You wrote the 9th story in The Life and Times of Chester Lewis, set in 2005, with Chester at 73 years old. Without giving plot spoilers, what can readers look forward to in your story?
In Chapter 9, I pull together some of the events that are hinted at by the other authors, showing how they are all intertwined with the events in my story. Chapter 9 really gets to the heart of Chester, showing just what lengths he is willing to go to in order to get what he wants.
This was a really exciting, yet challenging, project trying to keep true to the story while integrating the information, sub-plots and voices of the characters written by the other authors. I still don’t know what happens in the last two chapters. I’m itching for the release on October 1st so I can find out how it all ends!
The Life and Times of Chester Lewis has a fan fiction competition, for stories 2000 – 4000 words, with a $2000 1st prize. What advice do you have for entrants?
The authors left a number of potential new storylines in their chapters – pick up one of them and show us where they lead. Or alternatively, tell the story of specific events in The Life and Times of Chester Lewis from the point of view of a different character.
You won a short story competition last year with your story Desert Threads and, now, your story in The Life and Times of Chester Lewis is your first story published in print. How would you describe your journey to this point in your fiction writing?
My mother informs me that I first started telling her that I was going to be an author when I was 6 years old. I was a voracious reader, and have written poetry and short stories my entire life. As an adult, I have still always been inspired to write, and have attended writing classes and workshops when I can. I’ve always been a writer, but never felt I was truly an author.
Desert Threads was the very first story I entered in a writing competition, and I was absolutely thrilled to be shortlisted, and then to win. I think that it was validation for me that someone outside of my family and friends believed I could write well. It has inspired me to write more frequently, and instilled the belief in myself that I’m not just a writer, but an author, and a published author at that!
What was it like contributing to The Life and Times of Chester Lewis as an emerging fiction writer?
When Steve from The Australian Literature Review invited me to join the Chester Lewis integrated short story collection I was incredibly excited. Again, it was validation for me that my passion for writing wasn’t a wasted effort. Then when I saw the calibre of authors with whom I would be contributing, I was humbled (and terrified!). I feel absolutely honoured to be included in this collection alongside such talented authors, both well-published and emerging like myself.
Without giving plot spoilers, how would you describe the personality of Chester Lewis?
Chester Lewis vacillates between altruism on a global scale, and narcissism when it comes to more personal things. He’s a man with good intentions, but is often selfish when it comes to his family. But in Chapter 9, Chester does end up showing us his Achilles heel…
If you had to write a fiction book set before 1900, what time and place might you choose for the setting, and why?
Paris! I adore Paris – the architecture, the food, the language – but these days the culture is very much targeted towards the tourist industry. I’d love to research how Paris was before 1900, before it became so commercialised, and set a story there. The story I was going to submit before I wrote Desert Threads was actually based in Paris.
What is one of your favourite fiction books you have read in the past year, and why?
I love a good murder mystery, a fast-paced action novel, or a heart-wrenching drama, but I’ve steered a bit away from those recently, and have read some excellent biographies over the past year. My favourite fiction novel from the last year was also somewhat different from the stories I usually read. CE-5 (Close Encounters of the Fifth Kind) by Anurag Goel is an excellent sci-fi/fantasy novel. The author uses beautiful prose to build exquisite alien worlds, but with a personal interest in physics and a wife who is a medical researcher, he weaves those scientific concepts into the story in a very readable way. The story is intelligent, but this is wonderfully balanced by the pure escapism of it. I’m also enjoying reading one of my childhood favourites to my six-year-old right now – The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett was always one of my favourites, and I’m thrilled that my son begs me to read a bit of it to him each night.
What is next for your fiction writing?
I have so many stories that are begging to be written! I have three children’s stories that I’m hoping to find new homes for soon, hopefully with a publisher. I also have several novels in various states of completion. After spending a decade as a medical researcher and a few years as university lecturer, lecturing on human disease, I love to integrate my scientific knowledge into my stories. I love writing what I call “science-based fiction” – fictional stories based in scientific fact, but of course I have to throw in a good murder mystery to make it exciting.
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