The Mythogenetic Grove

Interviews

Interview: Angela Slatter, Author of Locus-Nominated VIGIL

by on May.13, 2017, under Interviews, Myth, Folklore & Fairytales

What’s the best way for an author to start her day, according to Angela Slatter?
Coffee! Or the beverage of choice. And of course, this is all just how I start my day; everyone is different, but I try to start in a way that sets me up to go on in a productive manner. So: wake up, have breakfast, do 20 mins of yoga or a walk around the block. Come back, shower, put on real clothes so it feels like you’re going to do a job (not just sit at home in your PJs), then check your email and the internet for a mandated amount of time. Deal with the work emails, save the personal ones for later, don’t spend too much time on Facebook or Twitter for that way lies madness. Check your to-do list and start on the next project in order of deadlines proximity.

Don’t forget to stand up and walk around every half an hour or so to keep blood flowing, muscles moving and your back from seizing up. Make sure you have a lunch break, take it away from your desk and, again, have a mandated period of something not writing-related (like bad tv). Set an alarm so you get up and go back to work. Be wary of time as it’s a slippery thing!

What projects are you working on right now?
Right now: I’ve just this very minute finished typing up final corrections to the novel Corpselight after a two day proofreading binge, so that’s winging off to the publisher; I’m about to start a severe edit on a story called “Our Lady of Wicker Bridge” that’s due at the end of the month; I’m writing a story called “Sherlock Holmes and the Mayfair Vampire”; I’m editing the text for a picture book called Genevieve and the Dragon, illustrated by Kathleen Jennings; I’m working on the first draft of the third Verity Fassbinder novel, Restoration; I’m writing a lecture on writing horror to deliver at the Boonah Regional Writers Festival at the end of the month; I’m packing for a trip to Tasmania over Easter to do some film and tv work with Vicki Madden who wrote The Kettering Incident; and I’m working on little bits and pieces in prep for the launch of Corpselight in July. Obviously not quite working on them all at once, but they are at the top of the priority list at the moment.

Everyone has a different personal working definition of myth. There’s the macro, Campbellian “hero’s journey” kind of definition, the postmodern, and the layperson’s idea of myth as being a cognate of fairytales. What’s your working definition, as someone whose works are suffused with mythic resonance?
I’ll just go with something very simple: A traditional tale from long ago to explain things early humans didn’t understand, often using supernatural beings as the culprit. That’s very simplistic. In terms of using myth, I like the resonance, I like to creating a feeling of having a myth brush up against my stories and leave a trace but not necessarily their own shape there.

Which of your collections that you’ve authored are dearest to you, and why?
Oh! That’s a hard choice, but since I always force people to choose between their babies it’s only fair it happen to me! Probably (and this is as at April 2017) The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings. Why? Because it felt like a huge “click” moment for me in terms of writing craft and skill, like I’d levelled up what I was able to create as a writer. I love all my babies, but Bitterwood feels like the one that become self-aware fastest … which makes it sound like Skynet … also, it has illustrations by Kathleen Jennings!

Name your five favourite fairytales?
The Little Match Girl; Donkeyskin/Catskin/All-Fur; Tatterhood; The Robber Bridegroom; Fitcher’s Bird.

One of the things I love best about your work is the manner in which you seamlessly weave in aspects of the Gothic with fantasy motifs, and those of fairytales. I suspect, like me, you’ve read Angela Carter’s treatise on how the fairytale is inherently Gothic, but I also feel you’d have new insight because your stories have the richness of someone who lives and breathes these Gothic markers. Would you like to talk a bit about that?
I have read a lot of Carter for academic purposes, but I suspect none of that is foremost in my mind when I write. I think that my years and years of reading before I ever thought of writing as a proper career have just laid down a layer of gothic and fairy tale-y sensibility that you couldn’t separate from me now. Reading original fairy tales, reading Carter and Tanith Lee and the Brontë Sisters and the like have all just left an indelible mark on how I think when I’m telling a story.

Yes, the fairy tale is inherently Gothic … but the fairy tales came first, so maybe the Gothic is actually inherently fairy tale-y? All the things that are frightening in the Gothic mystery: darkness, the unknown, family members that are dangerous to us, mysteries to be uncovered, the fate of overly curious kids (generally girls), are all markers of the fairy tale … just a thought.

 What will you be working on after you’re done with the Verity Fassbinder books?
I will be turning a novella (unpublished) The Briar Book of the Dead, into a novel – it’s set in the Sourdough world, so I’m really looking forward to doing a novel-length work there. And I’ll be finalising the third Sourdough world collection The Tallow-Wife and Other Tales. I also have a couple of novels I’d like to go back to (Well of Souls and Gate of the Dead) now that I know more about novel writing, and I want to finish Morwood and Blackwater, which are standalone gothic novels. And I would like to start working on a Sourdough graphic novel series.

What’s your advice for authors like us who are working on our craft during troubling times?
Be true to yourself. Be generous to others. If you get a chance make space for diverse writers who maybe are not getting a look in with publishers – if you’ve got some degree of power or influence, use it in a good and positive way. Don’t do favours in expectation of thanks, but just because it’s good for your karma. And if someone does favours for you, then be grateful, express your thanks, and don’t keep asking for more.

And in times like these it’s sometimes hard to keep going because you wonder about the importance of what you do – rest assured it IS important. What we do keeps independent thought alive, gives hope, points a finger at naked emperors and reminds everyone that following the crowd isn’t a good idea, and that not speaking out because you’re worried about what others think is the worst idea ever, because silence is what gives bullies room and encouragement to grow.

What’s the best way for an author to end her day?
For this author in particular it’s dinner with housemates, then watching a program together, then playing some Elder Scrolls Online, and finally going to sleep with a book or graphic novel (I’m partial to re-reading Mike Mignola’s Hellboy and Pretty Deadly by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Ríos, and at the moment am re-reading Monstress by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda and yearning for the next trade issue of it).



BIOGRAPHY: Angela’s debut novel, Vigil, was released by Jo Fletcher Books in 2016, with Corpselight and Restoration to follow in 2017 and 2018. She is the author of eight short story collections. Angela has won a World Fantasy Award, a British Fantasy Award, one Ditmar Award, and five Aurealis Awards. Angela has been a Queensland Writers Fellow, the Established Writer-in-Residence at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre, and received career development grants from Arts Queensland and the Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund. She has an MA and a PhD in Creative Writing. Angela has just been nominated for a Locus Award for her Vigil.

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