2016 Snapshot: Claire McKenna

Interview by Tehani Wessely.

Claire Photo

What short stories or other work have you published recently?

I’ve been super-slack which I shall attribute to being super busy! (And also super late with this Snapshot…)

In terms of short story publishing I’ve only had one 2016 short story published – in keeping with my incredibly high output of one story a year (ehhh, it gets me into writer parties). That would be “The Autumn Dog Cannot Live To Spring” for the Fablecroft “In Your Face” Anthology. “Autumn Dog” actually won the Cross Genre Award during the 2013 (I think!) Scarlet Stiletto Crime Fiction Awards, so I was happy for it to see the light of day!

Last year I experimented with some self-publishing, which was super-intense and OMG Learning Curve. I’m glad I did it, if only to be up to speed with some of the challenges that independent author publishing brings, and to bust a few myths that I’d probably internalised in the process. I also learnt how to make an epub/mobi file from a Word document, which these days is becoming more and more prevalent. Even Aurealis judges are asking for epub files rather than hard copy documents these says. Such a useful skill.

I understand you have a biology degree – how does that influence your fiction and your world view in general?

Sometimes I think it is less these days, as there have been so many leaps and bounds in scientific discoveries since my degree. But then the basic stuff is still there, the truism that a carbon atom is really just a really small sticky Lego block and all animals past jellyfish (a bag) are just variations on a tube. And DNA does its thing inside just about everything from plants to viruses to people.

I always hope to stumble on a really interesting little factoid that can be used to inform a story, something like the diesel engine was initially invented to run on vegetable oil. This became the backbone of “The Marriage Of The Corn King” which got me my Aurealis Nomination last year!

Can you tell us what are you working on at the moment that we might see in the next year or so?

I’m working on getting a mystery-with-touch-of-magic-realism novel ready for submission ready for an agent at the moment. It’s been a year of back-and-forth, three-way Skypes in the middle of the night, huge rewrites from my end because I see the mistakes as huge monstrosities. This week the real story came out from the bones of the old one. Who knows, if it sold this year maybe it would be published LATE next year!

My other big project is a fantasy decology that I’ve been developing for years. Whether it shows up as self-published or I offer it to a publisher is the big question. I had a previous agent with whom the project didn’t survive with – she was leaving the industry so I was caught up in submission hell and bad timing unfortunately.

I’m sure I’ll find time for my one-a-year short story of course.

What Australian work have you loved recently?

Oh, Angela Slatter is just excellent. Other than that I’ve brought shame upon my family by not reading enough this year.

Which author (living or dead) would you most like to sit next to on a long plane trip and why?

Easily Jeff Long, who is an American writer of mountaineering fiction. He’s not as well known as he should be, but infamously had “Cliffhanger”, the Sylvester Stallone movie, sort of script-stolen from him.


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