Martin Livings is another one of those nice, talented Perth people. His debut novel, Carnies, was published by Hachette in 2006 and has been optioned as a feature film this year. He’s the father of over sixty published short stories, and has been nominated for Aurealis Awards and Ditmars, received a Tin Duck and appeared on a wide range of Recommdend Readings Lists and in several ‘Year’s Best’ collections. His latest tome, Ten Minutes to Dumbsday is out now as an ebook, and he was the driving force behind the most excellent multi-author tale, “The Tide”, in Ticonderoga Publications’ big book of vampire fiction, Dead Red Heart. And his collection, Living with the Dead, comes out next year.
Here he waxes lyrical on donuts and the chances of him becoming a serial killer if deprived of writing habits.
1. The idea for The Tide came from … and how did you convince the participants?
“The Tide” came about the usual way story ideas tend to come about. Two completely separate subjects somehow got smooshed together in my mind, in this case immigration (and, more to the point, the Australian mass media’s xenophobic and hypocritical knee-jerk reaction to asylum seekers) and vampires. I knew two things almost immediately. Firstly, it had to be told in newspaper clippings, and secondly, that I wouldn’t be able to write it myself. I did try, but all the news clippings had basically the same voice, my voice, funnily enough. So all of a sudden I had the third part of the idea – to collaborate with as many people as possible on the story in order to give it that variety of voices that newspaper clippings would have, that element of randomness that would make it so much more believable.
Convincing participants was the easiest part of the process, since it was basically an open call. I did solicit a few people directly, but not much came of that, to be honest; most of my participants came from a message on my Facebook asking if anyone wanted to take part in a little writing experiment. The response was brilliant and overwhelming, and although not all who wanted to be part of it ended up in the story, for one reason or another, overall it worked incredibly smoothly. I came up with the headlines I wanted, asked my volunteers to choose which ones they wanted to write, then at the end I wrote any that hadn’t been taken myself, plus a few extras along the way. The results were surprising a lot of the time, with clippings going in directions I didn’t expect, and a couple of times they even affected the content of later clippings. Working with everyone and editing it together was an absolute joy. What I love about it is that the project has such a range of talents, from complete novices (I BELIEVE it was Devin Jeyathurai’s first fiction publication, though I’m sure he’ll correct me if I’m wrong!) to pros like Kaaron Warren, and every point in-between. We have winners and nominees from the Aurealis Awards, the Ditmars, the Australian Shadows, the Writers of the Future, and even a Hugo nominee is hidden in there! I’m ridiculously proud of the story, I think it turned out even better than I could have possibly hoped, and I really hope people are going to have as much fun reading it as we all had writing it.
2. If I didn’t write I would …
Go nuts. Explode. Become a serial killer. Play guitar in a band. Something stupid like that.
I really can’t remember ever not-writing; I have a scrapbook from when I was about six where I wrote about “a man who turns into a wolf when the moon is whole”, complete with scary illustration. Not that I haven’t given it up; in fact, it’s incredibly easy to give up writing, I’ve done it hundreds of times. But sooner or later I find myself at the keyboard, or doodling on a scrap of paper, or just toying with ideas in my head. I could not more stop writing than I could stop dreaming, they’re pretty much the same thing. And it’s not my fault I have bad dreams!
3. You get to be whoever you want for a day, go whenever and wherever you like – what do you do?
Oh jeez, so many choices… but I’d have to say, I’d be Neil Armstrong, setting foot on the moon for the first time in 1969. To take that step onto the surface, feel the powdery dust beneath my moon boot, survey a landscape that no-one else ever had, to be the first man to walk on another planet… that presses all my geek buttons at once. And, while I’m there, to correct his words… it’s one small step for *A* man, dammit!
4. Writing makes me ecstatic/despairing when …
Writing makes me despairing while I’m doing it, and ecstatic when I’m finished. It’s a bit like bashing your head against a brick wall, it feels SO good when you stop! I don’t think I’m alone as a writer in that generally I hate the actual act of writing itself; it’s basically the process by which the beautiful, nay, PERFECT ideas and images in your head become ruined by being clumsily transferred to paper. I sometimes wonder why we do it at all, this masochistic pastime… then the next acceptance or positive review rolls in, and I go, oh yeah, now I remember, and start working on the next painful thing!
5. Danishes or donuts?
Donuts. Specifically, three different kinds of donuts. The standard cinnamon-sugar ones you can buy anywhere, the amazing hyperglycemic sugar-coated ones my wife-to-be and I ate on Brighton Pier, and the jam-and-cream ones they used to sell at Sainsburys around the corner from our London flat way back in 2006. Mmmm… donuts… *drools*
He lives here.