PODCAST SHOW NOTES
It's 2022, episode 42, so does that mean we've cracked the meaning of life, the universe and everything? Hmm... only one way to find out!
Join hosts Veronica and Darren for a monster filled edition where discussions stomp through themes such as monsters as symbolic sirens to alert us to inner dangers, what can happen when you stare into the abyss, the quest to transform this new year into a mission of seeking the small joys in life.
But best of all, there is an earth shaking interview with none other than Lachlan Walter whose qualifications make him the perfect guest to talk about monsters and Australian's relationship with the apocalypse!
When did you first admit that you were a writer?
I’ve always felt that the distinction between wanting to be a writer and actually being a writer is a matter of perspective. To me, writing isn’t a career choice or something that one simply falls into, but instead a calling (or, perhaps more accurately, a compulsion) that needs to be practised and honed. Likewise, I believe that writers write because they have to, driven by their love of stories and the written word, not because they want to earn a quid. And being a writer thus means accepting the fact that you don’t have to write a blockbuster (and probably won’t) or churn out a book a year, but instead have to put in the work, make the sacrifices needed in order to satisfy this compulsion and keep on trucking in the face of frustration, bad reviews and rejection letters.
In my case, I realised that I was actually a writer when I found myself putting in ten and twelve-hour days on my work-in-progress of the time, waking up each morning dead-keen to get back into it, neglecting my oh-so-forgiving family and friends, and unable to step away from my quest to turn a simple idea into an actual novel. There were good days and bad days but they were nonetheless all writing days, and ever-so-slowly my first book came together. In the end, I had a finished novel on my hands and an eagerness to get stuck into the next one, and realised that I had no other real choice but to do it all over again.
Is there anything specifically Australian about your book/books?
I’m a fierce proponent of Australian perspectives and Australian voices steeped in Australian-isms, and I want people to be as excited by Australian voices as I am. We have some fascinating terms and colloquialisms that are as interesting as those from anywhere else, and what might be called a stereotypically ‘Australian’ way of looking at the world can provide a distinctive counterpoint to the US/UK-centric outlook of so much Western fiction.
So, the answer to your question is a definitive ‘yes’ – I’ve tried hard to infuse my books with an undeniable Australian-ness. I’ve done this a number of ways, including in the language used by the characters and the narrative voices, and in their specific themes, which pertain to particularly Australian issues and concerns: Our relationship to the country’s natural environment; climate change and drought; our treatment of refugees, the ‘other’ and immigrants; the positives and negatives of stereotypically Australian traits such as egalitarianism, mateship, larrikinism and the valorisation of a kind-of deliberately unpretentious practicality; and our conflicted relationship with authority.
Is there a message in your book/books/writing? / What’s the main message you’d like readers to take away after reading your book/books?
I’m not really a fan of writers highlighting messages that they want readers to take from their books. To me, reading should be all about the reader rather than the writer – while I might want readers to find specific messages in my own books, I don’t want to give them specific directions and potentially blind them to messages that they might discover themselves. Reading is the most individual of individual acts; aside from books that act more like polemics than narrative, whatever messages we take away should be almost solely dependent on our own points of view and personal philosophies.
What genre/s do you write in?
When I ‘decided’ to become a writer, science fiction/speculative fiction simply seemed like the right genre to work in.
To explain: I’m on the cusp of Gen-X and Gen-Y, and so like many folk my own age I grew up in a media landscape saturated with science fiction, at a point in time in which the genre’s terminology and motifs were being absorbed into our cultural language. I was also a sickly kid obsessed with giant monsters, mythical creatures and inexplicable phenomena, and the combination of science fiction’s increasing cultural prominence and my own obsessions meant that science fiction seemed like the logical way to understand both the world around me and its deeper mysteries.
As well, as I grew up I increasingly became fascinated by the ability of these genres to make us question what we know by reframing it as a ‘what if?’ and then digging deep. To this particular fan, their ability to open our eyes to what is by showing us what it might become is nothing short of genius, and has shaped me in terms of what I want my own writing to do.
As a writer, are you a plotter or a pantser or somewhere in between?
I really exist somewhere in between. I typically know how my story will end, and certain scenes/events that happen along the way, but I find that part of the fun is stringing these scenes/events together without elaborately plotting them out, as this can take the story in unexpected directions or reveal unexpected situations.
To use an example from my most recent book, We Call It Monster. Because of its nature as a story-cycle – a long narrative constructed from interlocking short stories – I could get away with writing it out of order. However, this meant I had to do a lot of plotting beforehand, in order to make sure that the continuity of each story was consistent with those stories coming both before and after it. But once this plotting was done – once the ‘connective tissue’ was in place, so to speak – I could just pants the hell out of whatever else happened around it.
Working within this combination of freedom and constraint was actually an incredibly satisfying experience, and the book is all the better for it.
What’s your writing routine – if you have one?
Ever since I was a teenager, I’ve valued my own time over what’s probably considered a ‘decent’ income, and so for my most of my adult life I’ve only worked part-time in order to have the freedom to focus on the things that I love. Because of this, I have a definite writing routine: on the days that I’m not work, I get up with my significant other, help her get ready for work and see her off, and then plough through that day’s domestic duties and figuratively clear the decks for the writing day ahead.
Once that’s done, I get stuck into it, with a cup of coffee and some music my constant companions. It doesn’t matter if my coffee goes cold, because I’ll just reheat it or pour it out and make a fresh cup; it just has to be there, like a black and bitter talisman. And as for the music, it doesn’t really matter what I’m listening to – it could be the radio, whatever artist or album or genre I’m into that week, or a specific playlist assembled to create an atmosphere for a specific story. No matter what it is, it’s exactly like my ever-present cup of coffee: it just has to be there.
Where do you write?
I try to spend as much time outdoors as I can. So whenever it isn’t pouring with rain, freezing cold, windy as hell or hotter than an oven, you’ll normally find me hunched over a table in my backyard or under a tree at my local park, tapping away on my laptop or jotting things down in a notebook.
But if it is raining or crazy-hot or blowing a gale or colder than the inside of a freezer, then I usually relocate to my kitchen table. That way I can at least see the outside world and all its beauty.
Any final words for potential readers or writers?
I bang this drum every time I’m asked this question, and I’m going to bang it yet again: if you’re a fan of science fiction/speculative fiction, make an effort to explore works from beyond those countries that traditionally produce the majority of it (Western Europe, the UK, the US and Japan).
Science fiction/speculative fiction is a universal genre, and by reading works from South-East Asia, the Antipodes, the Indian Subcontinent, Eastern Europe, Africa and Latin and South America, you’ll see that is allows all of us to express our hopes for the future and our fears of it, regardless of our nationality or background.