What led you to write “Mountain”?
Like most of my stories, “Mountain” came from a few different inspirations. It is set geographically close to where I live, and we travel over the mountain I describe, The Clyde, every couple of months or so. This mountain is very windy. It’s beautiful by day, but by night, or in the mist, it becomes quite a scary place.
There really was an accident where a truck carrying cat food lost its load, and people really did steal it all. At the time I was struck be the greed of this and wondered if the mountain played a role in the temptation.
At the same time, I was thinking about domestic violence, which is as horrifically prevalent in Australia as elsewhere and yet rarely reported. I thought about the sense of confinement, of being trapped, and how there are many factors at play that keep a person with an abusive partner.
“Mountain” features a protagonist who is an unrepentant killer, but who is nonetheless neither the villain nor the monster of the piece. Can you talk about that a bit, and about confounding readers’ expectations in a story?
I don’t think murder is ever right, but there are times, for an abused woman, when it may seem to be the only escape. I wanted the protagonist to be a sympathetic character. I wanted her strength to shine through, and her love for her children. She saved their lives, too. Not just her own. Saved them from the direction their lives were going.
You’ve published several novels, but you’re especially prolific when it comes to short fiction. Do you find the short form a particularly interesting one for horror?
Definitely. You can explore the explosive. The small, dark glimpse, the single terrible image. You can think, what if ghosts crawl back to the place they died? and tell only that. This means the image or the idea can have a lot of impact. A short story doesn’t always have to have an answer or an explanation and I like that. I like stepping in and out of another person’s skin. I like the sense of relief when you are yourself again.
What are you working on these days? What can readers look for next from you?
I have lots on!
I’m finalising a new story for the print edition of my short story collection, The Gate Theory. I have a story coming up in the anthology Blurring the Line. I’m researching a crime novel as part of my Fellowship with the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House. I’m working on my story for the Review of Australian Fiction, an issue in which I’m paired with Michelle Goldsmith. And more . . .
If you were the monster under someone’s bed, what kind of monster would you be?
I’d be the one who turned your food to ash, your water to mud, your blood to pus, and your breath to poisonous mist.
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