Sometimes when I’m reading one of Deborah Biancotti’s stories I feel actually, physically, chilled to the bone. That’s how good she is.
“And the Dead Shall Outnumber the Living
The true spark for my upcoming Ishtar novella was when Mark Deniz asked me to contribute to an anthology that would feature a past, present & future setting. Some sparks are pragmatic, I guess.
I wanted that ‘present’ slot. I’m not sure if Mark had to negotiate with the other authors for me to have it (Kaaron might know!), but man I was pleased when he said yes. I’d been wanting to change direction with my writing to do more realistic, contemporary settings & to explore my hometown some more. This was gonna be perfect.
To get a feel for a side of Sydney that is gritty & dread-filled & frankly nasty, I did that thing I do that always depresses me: I read the Sydney Morning Herald. I read it for weeks, tucking away strange little articles about horrible happenings – especially around murders, ‘cos my story was going to have murders. At first I kept it all as ‘research’ pages in the Scrivener file where I was writing the story. But I ended up with so many clippings they needed their own file. I had Sydney gang wars (http://tinyurl.com/3zvzllt), a murderous neurosurgeon (http://tinyurl.com/4yf27zu), and of course, the whole Tegan Lane nightmare (http://tinyurl.com/3avqek5). And then I added more. And more.
The damn thing grew into its own obsession and the file became filled with weird stuff from around the world, & links I’d tucked away years earlier for some dark inspiration, all collected into a loose form of dark anarchy. Like the guy who accidentally killed himself with his own boobytrap (http://tinyurl.com/3evmak9) or the woman who ingested enough pesticide her corpse laid out four paramedics (http://tinyurl.com/3g2lbxo). See? Weird, right.
Now it’s one of the biggest things on my hard drive & it’s split into sections for natural disasters, domestic disasters, medical disasters & a growing file on psychopaths. Oh, and the occasional good news story (http://tinyurl.com/3optxp3). None of the articles specifically made it into the novella, but they’ve definitely sparked the mood.
With that ‘research’ under my belt, the rest turned out to be unusually easy. The writing of it was one of those marvellous, rare moments of knowing the story is all in your head, you just have to unfurl it. I wrote the thing from go to whoa in about a week, & only really changed direction once, when I realised the anti-terrorist subplot I’d been building was going to make the thing too long to still be a novella. That left me with an angry cop and her partner descending through the symbolic rings of hell to the supernatural evil hidden at the heart of the city. Which is a plot sparked by that marvellous freak Ishtar herself, who descended to hell and was hung on hooks before she managed to trade in her lover (in some versions of the myth) to take her place. Ha! Who could not be sparked by that?
I tell you, that was the best damn fun I’ve ever had writing.”
To answer Deb’s question, I think all three of us naturally fell into the period of time we wanted. I was keen to do the historical Ishtar, because I saw it as a challenge and something I’d be interested in researching. Cat loves the future and imagining it, so that was hers. Ishtar, edited by Amanda Pillar and K. V. Taylor, from Gilgamesh Press, is out in November.