Stephen M. Irwin is a Brisbane-based writer of speculative fiction and an award-winning director and screenwriter – Car Pool won Best Comedy at the 2007 St Kilda Film Festival and in 2008 Ascension won Best Short, Sci-Fi London. His first novel, The Dead Path, was named a Top Horror Title in the American Library Association’s reading list in 2011 and won the Doubleday Book of the Month Club First Fiction Award in 2010. His short fiction and poetry have been published around the world. He says of his early career: “[My] tertiary study in film production led to a career in restaurant and handyman work.”
His newest novel, The Broken Ones, will be launched tonight! Below he talks about danishes and the very real risk of DSB.
1. Why Horror?
What’s horror? Where do the borders lie? Where does ‘ghost story’ end, ‘thriller’ begin, and ‘horror’ sweep over both like some kind of weird sundial shadow? I was quite surprised when my first novel, The Dead Path, was described as ‘horror’. I didn’t see it as a horror. I didn’t set out to write a horror. I just set out to write a story. A story with ghosts, and Grimm-style nasties … but not a genre piece. But, I guess it’s inevitable that people like to categorise. That said, I think there is such rich and wonderful overlap between genres today that jumping too readily into taxonomy of novels brings serious risks – if the pigeonholing is wrong, some readers will be disappointed, others may miss out. My new novel, The Broken Ones, has been described as a ghost story, as a horror story, and as a police procedural. I’m hoping its all of those and something else besides. So I guess if people ask me ‘Why horror?’ I’ll treat the question like a cook being asked: ‘Why flour?’. It’s an important ingredient, but not the final dish.
2. I fell into writing by …
Reading. For fun. Looking back, I was really lucky to have parents who never discouraged me from trying anything, so when I started writing – also for fun – I didn’t have any voices telling me I couldn’t do it. Of course, if you’re an avid reader and take a tilt at writing, you inevitably must compare your creations with the works by established authors you know and love … and find your own wanting. This is the process: balancing the self-confidence with the self-criticism, and making sure you have goodly doses of both in your blood as you muddle and learn. I was doubly fortunate by going to a secondary school that was, at the time, very progressive and offered a Film and TV course, and I pursued that into tertiary education and expanded my love of reading books into a love of cinema. And story is story, for the page or the screen. I think reading so many books and watching so many films and experimenting with story-telling in both media was a real boon, because lull or lack in one permitted growth in the other. Now, I get to write for fun and for a living: novels and feature screenplays. How lucky is that?!
3. If I didn’t write I would …
Wonder. Regret. Get DSB (deadly story build-up).
4. You get to be anyone you choose for a day – where and when do you go, and what do you do?
Neil Armstrong, July 20, 1969. My first memory is of the family huddling around the old black and white Thorn television because something important was happening: strange doll-like creatures in white suits were bobbing up and down in the darkness. How utterly life-changing for Armstrong, to be the first human to set foot on another world and see home from a third of a million kilometres away? Talk about transcending all the guff that keeps us divided from one another; I think seeing Earth alone in space would make me feel grateful every day – even on the ultra-crap days of headaches, lousy writing, passing deadlines and cold coffee.
5. Donuts or danishes?
Danishes. Even I can’t kid myself donuts are good for me – but an apricot danish? I can almost convince myself I’m getting some important vitamins. Self-delusion is very important to productive writing.
His site is here.