimpse into the economic realities of book retail. You see how short a time each book has to make an impact, and how such small things as cover design, marketing and reviews have on a book’s life. I have gotten slightly better at recommending my own books to customers, but it still makes me a little queasy.
You can read more about Christopher Currie here.
TJ Wilkshire is a twenty-something Brisbane based artist and writer. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Writing and English Literature and is currently studying the WEP Masters at the University of Queensland. Her work focuses on birds and she hopes to one-day turn into one. Wilkshire’s poetry has been published in Peril and Uneven Floor, and won the NotJack Competition.