1. What was the inspiration for your novel?
Well, I’ve written quite a few of them now including a couple collaboratively. Concentrate was initially my brother Darren’s story, which combines magic realism with a kind of YA literary fiction style, which was inspiring enough for me to want to work
on. Inspiration generally is sometimes hard to come by. It takes a bit of effort to see the world through the right lens, to ramp up reality into fiction. For me it’s usually about finding huge upheaval in the smallest places. Or something like that.
2. When did you take up writing?
I always did it, but I never seriously considered writing as a profession until I was almost finished my undergrad degree.
Something clicked when I realised that writers are just people who…you know…write. For a while there I was determined to be a musician and I’d write these long and involved song cycles with a huge back story and multiple characters into a…I was going to say “libretto” but I think “mess” is probably more accurate. Strange that it took me so long to figure out the words were
3. How important is setting/place in your writing?
I set a lot of stories in Brisbane where I live. I understand the place and it’s comfortable and I don’t have to do any research.
My collaborative novel with my brother has two versions: one set more or less in Brisbane and one in Vancouver (where he’s based). The setting made for small differences between the texts. Increasingly in my own work I’ve been taking my
stories out of specific place altogether, opting instead for more generic landscapes that could be anywhere. If you know Brisbane, you’ll probably still spot the references, but that’s just a bonus.
4. Do you have a favourite character (s) in your current novel?
I love them all. Even the villains.
5. What’s the best piece of writing advice you were ever given?
Park your arse. I don’t know if that was Stephen King or my brother. Maybe it was my brother’s interpretation of King. Good advice
though. Words don’t put themselves together.
6. Do you have a schedule for writing?
I wish. I have steal time to write. I’m like a frigging cat burglar sneaking around the house, desperate not to wake anyone up.
7. Are you a plotter or someone who tends to wing it?
Both. I make long multipage lists of characters and scenes, then I lose them and forge to use them. Then I go back to them, fix the manuscript, change the list, and keep going.
8. Can you name three of four of your current favourite books?
The Best Short Stories of JG Ballard, Coetzee’s Disgrace, and I think I may be the only person in the world who loves Slapstick
or Lonesome No More by Kurt Vonnegut.
Disgrace is the most recent of the three books, you’ll notice. I have about 20 years of reading to catch up
9. Can you tell me a little bit about what you are working on now?
Final chapters of the second collaborative novel with my brother. We’re really enjoying the process of working together and it’s a
huge relief for me. I had a bad run of stories that couldn’t get traction anywhere and I kind of fell into a creative funk. So working with someone else was exactly the kick in the pants I needed. I’m just about to read through the final chapters and I can’t wait…
I’m also a few weeks away from writing (and editing and publishing) a book with eight other writers within a
single 24-Hour stint. This is through my work with if:book Australia. I get paid to come up with this kind of stuff. I am very lucky.
What advice would you give to a fledgling writer to assist them on their journey?
Park your arse and hunker down. Learn how to listen to everyone around you. Never give up.
Concentrate is available for Kindle.
Its North American version The Focus and The Freak is also available.
(Apologies I am having some difficulties with images today…once I resolve these I will have Simon’s photo and book cover images up!)