In ten words or less, what is A Brilliant Fire about?
A slightly refracted Australia
Do you imagine more stories taking place in the world of ‘A Brilliant Fire’?
I guess the thing with alternative history – and SF/fantasy more broadly – is that it affords the creative space to keep extrapolating on a certain scenario or character or whatever (Point in case: Harry Turtledove). So it might be an interesting exercise to flesh out The Northern Fires as a standalone piece, for example – but I think I’ll let this particular sleeping dog lie.
What works did you find helpful or inspirational while writing the story?
At the time I first got the idea – several years ago, during a red-eyed, late-night brainwave – I was reading a fair bit of Australian WW2 history, which included material about Sir Ivor Hele. He is someone I’ve always admired, a wonderful artist that vividly portrayed Australian involvement in WW2 and Korea (among other things).
What is your writing process like? Are you a regimented writer? Do you have daily word limits? Do you outline?
My process is completely haphazard, which often results in poor productivity and completion rates. Some days, I’ll hammer out hundreds, even thousands of words; other days, I’ll make it through a quarter of Wikipedia and possibly also get a sentence down. Working for a newspaper has helped shift the balance towards the former, thank Christ. I’ll usually scratch out a concept in my notebook, then make a start on the laptop – once the opening pars are down, I start to map out the rest of a story in dot points.
Do you find the process of writing relaxing?
Not really. Deadlines and/or personal pressures to get it right tend to scream pretty loud and shatter any hopes of attaining Zen by Times New Roman. The postpartum endorphin rush that comes from having completed something is about the most relaxing part of the process!
What do you consider a fiction writer’s greatest responsibility to be?
To entertain, I suppose. There has been fiction that has done much more than that – it has inspired cultural movements, social change, political discourse, even “religion”. But none of these things would’ve happened if the initial story hadn’t been engaging for the reader.
If you could leave you day job on Monday, what project would you begin working on?
I have notebooks full of unfleshed ideas, so I’d like to sit down and go through those and pick out some of the salvageable stuff. The options veer wildly from films scripts to short stories to the obligatory novels, so the project of choice would depend on mood rings, star signs, side of the bed I got out of and other such scientific determinants.
What are you watching/ reading/ enjoying at the moment?
Like the rest of the developed world (and then some), I’m enjoying the seasonal transition from Walking Dead to Game of Thrones. Just started reading The Twenty Thousand Thieves by Eric Lambert. Finally cracked open FarCry 3 last night, though Forza Horizon is still my gaming love of the moment. And went to see Oblivion recently – impressive concepts and visuals let down by some tired cliches.
You appear to have story ideas across a number of different mediums. What is your preferred storytelling platform and why?
Ideas is the operative part there – so many grand plans awaiting fruition! If my creative output was a burning house, and the aforementioned mediums were my children trapped inside, I suppose I’d rescue straight-up fiction. Even though it will probably grow up to be the child that starts hating me for no apparent reason and eventually spurns me altogether at the behest of some nasty cult, The Broken Dreamers or Incomplete Projects Brotherhood or similar.
If you could collaborate with anybody, living or dead, who would it be? And how would the partnership work?
Stephen King. For one, he’s responsible for my early adolescent graduation from “Choose Your Own Adventure” books to triple figure page-length novels. Moreover, he’s also the man who introduced me to SF/fantasy and generally far-out, fucked-up concepts in fiction. I don’t know if I would want to collaborate with him – that’s to say, I don’t think I’m worthy of a double billing with Mr King. But there’s a short story of his that is screaming for a film adaptation – and with the right (re-) writer, it could even be set here in Australia.
If you could give a fiction book to any one person, living or dead, who would it be?
I’d go back in time to early 2004, hand a copy of The Latham Diaries to its notoriously passionate author and say, “Consider your next moves – and handshakes – very, very carefully”.
And finally, what are you working on? What have you finished? Where can we find it??? And what’s next for Mr Doug Fry?
As noted in my post-story bio, I’ve written the script for a SF graphic novel, and the artwork is currently being done by the very talented Alice Carroll (alicecarroll.net). Some of my non-fiction work is archived at canberratimes.com.au and on my spiderweb-clad website (dfry.com.au). Looking to the future (haha), the possibilities are thousandfold – just have to settle on the most feasible ones in the notebook, I suppose.