ANGELA REGA is a school librarian who spends her days telling stories and reading to teenagers. She has had long love affair with folklore, fairy tales and furry creatures but often falls in love with poetry. She drinks way too much coffee and can’t imagine not writing. She keeps a very small website here: angierega.webs.com
1. Many of your stories have been based in folklore and fairy tales. What draws you to work with these stories?
Both folklore and fairy tale are as important to me as my morning coffee.
I was raised in migrant story-telling household where nobody finished a sentence in the same language. My grandmother couldn’t read so she would tell us stories. My sister and I were the first people in our family to get a secondary and tertiary education; this was a big deal for us but as the written word took over and so does the language and the world you live in, so much of how I was raised is now forgotten in terms of language and how meaning is made. I think this is why I am still deeply entrenched and in love with that oral tradition that stems from folklore.
Folkore and folk tales contain disappearing histories. Fairy tales delve into experiential archetypes. This is what draws me to these stories, I guess. I go to them for comfort, for understanding, to make sense of the world, and sometimes, just to be entertained.
2. In one of your most recent stories, ‘Shedding Skin‘ (Crossed Genres), your heroine and the object of her interest, if not desire, are a shapechanging dingo and crow. Is the idea of transformation important to your work? Ideas of body image and identity are probably things you see often as a school librarian …
The idea of transformation is important to my work. The shedding of skins, feathers and scales appear all deal with, in essence, a return to the true, authentic and instinctual selves. Working as a school librarian I’m also often intrigued at how it is these tales of transformation that draw teens like magnets. I think it is because these tales deal with personal identity and body image in a symbolic and metaphorical way.
Transformation tales are, in essence about deep truths. I guess they keep reminding us to be honest with ourselves. As we get older, this becomes harder and harder to do. Guess that is a benefit of working with teens on a daily basis. They keep you honest, authentic, true and open.
3. Your beautiful book The Cobbler Mage came out last year in two languages. In what ways do you find your heritage appearing in your work? Do you have anything similar coming up (what’s next?)?
Thank you for the lovely compliment! The Cobbler Mage came out in English and Italian and may also be translated into French given its setting and subject matter. I was very moved to read the Italian translation of the text because Italian was my first language whereas now I barely use it all. It was a strange experience reading my story back in my first language!
I don’t have anything similar coming up next – I’ve written the first of a series of short stories about ‘totem girls’ and I’m working on a novel that is not speculative but deals with the Australian migrant experience, exile both self-imposed and imposed by another force, and the dispossession of personal memories and reconciliation in family dysfunctional relationships.
Although, having said that, I do have a few stories drafted set within the Cobbler Mage’s world that may get pulled out of the drawer and given a spit-polish.
4. What Australian works have you loved recently?
I have loved quite a few stories recently not all speculative but all Australian. My top five for the moment would be:
- Christos Tsolkias’s novel Barracuda because Tsolkias gives a voice to the Australian migrant experience and reading his work over the years validated my experiences in so many ways.
- Questions of Travel by Michelle De Krester.
- Juliet Marillier’s short story collection Prickle Moon published by Ticonderoga Publications.
- Janeen Webb’s collection, Death at the Blue Elephant, published by Ticonderoga Publications.
- My dear friend, Suzanne J Willis’s short story ‘No.34 Glad Avenue’, published by Fablecroft in One Small Step which will be appearing in the anthology Time Travel: Recent Trips by Prime Books edited by Paula Guran.
- And of course, I adore ANYTHING written by the amazing Angela Slatter who writes some of the most lyrically dark fairy tales I have ever read. My favourite collection being The Girl With No Hands.
5. Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?
I have tried the e-book thing – as a school librarian it is a great motivator for getting hesitant readers to engage with a book. You know, give them a gadget and they’re sold.
For me, personally, I am a romantic at heart – my love for books is in volumes (pardon the pun). Bound within that is my love for the three dimensional object the book. I like the way a book smells and how a once very much loved book feels. And I like the fact that if I deeply love a book, and want to say how much I love the story, then I can hold it close to my chest and press it against my heart. Sorry! I am a hopeless romantic!