This week one of my stories, William’s Mummy, was picked up to appear in the forthcoming Anthology, “Short Sips – Coffee House Flash Fiction Volume 2” (Wicked East Press).
The anthology will be released in the US, and it got me thinking that the last three stories I have had published have all been in US collections. What I am particularly pleased about though, is that all three stories have been distinctly and uniquely Australia in setting, character and dialogue.
William’s Mummy is set in suburban coastal Australia, whereas Clarrie’s Dam takes place in far western Outback Queensland. Uncle Alec’s Gargolye was set in Tasmania, circa 1940. They contain settings of parched red land and flood-covered grasslands; the creepy-charming beauty of the Channel region, south of Hobart; and the familiar surrounds of Aussie suburban life – thongs slapping across hot bitumen carparks and frangipani-scented air.
The characters’ Strine-peppered dialogue only adds to the sense of place and a smattering of Aussie flora and fauna underpins the whole, well, Aussie-ness of the tales. It is pleasing indeed that publishers and editors are happy to fly the flag for international writers, even if their readership may think initially that the thong in question is a derriere decoration, rather than footwear! Good on you US spec fic market (and all other international markets doing the same).
So, if you’re writing an Australian tale and don’t know how to water it down for a market across the water (if that is your intention), my advice would be don’t. Stay true to your Aussie authenticity if that’s where your story is set.
In Bryce Courtenay’s neat little book, A Recipe for Dreaming, he sums it up beautifully. Here is some of what he has to say on the subject of Australian writing:
“There is a lust for life in much of our language. It is covered in yellow dust and hardened by drought, then made soggy again with too much rain, rendered tough once more by bad times and fluffy as a lamington by good fortune yet again restored.
It is the language of an uncertain ambivalent land not yet entirely sure of who it is , though bloody certain it isn’t returning to where it came from.
Our language is laconic and often recalcitrant, but even in its lazy vowels it has a vigour; a common touch which is not being included in much of the work of Australian writers.”
And, my favourite observation:
“Too often our writers ape the English way and look at our native language as if our words were river pebbles pushed forward and tumbled by another stream of influence, a babbling English brook and not a roiling, flood rushed creek”.
This is my favourite piece of advice, not only because of the beautiful imagery Courtenay uses as analogy, but also because I have to sometimes check myself for the same thing. With a strong British heritage (and English literary heroes spanning the mid 1800’s to the mid 1900’s spec fic / horror greats), I have a tendency to want to throw in dialogue that can, at times, vary from Dickensian through to Wooster & Jeeves style banter.
It’s when I read it back that Courtenay’s words make the most sense.
So, weave that Australian culture through every aspect of your writing if that’s where your story is taking you – it will only enhance what you have to say and your readers will benefit from the authenticity of your voice.
Happy writing, happy reading and, of course, happy days. 🙂