The Writer’s Room Interviews is a new publication launched at the start of 2013 by Sydney-based author Charlotte Wood. In each issue Charlotte conducts an in-depth interview with a fellow author. “While most writer interviews appearing online or in mainstream media are necessarily focused on the promotion of new books, I would like these interviews to feel slower, calmer and deeper,” Charlotte says. In this special extract from The Writer’s Room Interviews Issue 3, award-winning author Margo Lanagan shares her thoughts on starting out as an author, her writing routine and more. ON STARTING OUT
“I embarked on the huge Fantasy Brick… it’s an exercise in over-world-building. [laughs] I built this incredible series of cultures and histories and wars and communities and landscapes, and it just got to the point where I couldn’t move a story through it. I just couldn’t keep track of it. I worked on that for about three years, toiling away, going past my deadline year after year. In the end I threw up my hands and ran away to Clarion West, a six-week short-story workshop for science fiction and fantasy writers in America.
ON BREAKING THROUGH
And that’s when I decided, ‘This is never going to happen. I am obviously not ever going to make a living as a writer, so just stop thinking of it like that. Just write the stories that are demanding to be written, rather than thinking of an idea and then thinking: audience, okay how do I pitch this to them?’ I decided to just write the stuff that needed to be coughed up, vomited up …That was how the stories in Black Juice mainly got written—and they were the ones that really started working for people, because I was putting more of myself into them.
I sit down and I write ten pages in a day. And then I stop and I try to leave it at an interesting place—I try not to leave it at the end of a scene, so I don’t have to grind myself into gear the following morning to start on something new. For a short story, for example, I’ll write right up to just before the climactic thing. I’ll know exactly what’s going to happen, and I’ll be itching to make it happen but I know I haven’t got the puff to do it today. So I’ll stop, and leave myself the treat of finishing tomorrow, knowing that I’ll do a better job of it first thing in the morning.
No, not any more. I’m not fearful… When I got to the end of my draft, that was the only time I would let myself go back and reread. And then, rereading the whole thing, I couldn’t spot the days that had been so bad. I realised my feelings are completely unreliable when it comes to judging my own work at that level, from the middle of it. I just forge on, and then come back later and see the thing as a whole. I don’t really even bother now, thinking ‘I wrote terrible stuff, I wrote shit’.
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About Margo Lanagan
Margo Lanagan is an internationally acclaimed writer of novels and short stories. Her collections of short stories have garnered many awards, nominations and shortlistings. Black Juice was a Michael L. Printz Honor Book, won two World Fantasy Awards and the Victorian Premier’s Award for Young Adult Fiction. Red Spikes won the CBCA Book of the Year: Older Readers, was a Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year, a Horn Book Fanfare title, was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize and longlisted for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. Her novel Tender Morsels won the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel and was a Michael L. Printz Honor Book for Excellence in Young Adult Literature. Margo lives in Sydney.