EJ Sidle’s short story “(and I feel fine)” takes place in an apocalypse that stretches the coast of Australia. Told in short, stabbing scenes that push the action forward and forward, racing against the clock, this isn’t a story about monsters… rather, it’s a piece about people, human characters at the end of the world.
Q (Crone Girls Press): What do you write? How long have you been writing? What are your preferred genres and why?
A (EJ Sidle): I’ve always been a massive fan of speculative fiction, so naturally that’s what I tend to write! I think I mostly lean towards fantasy, but anything with a speculative element is fair game. The world is already a pretty magical place, and I like being able to enhance aspects of that in my fiction.
Q: What inspired your story in this anthology? Tell us the “story behind the story.”
A: Many, many years ago, I took a single short fiction class alongside my degree while at university. It was there that I first started thinking about writing an Australian zombie story, a sort of different take on the old classic. At the time, I was experimenting with short, sharp scenes, and thought it might lend well to snapshots of survivors at the end of the world.
Fast-forward to today and that concept has become ‘(and I feel fine)’.
Q: What draws you to the genre of horror/dark fiction? What do you find there that you don’t find anywhere else?
A: As much as the world is a magical place, it can also be terrifying. Dark fiction gives that terror a more tangible form, and I like that it can bring a more supernatural element to the forefront.
Q: There are a number of subgenres/tropes/flavors of horror. Where does your story fit? What drew you to this particular category?
A: ‘(and I feel fine)’ falls solidly into post-apocalyptic, but there are several ways you can approach the zombie trope. My focus here was more on the survivors finding their way in a strange new world, and on how they form relationships with one another. I like this sort of approach as I think sometimes the emptiness and solitude of something – be it an emotion, a decision or the apocalypse – can be more terrifying and unsettling than seeing the monster directly.
Q: Of the characters you’ve created, who is your favorite, and why?
A: In (and I feel fine), my favourite character is Jack. He was the first of the four characters I had in my head, and ultimately he’s the reason I wrote the story. Plus, he was incredibly enjoyable to write!
Q: What do you find the most challenging about the writing process, and how do you meet that challenge?
A: Getting words onto the page in a way that sounds like I want it to! Sometimes, everything just seems to click and it’s easy. Other times I write the same sentence fifty times and can’t figure out why it doesn’t feel like it should. Ultimately, I think the way I deal with it is to just keep trying to get the story out. I can fix words once I’ve got them (hopefully, anyway!) but I can’t do much with just mental notes on what I’m hoping for.
Q: What was the worst writing advice you ever received? The best writing advice? Why, and how did it affect your writing?
A: I absolutely loathe the old “show don’t tell” advice. Everyone’s heard it, and while I don’t necessarily think it’s BAD advice, I do think it fails to account for all the times where telling might be a perfectly appropriate option.
I’ve had a lot of really, really good advice, and I’m hard pressed to think of what the best would be. Ultimately, I think it’s probably to just write – editing is a powerful tool, so if you can just get the bare bones down, you can build it from there. It’s still something I struggle with at times, but I try to follow through as best I can!
Q: If someone asked you to recommend books/stories similar to what you write, who/what titles would you be giving them? And, why?
A: In my author fantasies, I would love to be able to say my work was similar to Tanya Huff’s ‘Smoke’ trilogy, or maybe to Maggie Stiefvater and Patricia Briggs. I would like to imagine that my pieces have comparable tone, style and occult flare – a girl can dream!
Q: What’s next in your writing journey?
A: I love short stories, and I’m really enjoying flexing my creative muscles with them. However, I think the next step is to really try and finish a novel. I have ideas, I’ve always had ideas, but I never seem to make it past the first third before I give up. So maybe this year I’ll manage to stick it out and write ‘the end’. Here’s hoping, anyway!
EJ Sidle is an Australian who currently finds herself living in Scotland. She has a day job that takes up too many hours, and likes to spend her free time with her dog, Bullet. EJ also enjoys travelling, playing video games, wasting time on Twitter, and drinking ludicrous volumes of coffee.
To learn more about EJ, check out her website!
To read “(and I feel fine)” by EJ Sidle, pick up a copy of Stories We Tell After Midnight 2. And, once you are finished, please think about leaving us a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads. Reviews make our cold, dark little heart so happy…