The ebook launch of The Never Never Land, CSFG’s speculative anthology of
Australian myths, yarns and campfire stories, is coming on 1 July 2016.
We interviewed some of the authors to hear what inspired
their unique version of the sunburnt country.
‘Ghost Versions’ by Darren Goossens is a hard-edged ghost story about dark impulses and second chances.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m a physicist by training. I started publishing back in the early 90s, with stories in Aurealis and a magazine called EoD. Since then I’ve published a scattered handful of pieces, but no longer works.
What was the inspiration behind your The Never Never Land story?
It might sound odd, but there was no inspiration behind the story, apart from a desire to use a particular structuring device (and then that device was cut from the final version).
Can you outline the writing process a little bit?
It began as a thing called ‘MS Found All Over the Place’, and it began a long time before The Never Never Land was announced. I had a vague idea about a narrative pieced together from fragments found at an isolated house — some notes on the back of some bills stuffed into a kitchen drawer, something scrawled on a bit of cardboard and discovered in the bottom of a toolbox, that sort of thing. I typed it out as far as it went in a file called ‘typing.txt’ which is full of false starts and fragments going back many years.
When something seems promising I copy it into its own file and work on it from there. This piece naturally lent itself to a series of short sections. Originally these had headings, notionally added by whoever was piecing it together. Things like ‘Undated, written on used fish and chip paper, found folded up under the leg of a table.’ It sat for probably five years as a couple of sections and a vague structural idea. At some point while I was brewing over that file of fragments, I realised how the story could work and I typed out a precis. Then it sat for another few years. I’m not exactly sure how long. I think the announcement of TNNL prompted me to finish it, and I did so in a few weeks.
The idea of some fantastical event giving you a second chance (or more, in for example Groundhog Day) is hardly new, but it was never the initial idea of the story. The idea was the structural one, and the story grew out of trying to make it work. Then Ian said I should cut that device and we turned it into a bunch of unadorned sections — I even took out paragraphing, except for the last sentence or two, because I felt that the narrator would not be worried about things like that. Each section was meant to be more like a blurting out, undertaken at random intervals when the desire to do so had grown too strong to ignore, and had to be dealt with as quickly as possible. I rearranged some sentences to make the grammar more colloquial (‘[[turns out to be a friend of Mary’s only.]]’) for the same reason.
Some sections are virtually first draft, others were rewritten multiple times, and there was a whole branch of development that I tried out and then canned. All told, from first note to holding TNNL in my hand it was probably eight or nine years.
Was there anything you found hard about writing this story?
I think getting from the fragments to the precis was the hard part. I wrote a handful of sections after that that I had to throw away because even though I had worked out the arc of the viewpoint character, and I had most of the other characters, I still did not quite know which incidents would be most illustrative. But that was just raw grinding out words. Knowing there was a story to tell and its rough shape – the arc of the protagonist – was the hardest thing. I’m not good at plots.
Why did you decide to submit to the TNNL anthology?
I decided to submit to NNL because it fitted the brief and because I knew of some of CSFG’s earlier productions and thought they were worth contributing to. I recall being delighted when I saw the announcement because I knew I had something that would fit.
What did you learn about the writing/publication/editing process from your experience in being involved in The Never Never Land?
Once TNNL was announced, I set myself to ‘churn out’ the story on a fairly fixed schedule, and it was interesting to see how the ‘quality’ of the prose was largely independent of whether I was in the mood or not. I knew this, but I think amongst my works this story has provided the clearest illustration of it. Also, I had never been to a launch of a book I was in before, and I learned that that was a lot of fun!
What was your favourite other story in TNNL?
I don’t want to single out any one story. Sorry.
What are you working on now?
I’m working on a couple of stories, one that looks like creeping out to novella proportions or longer. I have a couple complete that need to be reread and beaten into shape, in at least one case with great wailing and gnashing of teeth. ‘Ghost Versions’, my TNNL story, is one of my more serious efforts, and I think I need to get back to something with more jokes in it.
Where do you want to take your writing? What are your writing goals?
I’d like to take it with me on a long, lonesome camping trip, but I can’t see that happening any time soon… My goals are to get stuff published now and again, and to avoid writing nothing at all. I’ve had some patches where I wrote nothing for years at a time, and I didn’t like it and I wish I had stuck at bit more consistently, because my craft is not where it should be for the number of years I’ve been going at it.
Where can we find you?
darrengoossens.wordpress.com, although there are lots of posts about Linux which might put you off.