Friday, October 19, 2012

Possessing Freedom Blog Tour: Editor Interview

Today I'm talking with the Australian Literary Review editor, and contributor to Possessing Freedom, STEVE ROSSITER.

As part of the Possessing Freedom launch, Steve is holding a Fan Fiction Competition where you could win$2,000! To enter you need to have read the book, so we're giving away three copies over three interviews. There's this interview, an interview with Rhiannon Hart on Down Under Wonderings and an interview with Belinda Dorio here on October 27.

Sharon: How did the collection of stories come about?
Possessing Freedom came about from the concept of getting a small team of writers to collaborate on an integrated collection of short stories. By an integrated collection I mean stories which share the same characters and story world. 
I wanted to provide a vehicle for some short story writers to build their skills, meet other writers and have something to help them move towards their more ambitious fiction writing goals.

As rewarding as the experience has been for Rhiannon Hart and me, who each have two stories in Possessing Freedom, this is more of a showcase for the writing of up-and-coming authors Belinda Dorio and Beau Hillier, who each have four stories in the book.

What was it like weaving a story with four different authors, and what was the process used for consistency?

The approach we went for was to make each of the twelve chapters a short story in its own right, so readers can treat the book as a novel length collection of twelve short stories that each make sense separately from one another rather than put all our eggs in one basket with a collaborative novel which depends on flawless integration, stylistic consistency and narrative flow between multiple authors – which would be very time intensive to pull off well.
While there are twelve stories, they are also divided into three novella-length groups of four stories, and these three novella-length stories, each with two narrators alternating between the four stories, could be considered to make up a single novel-length story with six narrator characters.
We had regular meetings to hammer out the large scale details as well as negotiate and clarify details which cross over between stories.
Much of the close collaborative work was on developing these four-story novella-length sections and ultimately it was up to me, with input from the others, to keep the big picture in mind and tweek things for consistency across the twelve stories.

So what attracted the team to a ghost story?
Young adult fantasy/speculative fiction was the most obvious shared interest between the authors, so that became the starting point. It was unanimous that we wanted to do something different than vampires, angels or werewolves, as a lot of writers were jumping on those bandwagons.
I think it was Belinda Dorio who suggested ghosts in a near future Melbourne setting and we ran with it.

What were some of the steps the team took to ensure consistency in characters?
Firstly, having come to the decision that each author would narrate two stories per character and be in charge of developing one or two characters, each author pitched their characters to the group and we had group discussions to further develop the characters.
Secondly, each author wrote a draft story and we discussed how the characters were developing and fitting into the overall character dynamics and plot.
Thirdly, we kept in touch while writing about other authors’ characters in the stories we narrated, asking them how their character might react or if anything in our portrayal of their character jumped out as not in keeping with that character.

Who was your favourite character to write and why?
I narrated both my stories with Damian, an intern in a hospital psych ward, but also wrote with Alice, the narrator character of two of the other stories who is a psych ward patient. I also had a doctor character Damian was working with and Alice was being treated by, called Dr Bryant, who crossed over into the stories narrated by Alice. 
Damian was my favourite character to write, largely because I was writing from his point of view. I was writing two short stories about him trying to get to the bottom of what was going on with Alice within the limitations of his role at the hospital. However, in the larger context of the story, Alice is the more important character and I enjoyed working with her character in group discussions and editing, and Damian’s relation to Alice was a large part of writing his character.

If you were a paranormal being, what would you want to be?

Hmm… There are advantages and disadvantages to consider. The history of storytelling is littered with examples of humans wanting to be supernatural beings and vice versa; such as tales of immortal beings giving up their immortality to live out a life with the mortal they love (as in the film City of Angels – or the German film Wings of Desire (aka Der Himmel Uber Berlin) on which it was based), humans trying to find a way around death (as in The Sixth Day or Frankenstein), humans trying to attain invisibility (as in The Invisible Man or Hollow Man), but there are often unforeseen problems.
Immortality would have strong advantages for developing and retaining knowledge and skills to help me make important advances in knowledge which may not otherwise be made. But this could have major complications if other people were also immortal because they might keep bad ideas around and be able to direct resources towards those ideas.

During this process did you ever break out into the Ghostbusters song?

No – but if anyone out there hasn’t seen Ghostbusters 2, check it out.

I believe Maria V Snyder workshopped the opening story, what was that like?

Maria V Snyder was kind enough to meet with Beau Hillier, Belinda Dorio and me during her tour of Australia and New Zealand last year. She workshopped the first chapter (by Belinda) and offered some useful advice which Belinda incorporated into her rewrite.

Belinda had recommended Maria’s novels to me early in our writing process. I read Inside Out and liked it, so I looked Maria up online, discovered she would be coming to Australia on tour not long after that, so I emailed her about the project and she said she’d love to meet us in Melbourne.
I also saw Maria on some panel discussions at the Byron Bay Writers’ Festival during her book tour and was impressed by her genuineness and her practical approach to discussing fiction.

What is the biggest learnings you've taken away from the process?

I guess that would be confirmation of the importance of having both a good concept and good execution. A poor concept can’t be made good by fancy language but a good concept can be brought down by poor execution, so a good concept and good execution is vital to a good story – and it’s great when you can work with writers who get both working together pretty well in the first draft.

Also, authors have different approaches to writing and bring a lot of things to their writing which they don’t deliberately think about and analyse, so each author will differ in what they consciously identify as the way they write and this will never be a full description of everything that goes into their writing.

Rapid fire questions:
Latte or cappuccino? Cappucino – but I’m not too fussed either way.
Note pad and pen or computer? A mix of both.
Magic or fists? Fists. I usually tend to prefer realism over fantasy, which can include realistic aspects to fantasy fiction, such as realistic character motivations and behaviour in a fantasy context.
Blue or green? Either
Sixth Sense or Ghostbusters? Sixth Sense
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  1. Sounds like an interesting book!

  2. Oh, and I love pixies. They're always really spunky.


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