Interview with Fiona Perry, whose short story, ‘A Million Thoughtful Things,’ is in Issue Two.
What are the major themes found in your work?
I didn’t set out deliberately to explore these issues but death and self-delusion (ranging from the small lies we tell ourselves to full blown mental illness) are recurring themes in my work. I suppose I am always posing the fundamental question, ‘What does death tell us about life?’ I also attempt to show how humans, despite all their frailty, often transcend themselves in the pursuit of truth. Somehow in my mind the two elements are linked together. They are big, serious themes that I try to look at in my own feeble way. They sound very dark but joy and humour have also crept into every story I have written.
What influences and inspires you most?
I find that literature with a strong spiritual dimension/psychological awareness has the most significant impact on my writing (and on me as a person); the work of Flannery O’Connor, Muriel Spark, Donna Tartt, Alice Munro, Iris Murdoch and the nonfiction book ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ by Viktor Frankl. In terms of language, I am in awe of John Banville, Vladimir Nabokov and Ian McEwan. I also love art. I went to see a Lucien Freud exhibition at the Tate a few years ago. There was a painting he had not completed before his death in which he had deliberately and radically changed his brush stroke. He was constantly evolving as an artist. I find the human tendency to strive deeply moving.
What not-very-famous writers should we check out?
Gina Cole is a family Barrister and writer living in New Zealand and has Fijian/ Scottish/Welsh heritage. She has an unbelievably fresh voice and a sort of chameleon-like ability to write from the perspective of a very diverse set of characters. Black Ice Matters, her first book, is a collection of short stories that explores ‘the connections between extremes of heat and cold. Sometimes this is spatial or geographical; sometimes it is metaphorical.’
What book are you currently reading?
I am currently reading The Matriarch by Witi Ihimaera (who also wrote the beautiful Whale Rider). My family and I moved to New Zealand from Australia a few months ago and I felt the need to read a book by a Kiwi author to get a sense of place and culture. This book does that beautifully; it is a big sweeping epic rich with Maori history.
Any background info on your piece in Issue Two?
I heard an article on the radio about emotional abuse and I was fascinated by how it seemed to follow a certain trajectory. There is a received wisdom that in cases of domestic abuse the perpetrator is aggressive and domineering while the victim is passive and has low self-esteem. I think the reality a lot more nuanced than that. I believe that emotional abuse begins subtly and is more likely to occur when a narcissistic individual pairs with a highly empathetic one. It occurred to me that the emotional interplay between perpetrator and victim is a bit like a dance. It has repetitions, it ebbs and flows and it escalates to a crescendo. I became really interested in how this might look in reality and then I found my character’s voice- a young woman, nameless, telling the story almost as a list of events. I think she uses the second person point of view because she is having difficulty inhabiting herself because she doesn’t want to believe what happened. It is the voice of someone ‘trying to get the story straight’ in their head. She is creating her own narrative to fit the pieces in the puzzle.
What’s a piece you really liked in Issue Two?
Difficult to narrow down but my favorite piece in Issue 2 is the poem ‘Overboard’ by Sandra Kolankiewicz. A scary, suffocating underworld. I could taste the seawater was reading it! I particularly enjoyed the last lines.
Where else can we find your work?
Anthologies of Australian Award Winning Original Short Stories ‘Glint’ and ‘Flourish’, The Galway Review, The Paragon Journal and The Irish Literary Review. Forthcoming in takahē magazine.