Rebecca Fraser is an award-nominated Australian author whose short stories, flash fiction, and poetry have appeared in numerous anthologies, magazines, and journals. Her first novel Curtis Creed and the Lore of the Ocean was released in 2018, and her collection Coralesque and Other Tales to Disturb and Distract is due for release in 2020, both through IFWG Publishing Australia.
Rebecca holds a MA in Creative Writing, and a Certificate of Publishing (Copy Editing & Proofreading). To provide her muse with life’s essentials Rebecca copywrites and edits in a freelance capacity and operates StoryCraft Creative Writing Workshops for aspiring authors of every age and ability, however, her true passion is storytelling. You can follow her work at writingandmoonlighting.com or Twitter and Instagram @becksmuse
She joins Tabatha Wood in the Well to discuss the first stories she ever penned, why she thinks “writerly advice” is often unhelpful, and the reason why you should always check your spam folder regularly.
Hi Rebecca, it’s lovely to see you here in the Well. The Creatures are out hunting, so hopefully we won’t be disturbed. I’d like to begin with some quick-fire questions to get to know you a little better. I find that these are best answered in short, controlled bursts. So…
Describe your writing style in five words.
Punchy. Sensory. Economical. Sincere. Slow!
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
Rivulet! Rivulets of blood. Rivulets of tears. Rivulets, not streams. I’m not sure why. Rivulet. I must’ve (rivulet) heard or read the word in my younger years and liked it, and it stuck. Rivulet.
Who are your heroes of fiction?
I’m a sucker for a well-drawn villain or an anti-hero with an interesting motive.
What three books would you want with you if you were stranded on a desert island?
Oh, this question is always so hard to answer! Ask me next week and the list will invariably change, but today I’ll run with Boy’s Life by Robert McCammon, Sea Hearts by Margo Lanagan, and The Little Round House by Marion St John Webb.
If you could go back in time to do so, what wisdom would you impart to your teenage self?
Start writing now, Rebecca. (even though I’ve been fiddling about with words from an early age, I regret not committing seriously to my writing earlier).
Name three traits you find deplorable in others…
I deplore small mindedness, belittlement, and superiority.
And three you most admire?
I admire kindness, bravery, and tenacity.
If you could go for a coffee with any fictional character who would you choose and why?
The Dark Tower’s Roland Deschain of Gilead. I would stare into those bombardier blues. After coffee we would dance the commala… I also love the character of Jeffrey Lu from Jasper Jones. He wields his unrelenting optimism and quirky humour like armour against the despicable racism and discrimination his family endures from some of the Corrigan townsfolk. I’d love to shout Jeffrey a coffee and play “would you rather?”
And finally, how do you want to be remembered?
Hmmm. I believe I would like to be remembered as a person who made everyone I came across feel perfectly okay with exactly who they are. I also present creative writing workshops to early writers of every age and ability… perhaps something I once said to someone might have lit a spark that ignited their passion for writing, or lead them down their creative path? That would be a wonderful thing to be remembered by.
They are all really interesting answers, Rebecca, but let’s dive a little deeper. Can you tell me, what prompted you to start writing?
This one sounds like an easy question, but it’s actually quite hard to drill down on! I think I was born fascinated with words. I was a voracious reader from a very young age, and started writing fiction early – probably when I was about eight or nine years old. I tinkered with stories, composed endless poetry, and whenever it was a family member’s birthday, indubitably a poem from me would accompany their gift. From there my writing turned to song lyrics, false novel starts, articles, and short stories that I didn’t know what to do with, and didn’t know how to connect to the greater writing community. It wasn’t until the mid to late 2000’s when my life was a lot more settled that I finally started taking my writing seriously – honing my craft, researching markets, networking with other writers, learning industry standards, expectations and pitfalls, and submitting, submitting, submitting.
Ah yes, the submitting. It’s an endless process isn’t it? Can you tell me about the first story you remember writing and what you did with it?
I still have the first stories I ever wrote! The first, penned in Year One, is called The Easter Chick. Another written (and illustrated) in Year 7 is called Buffy the Lonely Buffalo. Both feature underdog animal protags and, interestingly, both are vehicles for themes of justice and inclusion.
Do you think they were indicative of the kind of stories you write now?
Many of my stories are vehicles that still carry these themes, although the stakes are much higher, and the tone is much darker.
What inspired your story for Burning Love and Bleeding Hearts Is there a story behind the story?
Hermit 2.0 (a reprint) was inspired by the theme ‘Shell’, which was the chosen prompt for the Somers Paper Nautilus 2018 short story competition. I love writing to themes, you can use the word or idea as a springboard to launch into unchartered territory. Things in the Well always have interesting themes for their anthologies! In the past, my stories have appeared in their publications: Guilty Pleasures and Other Dark Delights, Trickster’s Treats 1, Trickster’s Treat’s 2, and I was honoured to work as one of the sub-editors for Trickster’s Treats 3 – The Seven Deadly Sins. Hermit 2.0 went on to receive an Honourable Mention from judge, Garry Disher. At its heart, Hermit 2.0 is a love story, albeit a tragedy set in a dystopian bleak-as-all-get-out future. I’m rapt it was selected for inclusion in Burning Love and Bleeding Hearts – a great theme for such a great cause, and a terrific lineup of authors.
It’s a great story and I’m really pleased for you that it got accepted. You’ve touched upon how submitting work is important, but what other piece of advice would you give to any new and upcoming writer right now?
You will hear often well-intended advice revolving around the ideal that, in order to be a real writer, one must write every day. And to not write every day means one is not serious about or committed to their writing. If writing every day works for you, fantastic. If it doesn’t, not upholding another’s standard of writing every day can lead to feelings of guilt, unnecessary pressure, stifling of creativity, as well as messing with your perception of how your identity as a writer fits with your unique circumstances, writing style, ambitions, and output. Life is stressful enough. Give yourself permission to let your creative endeavours be a haven from stress, rather than an exacerbator.
I fully agree. There are often so many “rules” that writers are expected to uphold, it can seem like such a challenge just to keep going, especially when faced with the dreaded rejection reply. Do you have any amusing (or terrifying) rejection stories?
After six months of not dipping into my spam folder, I opened it one day late last year to discover an email from a well-respected commercial publisher. They were rejecting the manuscript I’d originally submitted, but followed with generous praise and feedback, and requests for any further manuscripts that might fit their list. I was beyond mortified that their email had gone unopened, unread, and unreplied to for three months! Any writers reading this, you’ll appreciate what a complete d’oh! moment this was. (Disclaimer: D’oh! is not the word I used). I immediately shot back an apologetic reply, which thankfully they graciously accepted. Fingers crossed they might like my other work. I now check my spam folder daily! Actually, this could easily tie in with your earlier question. Writing Advice: Check your spam folders regularly. You never know what gems might be lurking amid the offers of penis enlargements and deceased estates from international relatives you’ve never heard of that need your bank account details urgently!
Can you tell me, what are your goals for the future? What dreams do you hope to accomplish?
I’m currently working on the redraft of a middle grade fantasy novel, which I hope to have completed in the first quarter of 2020. I’m also working (slowly) towards accumulating a collection of dark poetry. It would be nice to make some healthy progress on that manuscript this year too. For my long term goals, I have two semi-plotted novellas I’m burning to make a start on, but I really need to finish the first in a YA space opera trilogy that has been all-consuming for much of 2019. I’m too easily distracted by shiny new ideas! A few years ago, I started working on a manuscript that was a bit of a change of pace for me – a young adult general fiction novel set in 1991 that explores family secrets and dynamics. I want to pick that story up again – the characters have much to say. In short, I want to write All. The. Things! 😊
They all sound super interesting and I will be very keen to read them when they are released. Do you have any upcoming work which you’d like to mention? Or anything you’d like to draw attention to?
I’m super excited for my forthcoming short fiction collection Coralesque and Other Tales to Disturb and Distract, due for release later this year by IFWG Publishing Australia. This collection brings together over twenty pieces of my previously published dark fiction, as well as several new stories, and embraces a diversity of styles from gothic to cyberpunk, to contemporary horror, fantasy, dystopia… and every dark cranny in between. IFWG previously published my junior teen fantasy adventure Curtis Creed and the Lore of the Ocean. Curtis has been surfing his way into the hearts and minds of readers all around the world, garnering wonderful reviews, which is very gratifying.
And very well deserved, I’m sure. I shall look out for that new work later in the year.
Thank you, Rebecca, it’s been great to have you join me in the Well. But, shh! I think I heard a rustle at the doorway, it sounds like the Creatures are coming back. I should leave now before it’s too late!