TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF – HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN WRITING? ANY PUBLICATIONS? do you have a daily writing routine?
I have been writing for as long as I can remember, but I’ve been writing non-fiction professionally for around the last four years, and publishing fiction whenever people will let me. You can find my short fiction in Catapult, Overland Literary Journal, and Scum Mag amongst others, and my short story ‘Magpie’ was anthologised in Black Inc.’s Best Summer Stories (2018).
I try to write every day, at least a little bit, but that’s about the only routine thing about it. I write in the morning or the evening, at home, at work, in bed, when I should be studying, in snippets on my phone during my commute or when I’m at a bar with friends and have nipped to the bathroom. I write a lot with my wife, we have two big projects that we’re working on together, so a lot of my writing routine also involves talking and plotting and editing (and fighting over said edits) with her.
SPECIFICALLY, TELL US A BIT MORE ABOUT YOUR LONGLISTED STORY – THE INSPIRATION BEHIND IT, THE WRITING OF IT…
The Proci came together in two moments, really. The first was when I was reading Emily Wilson’s brilliant new translation of the Odyssey. I’ve read several translations and parts of the original Greek many times before, but this was the first time I was really struck by the domestic filth of the suitors. They make so much mess. It’s revolting and overpowering, and it’s so oppressive for Penelope and Telemachus - it’s also such a gendered moment, these men making mess everywhere, this woman expected to deal with it, and with the men themselves. I was reading it on the U-Bahn in Berlin and it was high summer, everyone stank, there were beer bottles rolling under seats, and the claustrophobia and grot of that episode really felt like it was sinking into my bones. I wanted to retell it, focusing on the way it must have felt to have your home taken over and consumed like that.
The next month I went on a short holiday to Sicily, staying in a B&B in Taormina. Our window looked right over the sea onto la Isola Bella, which is where the story is loosely set, this tiny rocky island with a house built into it, originally owned in the Victorian era by an English woman called Florence Trevelyan. It was so beautiful and muggy and strange, and it clicked right into place as the home for the story I was carrying around.
NAME THREE SHORT STORY WRITERS YOU ESPECIALLY ADMIRE – WHY?
I love everything that Helen Oyeyemi writes, to the point that I’m still rationing out the novels of hers I haven’t read yet, but there are some stories in What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours that still kill me. When I first read ‘a brief history of the homely wench society’, I was so obsessed with it that I would try to explain the plot to friends when we were out clubbing, shouting it into their ears on a dance floor.
When I was eleven, I had this incredible teacher who had a trick where if we were really, really good all week, on a Friday afternoon she would read us a Ray Bradbury short story. That was our reward. But Ray Bradbury is still sort of my hero when it comes to short fiction - his plots are so bizarre and compelling, his moods so telling, his pacing so perfect. You pick up a piece and don’t stop reading until the very end. The Veldt is one of my favourite pieces of writing of all time, and was also, now I think about it, an influence on The Proci, for its hot stink of danger.
I’m also really loving Julia Armfield’s work. She won the White Review Short Story Prize last year with a really brilliant piece, but my favourite is The Collectables, a hilarious and creepy and lovely story that is as much about flatmates and friendship as it is… well, chopping up men. I can’t wait for her short story collection, salt slow, to come out later this year.
Read Mikaella’s GBP Prize longlisted story, ‘The Proci’, here.
MIKAELLA CLEMENTS is an Australian writer based in Berlin. Her work has appeared in the Guardian, Hazlitt, The LA Review of Books, Lithub, Buzzfeed, and more. She was shortlisted in the 2018 Bridport Short Story Prize and longlisted for the 2018 Kill Your Darlings Unpublished Manuscript Award. She is currently working on her first novel, a literary rom-com co-written with her wife.