2007 Snapshot Archive: Stephanie Campisi

Interviewed by Ben Payne

First published at ASiF!

I was planning to describe Stephanie Campisi as an up-and-comer, but having read her answer to question 3, I think I’ll refrain. Instead I’ll simply say that she has had several stories published in various venues that I, and numerous other people, have enjoyed.

1. You’ve achieved quite a good reputation in a relatively short time as one of the new writers to watch around the place, chiefly by selling interesting stories to interesting places. Did you start out with a plan at all and are you happy with the way your career is moving?

Heh, it hasn’t really been a consideration for me, really. I’m not even sure that ‘plan’ and ‘career’ are part of my active vocabulary. I’m still at uni, so obviously I have other priorities at the moment, although I think writing’s going to be one of those frustrating things that I keep coming back to. I’ve been working on and off on a couple of novels, although I think I’ll probably remain focussed on short stories, which in my mind lend themselves to greater diversity and madness than do longer works. (My dreadfully short attention span might have something to do with this, too.)

2. Your work stands out as being some of the most stylistically adventurous coming out of the local scene at the moment. Is this the kind of writing you most enjoy? Do you see yourself as part of or influenced by international scenes and movements like the New Weird?

Nah, I see myself as pretty removed from these strange labels and so-called movements. I guess some of my stuff could fit in to various niches here and there, but I’m not really interested in being categorised in such a way, particularly at this stage, when I’m virtually brand new to writing. Hopefully in five to ten years’ time I’ll have a clearer idea of where I’m heading, but I’m pretty sure it’s away from speculative fiction, to be honest. I lean towards fiction that’s very slight in terms of narrative and in terms of its speculative element–I’m in it for my adoration of language and of heartbreaking love stories.

Absolutely, I love the craziness and no-holds-barred insanity that can come out in writing, the way you can be breathlessly dragged along by a never-ending sentence and a torrent of words, and how the quiet, painful opposite can be true, too. The written word allows for so much stylistically and visually–take even white space on the page, and the repetition and/or contrasting of certain sounds–so teasing that out and playing around with it and mutilating the language a little can add so much more to a simple narrative. Who needs narrative, anyway?

3. As a relative newcomer to the genre scene here, what’s your perception of the local scene? What are the things you like or dislike most about it?

I’m not so aware of it, really, being a bit younger and a bit more out of the way and a bit more reclusive–just sort of what I glean from people’s blogs and the odd interview or what-have-you here and there. The insularity and cliquish and almost-incestuos feel of it I find a little strange, as well as what sort of seems to be a celebration of, well, not so much mediocrity (although I’m sure that’s the case in certain instances), but of the achievement of what, in the scheme of things, is really bugger all. From what I’ve seen (well, read) there’s definitely this weird thing going on where people are lauded by the scene as up-and-comers or whatever, and I think contextualise themselves incorrectly as the Next Big Thing or as an Established Writer, and go about men! toring people and the like when really they’re pretty much irrelevant in the eyes of anyone who isn’t part of the scene.

I guess, being a ‘regular’ readery-writery person rather than anyone involved in this eerily-named ‘scene’, seeing people ooh and ahh over obscure names and bolding them on the covers of books and magazines. . .it’s strange. The names people in the scene use as selling points are pretty much totally unknown to me, and I’m guessing to a lot of others.

I mean, someone thought it was a good idea to ask me to answer questions. . .and the only people who know about me are the ones who come to my blog after googling pics of Amber Campisi in Playboy.

4. Enough about your own writing. What have you particularly enjoyed reading in recent times?

Orhan Pamuk’s The Black Book, which is just amazingly, supremely brilliant, stylistically, and in terms of the gentle, beautiful narrative, and Kenzaburo Oe’s Rouse Up, O Young Men of the New Age! which is devastating and powerful and so effective in the way the story is filtered through Blake’s poetry. I’m currently reading Yasunari Kawabata’s Palm-Of-The-Hand Stories, many of which bring me to tears. . .I just sit there in silence staring out at nothing after reading them. They’re superb–these tiny stories, a couple of pages at most, hauntingly simple, violently intense. I think I’ve read ea! ch story half a dozen times so far, just marvelling at how cryptic and well-designed they are: every word, every sentence seems to function on so many levels.

What else? Borges, Chekhov, William S Burroughs, Olga Grushin, 70s feminist poetry. . .my whole life is just a sordid literary love affair.

5. 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?

I really shouldn’t say Raskol’nikov, should I?

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