Steve Rossiter interviewed by Kelly Inglis as part of the Post-Launch Blog Tour for The Life and Times of Chester Lewis. Kelly is an emerging author from Mackay, Queensland who also has a story in the book.
As the editor of The Australian Literature Review, and the editor and publisher of this integrated short story collection (along with being a contributing author), what inspired the general concept for The Life and Times of Chester Lewis?
The initial concept for the book was an idea I had to do a novel-length short story collection covering the life of the main character, with a story per decade in the character’s life. This was the starting point I took to the first author, Michael White (internationally bestselling and major-award-winning author of thirty something books), and asked him to write a story leading up to the birth of the main character. Bernadette Kelly (awarded the May Gibbs Fellowship for Children’s Literature in 2010) built on that with a story about Chester growing up in Perth at eight years old, and the characters and larger storyline of Chester’s life grew from there.
You wrote the final story in the The Life and Times of Chester Lewis, set in 2032-2033 when Chester is 100 years old. How difficult was it to tie up all the loose ends of the integrated short story collection?
I wrote the final story from the POV of Chester’s granddaughter. Loose end are tied up, my young POV character is also coming to learn more about her family and their past, and face new challenges.
The final story marks an end to Chester’s life story, but also leaves plenty for readers to ponder about Chester’s life and what the future might hold for the Lewis family.
The Life and Times of Chester Lewis has a fan fiction competition associated with it, with entries due by August 31st, 2013, and a first prize of $2000. What sort of opportunities will contributors to the fan fiction competition have to interact with the authors from The Life and Times of Chester Lewis?
Readers can find a range of interviews and articles by Chester Lewis contributing authors at www.Chesterlewis.net and can leave a comment. Most of the authors have profiles and/or pages on sites like Facebook and Twitter, where readers can friend or follow.
There is also a private Facebook group where entrants in the fan fiction competition can meet one another, discuss their stories, and receive fiction writing tips. Contributing authors from the book will also drop by that private group from time to time and leave some comments or interact with entrants.
The authors of The Life and Times of Chester Lewis range from extremely well-published authors, to authors with several publications, to emerging authors like myself. How do you select the contributors to an integrated short story collection such as this?
The writers are a mix of people whose fiction I had read and who I thought would do a good job of writing the next story. I had interviewed some of the published authors previously, I had become familiar with the work of other writers when they entered short story competitions I had run, and I became familiar with one writer when she was recommended by a novelist.
What elements do you feel make for a really compelling character?
I’ll keep it simple: a combination of PURPOSE (What does the character want? Why does the character’s goal matter to them? Why does the character’s goal matter to other major characters?) and PERSONALITY (Who is your character as a person, beyond their role in your story? How does your character’s goal and behaviour throughout the story arise from their personality?).
Along with being the editor of The Australian Literature Review, you run a website called Writing Teen Novels (www.writingteennovels.com) and one called Writing Historical Novels starting on January 1st, 2013. You also have a Young Adult novel in progress with a historical setting. What appeals to you most about including historical content in your writing?
What appeals to me about writing fiction – whether set in the past, present or future – is exploring human thought and behaviour.
Using 1939 Poland as the setting for this novel provides an environment of high stakes conflict and marks a pivotal turning point in the history of the world.
It is a setting which has not been overdone by novelists.
It is also a time and place often brushed over briefly by WW2 historians. While the 1939 invasion of Poland is widely covered in historical accounts of WW2, it is typically covered in the context of the German Blitzkreig strategy and the importance of the invasion for developments to follow throughout Europe.
I want to portray a fuller depiction of daily life in western Poland at that time than people tend to get in history books, focusing on my characters rather than attempting a comprehensive depiction of the people of the region. This includes looking beyond the kinds of ways people commonly think and behave in contemporary Australia, to explore human thought and behaviour more deeply to write a novel which connects with readers worldwide. If I can help readers gain a better understanding of 1939 Poland than they had before reading the book, and beyond the usual points covered in historical accounts of WW2, that would also be good.
My aim is to make it both entertaining for teen readers and a serious historical novel for adult readers.
You already have so many fantastic writing projects going, on both a professional and personal level. Do you have any more exciting new projects up your sleeve for 2013?
Well, other than The Australian Literature Review, Writing Teen Novels, Writing Historical Novels, writing my won novel, the Chester Lewis fan fiction competition (and a similar fan fiction competition for Possessing Freedom – a Young Adult paranormal suspense/supernatural thriller by four Melbourne writers), I am also relaunching a site called Writing Novels in Australia (www.writingnovelsinaustralia.com) with a new line-up of Australian novelists for 2013.
Writing Novels in Australia was initially a place for members of a writing program I ran in the first half of this year to put some thought down about their writing and reach some readers. Next year it will be a place where a mix of aspiring novelists, early-career novelists and established novelist will each have a monthly post all year, so readers, aspiring novelists and published novelists can follow their journeys and read interesting discussion from Australian writers at various points in their novel writing careers. The monthly contributors for 2013 include novelists such as Helene Young (published by Hachette and Penguin, and also has a story in The Life and Times of Chester Lewis) and Greg Barron (published by HarperCollins).
The Australian Literature Review