Interviewed by Kaaron Warren
Kylie Seluka has well-reviewed short stories in Fantastic Wonder Stories and Outcast, with upcoming publication Daikaiju2. She received a 2 week Fellowship at Varuna.
Q1: You seem to be gaining a name as a writer of short fiction with a voice all your own. Are you concentrating on short stories, or do you have a novel in the works?
I really enjoy writing shorts – exploring an idea/concept/character. I can also see my development as a writer in them (fortunately no one will ever see some of my early stories!). I am actually learning to write with them and I have the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild to thank for that – lots of people willing to give up their time to support, crit, mentor etc.
And yes I do have the ubiquitous novel in the works – a YA fantasy with a setting based on a ‘pre European’ Indonesian environment and culture (who would’ve thunk!) It’s currently called “The Song of the Phoenix”. I’ve finished the draft (yay!) and hope to workout what to do with it while at Varuna or maybe I’ll start something new. I do find that I tend to think of stories in novel length. I have lots of ideas burning away – a Celtic ghost love story; a feminist fantasy.
Q2: Kylie, I’ve noticed in your stories you have two major influences. There is a very ‘islander’ feel to some of your work, and then others have an esoteric, pagan sense to them. Can you tell me how these two things came to be important in your work?
I think there are several reasons for that. My experiences of marrying a Samoan and then living in a Samoan village (in our little hut) as well as studying and traveling in Indonesia have significantly influenced the way I view the world. Plus my early childhood was spent in an Aboriginal community, Northern Territory. I teach about these places/ peoples/ cultures to students and for many of them it is a completely different world to their own. So I have had to build bridges of understanding by telling stories – making connections in ‘their world’ to ‘other worlds’. It could be why those sorts of worlds are easier for me to fall into. I also find them fascinating and in exploring them I learn so much more about my own ‘world’ and beliefs.
The esoteric/pagan sense would also come from a more personal journey of exploration of the spirit and spiritual beliefs. I probably should explore ‘pagan’ markets more as I think people on that similar journey would see different things in my stories compared to what others might.
Q3: Do you have a five year plan? This is a question you like to ask others, so, what about you? How about some dream markets you’d like to sell to? How does teaching fit into this plan?
Aah teaching. Every time I think of looking for something else to do I am drawn back to the fact that I love teaching – it’s the marking that I absolutely despise. I have been teaching 11-16 year olds for a long time now and I think I would like to teach older students. So I am looking for a way to be able to teach in a different environment with perhaps more time to write. I also feel the need to live closer to water as it does something wonderful to the creative part of my brain. As to writing – I’m still in the beginning stages of developing that skill but it’s very addictive. There’s something about writing that makes you want to say – “Fuck it! I don’t need money to live as long as I can write whenever I want!” Sigh. I hope that in five years time I have written a couple of novels and at least sold one. I also hope I am still writing short stories – and selling them. I can’t imagine what else I’d want to be doing.
Dream markets are those that big world wide ones that pay really well. So then I can say – “Fuck it! I can write whatever I want, whenever I want to because I’m getting good money for it!”
Q4. Enough about the writing, what’s the best thing you’ve read this year?
I read ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ with my English class. It’s pretty hard to beat that though I have just finished Phillip Pullman’s ‘Northern Lights’ and that was depressingly excellent. Also the ‘Path of Revenge’ – first book in Russell Kirkpatrick’s new series was a bloody good read.
Q5. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, you’re given the opportunity to get it on with the fictional character you fancy most. Who’s it gonna be and why?
I do have a bit of a penchant for the very Scottish Mr James Fraser in Diana Gabaldan’s time travel series – brave, passionate, some one you can lean on, good sense of humour and general enthusiasm for some good old bonking. (though I’ve just remembered he’s quite hairy… hmm I’d ask him get a back wax first).