My December author interview is with paranormal Aussie writer L. L. Hunter
Tag: speculative fiction
The ghost stares me down from behind the glass. I’d been balancing on my wooden ladder, arm stretched out to light up the gas, minding my own business, when there were its black lips grinning, its veil rippling back even though there’s no wind inside the lamp. My heart leaps but I tap my hat – Ma’s always telling me its best to be painfully polite to a fault and I can tell this ghost is quality – and say, “how d’yer do,” as the lamp’s flame burns through its chest.
Its mouth stretches and I can smell decay, and something vinegar sharp. “Aren’t you afraid, good Sir? It’s October after all, and though I hate to point it out, you’ve got a long drop if you lose your grip.” Its voice is low and deep, a matron’s voice.
My heart’s hammering fit to wake the dead now – too bad that someone already has – and I dig nails tighter into my precarious perch. Just in time. With a sudden whoosh of cold air, the ghost’s floating, its nose to mine. An ache spreads through my chest, like the winter chill. Suddenly, I’m glad I have my knife in my pocket.
She’s a woman. I can tell ‘coz she’s all in dusty white, her crinoline showing off full skirted splendour and lace at the bust. Her starched cotton gown is dry against my knuckles, dry as animal carcass salted within an inch of its life, and I kind of like it. Reminds me of that time Lucy let me stroke the triangle of stiff linen at her lap. Poor Luce married off to that drunkard, Willie. Free Willie, we call him, on account of his easy way with the young girls at his inn. She might be respectable now, all chignon buns and silks and furs and in a good strip of London where the posh toffs go but—Well, I was glad to leave her sitting at my kitchen this morning. I’d promised her I’d not make her go back, that she could stay with me as long as she needed, until she found her feet.
“Don’t you want to know why I’ve appeared?” The ghost lady asks politely. “I’m told most people do.”
I run through my worst transgressions as fast as I can. Until this job, I stole watches on the corner, pickpocketed coin while I boot-blacked, guarded a brothel.
“None of that,” she says, amused. “Petty, small things, and you needed to do them to survive. I’m no sanctimonious rich philanthropist in the House of Lords to lecture you.”
“Can’t say I do know then,” I say. “And if it’s all the same to you, I’d much rather you left.”
“I can’t do that,” she says. “You see, you’re a good man with a good heart.”
“What’s that got to do with anything?”
“You see those men scurrying away in the shadows?” She says.
I look down towards the dark park lined by brass fencing and see four of ‘em, top hats pulled over their heads, toiling away with a coffin on their shoulders.
“They’re grave-robbers and know full well you’re a watchman as much as a lamp lighter. They’d have stabbed you easy as winking afore your knife could flash.”
Cor, I could see she were right. If I’d have shimmied down a minute or so earlier, I’d have happened upon ‘em … “Here,” I say suspiciously. “Why d’ya care so much ‘bout my mortal coil?”
She’s crying now, clear tears sizzling as they hit the air and vanish. “I was William’s first wife. Ran away from a respectable home to be with him and he beat me until I died, a bloody pile of rags. Your Luce was smarter than me. She got away.”
I’m gaping. The ghost is already breaking up, wisping at the edges like a thread pulled loose. She won’t be with me much longer and still I can’t think of anything to say.
“You could try thank you,” she laughs, sounding faint as her mouth smudges out like chalk wiped from a blackboard.
“Thanks,” I whisper, thinking of what woulda happened to Lucy had I not come home.
But the ghost’s already gone.
Well. What a whirlwind weekend I had in Canberra with the Conflux Writers Day and the 2014 Aurealis Awards. This is the second time I’ve attended the Aurealis and I hope that I can continue to keep attending to support nominees and to have a really great time at the after party! It was nice for Nicole Murphy and Co. to organize a professional Writers Day before the Aurealis too, because it added that extra incentive for people to attend the big speculative fiction night!
Others have already covered the Aurealis so I want to briefly cover the Conflux Writers Day.
The day kicked off with Joanne Anderton teaching us about ways to create working worlds. I loved her road test for a coherent story and world: World’s need to be based on ‘what if?’ ideas but you need to test the idea with a ‘so what?’ follow up. In other words, keep worlds as simple as the story needs to be, don’t let the world get in the way of the story. Anything that isn’t relevant to the story will need to be deleted on an edit.
The second Plenary Session was on using minutes when you don’t have the hours and was delivered by the awesome Kaaron Warren. I found this talk to be one of the many highlights of the day simply because Kaaron said some things that were confronting to me as a writer that are also obvious if we are to come at writing as a professional business! Kaaron let us all know in no uncertain terms that writers need to write for continuity and to stay professional. A special time and a special place isn’t necessary! Writing is in our head (ideas) and our hands (from paper to pen) and there’s no point in waiting for time and inspiration. It will never come! This was timely advice for me as I start a new full time job and wonder how on earth I’ll get all of the projects I’m working on done by the end of the year!
After the Plenary lectures, were a host of speed date style 20 minute talks on various aspects of writing processes, writing skills, submitting and publishing and building your career as an author. I enjoyed the very quick run down on six mistakes first time writers make (not reading enough, not learning craft of writing, not knowing where to start, not knowing story structure, forgetting the show don’t tell rule and inconsistent POV). Next up was an equally helpful session on Character Motivation. I was very excited after this one as the session addressed numerous problems I have been happening with my first novel. Motivation is shaped by deep desires and fundamental fears and the reader must always know both.
A quick break and then we sped through the essential elements of the novel with Chris Andrews and then learnt all about word frequency analysis as a self editing tool. After this talk, I was convinced more than ever that Scrivener may well be a good investment! I attended two talks on research- one by Rob Porteous and one by Cat Sparks, with both covering different aspects of the uses of research which were incredibly helpful for me as I work on my second ms. I particularly liked Rob’s tricks for generating speculative language and names and Cat’s tip regarding spot research.
We ended the day on two more Plenary lectures. The first, from Ian McHugh, addressed submitting short stories and dealing with rejection again and again and again. I haven’t tried submitting short stories anywhere yet but Ian inspired me and I know I need to start! Rejection is all part of the author game! I found the pithy advice of ‘have doubts, ignore doubts, keep enough irons in the fire (10 stories at a time), show off (accept praise when story accepted) and be afraid but do it anyway!’ to be short but helpful.
The last lecture ended the day on a positive note with an author success story. I loved hearing from Keri Arthur about the trials and tribulations of making it to the New York Times Best Seller list and sat in awe when she told us she wrote five pages every day! No wonder she is so prolific!
You can see photos from the Conflux Writers Day and the Aurealis Awards Here. Photos all copyright Cat Sparks.