I chose Kirstyn McDermott’s “She Said”, from Scenes From the Second Storey, as the best horror fiction published in Australia last year and gave it an Australian Shadows Award. She has an incredibly liquid way of writing about nightmarish things. She’s one of the best writers of tactile fiction I know. Here, she talks about another brilliant story, “Frostbitten”.
“It’s hard for me to pinpoint the first sparks from which any particular story took light. I tend to view the conception part of my creative process as something akin to walking through a junkyard. I pick up odd and interesting bits and pieces along the way and shove them into my pockets for later use. Sometimes I lose them. Sometimes I never do figure out what to do with a particular piece. But sometimes I’ll reach into my pocket and realise that two or three bits of junk that I’ve been carrying around for ages actually fit together. And then I still have to sit down and try to figure out the rest of their story as I write it.
Occasionally, though, there is a distinct spark to which I can point and say, “Look. That thing, there. That’s where this came from.”
“Frostbitten” (published by Ticonderoga Publications in More Scary Kisses) was one such story. The central image came from the tail end of a dream, what little I could snatch into consciousness when I awoke one morning. Two naked women, stuck together and pulling slowly away from each other, their skin tearing red and raw as they did so. It was such a striking image, but not one that came bundled with any particular feelings of horror or revulsion. The women, I knew, loved each other and were in that situation because they loved each other. The rest of the dream was lost but the image, and the sense of love and sacrifice that accompanied it, remained with me for the rest of the day. By late afternoon, I knew who the women were and had their story almost entire in my head. Two days later, it was finished – the fastest I have ever written a story from conception to completion.
If only they all came that easily . . .”