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Interview: Sean Crawley, Dead People Don’t Make Jam

Congratulations to Flash Frontier contributor Sean Crawley, for his new book!

About Dead People Don’t Make Jam

In his unique and punchy style, Sean Crawley takes the reader from the bush to the coast, riding on city trains, and into the suburban lives of ordinary Australian families. There’s forty-nine stories, to push, pull and twist you, to make you laugh and cry, in all capturing the essence of life in our crazy, hectic and eclectic world.


Interview

Flash Frontier: Could you say a bit about your writing – how you began writing?

Sean Crawley: I started writing fiction in 2014. My partner asked if I could write a bedtime story for her yoga students. She wanted the story to include the five Kleshas, or ‘afflictions’ – these being: ignorance, ego, attachment, aversion and fear. So in a sense my first short story was a commission. I enjoyed the whole process so much that I haven’t stopped since.

FF: How did you come to flash fiction, and how did this collection come to be?

SC: Soon after writing my first short story I joined a writing group. And many of the stories in Dead People Don’t Make Jam were actually written for the group. I also started entering competitions and submitting to literary journals and that is how I came across flash fiction.

FF: What are themes from this book? What do you think draws the stories together?

SC: The book contains forty-nine stories, and many themes are covered. In some sense the five afflictions dealt with in my very first story permeate my writing. I don’t write genre unless of course there is a genre called Suburban Fiction. The book is essentially a set of suburban tales.

FF: What are the things around you that usually inspire you? Do you draw on your immediate surroundings? Do you draw on real people for your characters?

SC: I get inspired all the time. Life is a smorgasbord and I habitually overindulge. I have lived in many locations in Australia and have had such a variety of jobs that writing a two-page resume is now impossible. Sometimes it feels like the characters in my stories just turn up out of the aether and do their own thing. But really they are amalgams of the many many people I have encountered and engaged with over the years.

FF: You live in Australia. Tell us a bit about your life there and your daily rhythm (though we realise it has likely changed since March).

SC: I was raised in several locations around Sydney suburban fringe. After I gained a science teaching qualification I worked at first in country NSW and then came back to Sydney. House prices dictated a move out of the city, resulting in my ending up on the Central Coast of NSW. I have had a stint on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland but have since returned to the Central Coast. I rise early in the morning and that is when I write.

FF: Australia has an immense coastline, with something like 85% of people living close to the ocean. And plenty of Australian authors – Tim Winton and Kate Greenville, to name two who come to mind – explore the coastline and waterways. How does water impact your life, specifically?

SC: If I had to call anywhere home, it would have to be the east coast of Australia. My earliest memories are of Bronte Beach, my adolescent years were spent surfing at Avalon Beach and today I live and walk and swim and fish at any one of the many beautiful beaches within short distance of my home at Long Jetty. Many of the stories in Dead People Don’t Make Jam are set on the coast. And one story in particular, ‘Somewhere Down By the Coast’, is a confession of my enduring attachment to the places where ocean meets land.

FF: Do you find your creativity growing under these new circumstances? What are you currently working on?

SC: Until the pandemic hit, I had been working on my second collection of short stories. This time they were to be linked by both setting and a set of recurring characters. Now, these stories seem to some extent to be irrelevant, even invalid. They are definitely stamped: pre-pandemic. I have decided to hibernate these stories to be looked at again, perhaps, at some time in the future. Who knows, they may regain some relevance and worth. However, as I binge on streamed TV drama I find myself shirking at the obvious lack of social distancing (and handwashing) so evident in anything pre-pandemic. So, does this whole new set of global realities mean that writers of fiction must adopt different perspectives and sensibilities in their work? With that in mind I am planning and drafting some new ideas that I have for a longer piece – the details of which I can’t reveal because I find when I talk about the story before I finish writing it, the whole project collapses under the weight of the fact that I just told it.

Fortunately, I can’t write in cafés so the recent lockdown has not impacted on my writing habits.

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