Claire McKenna is a writer and Clarion South Writers Workshop graduate who lives in the infamous Melbourne suburb of Frankston along with a big boy and a little boy. She started writing short stories over 20 years ago and is now too entrenched in the habit to give it up, content with serial offending in awards such as the Scarlet Stiletto, Writers of the Future, Aurealis, Ditmar. Katherine Suzannah Pritchard and those old stalwarts, various SF convention fiction awards. Her latest works have been published in Cosmos, the CSFG anthology and Peggy Bright Books.
Your story ‘Yard’ was recently published in Use Only As Directed by Peggy Bright Books. Can you tell us a bit about ‘Yard’, and other short stories that you are writing currently?
Well, YARD came from a few true events, we moved from a nice house a few years ago to a crappy cottage, and within a week the nice back yard went feral. Later on one of the neighbours would tell us that there’s a natural spring under the street, and the groundwater is affected by the tides from the nearby beach. So as a result of that, everything is green, even in the middle of summer. We demolished the house and razed the topsoil. Our lawn grew back, I swear. No idea how. It’s monstrous. I kind of wondered if it would be possible to hide a body in it, as you do.
As for other short stories, one day I’ll get the urge and I’ll finish the dozen or so half-completed or nearly-finished shorts on my Dropbox. I’m concentrating on breaking into the novel market at the moment, but I’ll have stuff on standby if people contact me for content on their anthologies at last minute! I think my recent writing career consists entirely of last minute requests. Not that I mind, I like the added push.
Can you tell us about some of your earlier work, such as ‘What the Tide Brings’ and ‘Dark and Secret Places’? Which of your published works are you most fond of, and why?
‘Tide’, is my favourite definitely. It got me my Aurealis nomination back in the dim recesses of history. I love anything with ocean motifs in it. The story is also part of a larger worldbuilt universe that I’ll explore one day.
‘Dark and Secret Places’ was written to novel length ten years ago. I got as far as an R&R with a prospective agent before I realised I was not happy with the changes she wanted me to make, and if I published it, the story would be effectively set in stone. I guess I was still developing things in my head in terms of worldbuilding and plot-hole filling, and in the decade it’s moved away from an X-Filesy investigative procedural story and into something much deeper (and wonderful).
You talk about your Pie In Sky Project on your blog. Tell us a bit about this work in progress. How far in are you, what goes on in it, and when might it be ready for consumption?
I had two major ones, code-named Experimental Novel and Pie In The Sky. Both are completed and are in submission hell. (This interview has fallen right in the purgatory period.) At the time of writing this I’m actively shopping them around, and in terms of how far I’ve gotten? I’m in the checkout aisle with both of them and I have my Rewards Card out, if you know what I mean. There may be news soon. Everyone who reads this is probably on my Facebook, so I have more updates there. (One of the reasons I took so long is due to my hoping for something concrete to report!)
What Australian works have you loved recently?
Oh, Andrew Macrae’s TRUCKSONG through Twelfth Planet Press is brilliant. I love cyberpunk, one day it will come back and we will all rejoice and drag out our manuscripts featuring cyborgs and ennui! I heard Andy is thinking of turning it into a graphic novel, which would be awesome. It’s got some great images, of especially the wild brumby trucks in the desert. I was honoured to be able to film the Trucksong launch at Continuum recently, and then to put all the pieces of footage together without the aid of sound synching. It made me miss my old filmmaking days.
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 had to make a big decision – well several big decisions – over the last few years. What do I want? I could get my books ‘published’ tomorrow if I went the self-pub route. It seems such an easy step to take, though in reality it’s so hard in execution, especially to do it well. And sometimes I see other people do it and let’s face it, they’ve at least got something to sell to earn them the tag of writer, and a cool cover to put on their website and ACTUAL PRODUCT, while I sometimes feel I’m languishing. But I’ve committed to trade publishing and the support of other writers in the community has been brilliant.
I sometimes think they’re a bit like the tricycle kid from the Incredibles movie, the one who sits outside the retired Mr. Incredible’s house waiting for him to do something amazing. So I guess that’s where I’d love to be in five years!