Thursday, July 31, 2014

Black Rock, White City

I am delighted to announce I’ve found a publisher for my first novel. Black Rock, White City will be published by Transit Lounge in April 2015. I’m simply ecstatic to be signing on again with the publisher of my 2012 collection of stories, Las Vegas for Vegans — shortlisted for the Steele Rudd Award in the 2013 Queensland Literary Awards.

Black Rock, White City will be my fourth book despite being my first novel. I published The Rattler & other stories with Spineless Wonders in 2011 and a novella with Finlay Lloyd in 2013 called Bruno Kramzer. I’ve been writing Black Rock, White City over the last five years along with the stories that made up my three previous books. I’m hoping that if you’ve enjoyed my stories you’ll look forward to reading my novel in the new year.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Atlantic Black

Writer and friend, Ryan O’Neill (author of The Weight of a Human Heart, an impeccable collection of stories recently published in Australia, the UK and US) responded to a few question in a blog hop. Here is the link to Ryan O’Neill’s response to the questions at The Short of It. You will find my answers to the same questions below.

Q: What am I working on now?

A: A novella called Atlantic Black. It’s about a young woman called Katerina Klova. She is sailing from the Panama Canal to Calais, across the Atlantic in the RMS Aquitania, with her mother. It is New Year’s Eve, 1937. Katerina’s mother falls into psychosis leaving Katerina without friends and family for the first time in her life. Katerina is fifteen. An ocean liner can seem a lovely, nostalgic place to set a story, yet it might also be seen as a moving prison. Such ships often had a thousand in crew and they were made up in part, not only of ex-navy, but of ex-cons and misfits of all kinds. The passengers came from wildly different backgrounds as well since air transit had not taken over as the most common method of crossing the great oceans. Atlantic Black is a novella I started after I finished a long story called Dead Sun (which was published this week by The Review of Australian Fiction. It’s an ebook that also includes a story by Gerard Elson called Strange Waste. It will cost the interested reader $2.99 though I’d recommend the $12.99 subscription) As with Dead Sun, this novella explores some very dark themes, which I suppose is to be expected with a title like Atlantic Black.

Q: How does my work differ from others in its genre?

A: Genre is useful to librarians or booksellers wondering where a book should be shelved. Genre is not as useful for me when I’m writing. I’d even resist calling Atlantic Black historical fiction simply because I don’t think of it as being in the past even though it takes place on the eve of the greatest cataclysm of the modern world. Every detail and character feels vivid and alive to me, the themes are also purely related to the world we’re living in now even if the narrative takes place on an ocean liner scrapped in 1950. And I can’t speak to how my novella differs ‘from others in its genre’. More pertinent to me are the inspirations for Atlantic Black. The photography of Bill Henson and the films of Stanley Kubrick. James Blackshaw’s music, particularly The Cloud of Unknowing. Also Ludovico Einaudi’s, In a Time Lapse. Books like Stefan Zweig’s masterpiece novella The Royal Game, Laurent Binet’s HHhH and stories by Paul Bowles. I recently returned to Heart of Darkness and was thrilled once more by the opening sequence — exceptional passages in which Joseph Conrad introduces his character Marlow and sets him sailing for Africa. Those 20 pages in the hands of a writer like W.G. Sebald would have been turned into a whole novel. Here’s a quote which could be taken from either The Rings of Saturn or Conrad’s brilliant novella: “The idleness of a passenger, my isolation amongst all these men with whom I had no point of contact, the oily and languid sea, the uniform somberness of the coast, seemed to keep me away from the truth of things, within the toils of a mournful and senseless delusion.”

Q: Why do I write about what I do?

A: If I could read anything in the world right now, I’d dump every book, put aside any film, switch off any piece of music, and all I would do for hours is read Atlantic Black. The problem is that it doesn’t exist yet. At the moment there’s a file with 5000 words of story notes, ideas, details, character names, sketches, etc. and another file with the first 7000 words of the opening scenes of the novella. To answer the question more directly, there’s only one reason for writing: reading. A storyteller might present a disinterested narrative voice but I don’t think he/she can tell the story from a disinterested heart. A story is bound to mind/body/soul and the love for the story should be deeper than for anyone in the audience.

How does my writing process work?

Q: Every new piece needs a new process. I try to avoid stacks of notes when I write but the process of writing Atlantic Black was like trying to manage an explosion. There were so many ideas and possibilities and story fragments flying in every direction that I had to spend two months simply gathering them together. The previous two novellas I’ve written, The Rattler and Bruno Kramzer, were short stories that simply kept growing, and growing. They each took about two years to write. Atlantic Black is more like a short novel, requiring a great deal of preparation and planning, but I’m hoping that it won’t take quite as long to finish as the other two novellas.

These questions will now blog hop over to my Review of Australian Fiction partner, Gerard Elson. Here’s a link to UNNEWSWORTHY.

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Impossibility of Hysteria

There is a dog swimming a hundred metres out from the beach. He’s barking and barking but he’s not making his way to shore. It is winter. The air’s sharp every time a breeze picks up so there are no swimmers. The black-headed dog isn’t drifting further out to sea, and yet, the dog is not coming back toward land. Slow progress north, parallel to the boardwalk—perhaps the push of an ocean current.

The dog is barking. The noise attracts the attention of a runner who stops for three minutes to gaze and wonder at the dog a hundred metres out to sea. The jogger gets back into stride, running the boardwalk from Sandringham to St Kilda and back again. He passes children speaking French—the French of bakers rather than poets.

The dog barks and then stops barking for minutes. There’s an African couple walking along the sand, barefooted and slow talking with the intensity of philosophers as much as lovers. The dog barks and stops and barks again. Far enough away to be heard and seen, not swimming out of range.

There’s an Englishman standing before a camera on a tall tripod in the sand, talking into film with his back to the ocean, no-one to help him make his recording. He repeats the same message again and again. His tone is cool and controlled—the English of empire—the impossibility of hysteria. The camera’s microphone has picked up an hour of barking. Distant. Barely noticeable yet hard to ignore when it registers for those who will watch the Englishman’s message. The waves are small but the black head is easily lost from view when the dog is silent. He’s barking again now.

Saturday, May 31, 2014


What are my memories now of Bologna? Perhaps it was Florence. Walking a Northern Italian city, cold despite scarf and leather gloves. Steam escapes her mouth when she talks. Cobblestoned street and a house with an open door, lemon light bright within. No curtains on the large windows. No-one at the doorway, and yet, a gallery. A few people walking around inside — drifting museum movement. Seems incongruous that a gallery would still be open so late in the evening. Inside there is a narrow corridor and two small rooms. That’s all. Feels more like a cafĂ© than a gallery but there’s no coffee or food. No furniture. No guards, custodians or officials. No-one but a man with a tray of thimble glasses. Grappa over the white linen covering his tray. The movement of the amber liquid above it is a lovely thing to see. A small sign outside said it was a Toulouse-Lautrec exhibition. His sketches are on the walls but they are low, below head height, and too close to passing people in the narrow corridor. The sketches are not behind glass. They are not being protected, yet they are genuine sketches by the famous French painter. Shoulders might bump and the charcoal might be smudged. Damage would be easy in this small gallery. It feels like it has been repurposed, rooms that until recently were a small Italian family’s home. There was an eviction. The art was temporary. A way of filling an empty space.

I sip the grappa and then feel silly sipping and gulp the rest of the tiny glass. The man with a tray offers no information about the exhibition. I’m not sure now about many of the details. What happened to her, the woman I was travelling with? Did I remove my scarf and leather gloves? Were there price tags on the sketches? An oil on canvas of a washerwoman by Toulouse-Lautrec sold for over 22 million yet there were thousands of sketches left behind after he died. His mother opened a gallery for his art. Somewhere in France. I was somewhere in Italy. I don’t know if it was Bologna. Maybe it was Florence. I don’t remember the sketches, or rather, I don’t recall what was depicted in them. The paper is very clear in my mind, the yellow age and inadvertent fingerprints the artist had left on the margins and the lines of ink and chalk colour. Women and men, their worlds not drawn in. Sometimes not even their bodies, not a face so much as an expression. Outlines of existence that might have been scratched into rock walls or a moment in our lives as a passing light across paper. Leaning forward, feeling dizzy, a sensation of passing into the sketches, a charcoal ghost drifting into a dead world where I become far less than a smudged fingerprint.

Monday, May 26, 2014

LiteraryMinded - Interviews and Chats

The Great Unknown is a Twilight Zone inspired anthology of Aussie short stories published a few months ago by Spineless Wonders and edited by Angela Meyer. The Great Unknown received great reviews and a brilliant endorsement from The Australian. Click to read the review.

Angela Meyer published interviews with some of the contributing writers on LiteraryMinded.

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Angela Meyer: What did you enjoy/find challenging about writing to this particular brief or theme?

Alec Patric: There’s a notion of separate categories, of the naturalistic and the fantastic, but I can’t slot ideas in that way when I’m working. An idea emerges before or even after you begin writing, but whenever it strikes your imagination alight, all you want to do (carefully, desperately) is kindle that illuminating energy. Trying to control how strange or realistic the emerging piece is, would kill it. I was just happy that my story ‘Memories of Jane Doe’ came along when it did and that it was welcomed into The Great Unknown.

Q: Tell us about your story in The Great Unknown.

A: I had a creative writing teacher who had spent years in jail. He told a story about battery hens which might have been more reflective of his prison experience than a actual phenomenon. This is the way he told his anecdote/fable: Battery hens are raised in a hectic, compressed world that gets worse as they grow. A relentless, ruthless trajectory from birth to death, but along the way they’re prone to a particular kind of murderous frenzy. A chicken within the cage can get nicked and display a spot of blood. The other birds in the cage see the spot of blood and begin to violently peck at it, until the chicken is dead. Other chickens get spots of blood and the process continues until the whole cage is filled with dead or dying birds. My story is about three people who all die because they don’t see that they are living within a similar cage/cell.

Q: What memories do you have of watching The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits or of reading spooky/uncanny stories (or comics) as a kid? Did these play any role in your developing imagination? Which films, TV shows, books etc provide that same sort of allure for you these days?

A: There were a few episodes of The Twilight Zone that fired through my imagination so deeply that, even now, decades later, I find story shards rising up again to reflect on a particular thought or feeling. The best of these kinds of stories can function as a personal, elemental myth. Beyond that, it was being a kid, sitting on the carpet and as close to the television as possible, watching the opening credits of The Twilight Zone. In the next moment anything, literally anything might happen. That break from the mundane sequence of our daily lives is still what most people look for in books, films, shows, etc. A place where it is neither day nor night, where dreams enter the mind even though you are not sleeping. Writers that have that allure for me these days are Stephen Millhauser, Franz Kafka, Bruno Schulz, Robert Walser, Haruki Murakami, George Saunders, Edgar Allan Poe, Gerald Murnane, Ursula Le Guin, James Tiptree Jr, Etgar Keret, and I could go on.

Q: Despite her success as a writer of quality macabre and psychological thrillers, Patricia Highsmith was, to her great disappointment, never published in The New Yorker. Has anything changed? What thoughts do you have on the current status of writing in this genre?

A: If you’re speaking specifically about The New Yorker then, yes, I think there have been some changes. Among other exciting writers, they publish George Saunders regularly, and his stories are often speculative fiction. ‘Escape from Spiderhead’ is an example. In fact, it’s a masterpiece very much in the vein of the Science Fiction classic, Flowers for Algernon.

If you’re speaking more generally about the acceptance of the same story elements in literature, I’d say that mainstream literature is itself a genre. In Australia we are dominated by rural locations written in a naturalistic mode. Think of it as a restaurant franchise: the menu remains the same year after year and apparently it comforts the general patron to see the same faces managing our dining experience and the same names in the kitchen preparing the expected meals. There are exceptions and some allowances are made, but they go on the specials board. The era of franchise restaurants might soon end. It doesn’t really matter though—there are all kinds of places now to find more interesting culinary/literary options for appetites bored by the usual fare.

* * *

Next month Angela Meyer and I will be talking again at Readings St Kilda. Click for event details.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

A Delusion of Grandeur

Q: What is the one piece of advice you wish you had been given when you were either first year, or just starting your writing career? Or, if you are in publishing what do you wish freshies knew? We'd also love to know how you pay your bills! There is this idea in first year that you will graduate, then be a famous noveli$t/film writer and then cha ching will ensue! And although this does happen (Hannah Kent!), we wanna gently educate them on how other writers pay their rent, and what the other career paths are.

A: Writing is a devotion not a vocation. I already knew that when I was starting out but no-one ever really believes it. Fame and fortune are potential. Most writers have grand delusions guiding them through life, and some might say that literature itself is a delusion of grandeur. One Hannah Kent is enough to fuel a billion egos for a hundred years. It doesn’t matter that 99% of writers will fail to be a ‘Hannah Kent’ and it doesn’t matter that even that 1% of successful writers will still make less money than a garbo per annum. And yet writing has to be Plan A with no recourse to Plan B. If there is anything else you can do, you will do it… eventually. Of course you will. How do you pay the bills? With any work that pays a regular wage but work that is not a career in itself; work that can’t ever threaten Plan A. And then you’re back to devotion rather than vocation. It’s faith without hope for God and religion without a brotherhood/sisterhood. Once delusions of fame and fortune clear you see what all these words and stories are really about—our species dreaming itself awake. Being part of that great dream is the only reward, otherwise we all become forgotten stuff in the millennia of life and death. The planet goes on, spinning in the sun.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Bruno Kramzer - Booklover Book Review

"Patric does the avant garde with aplomb. Within the realm of Bruno Kramzer, nothing is out of bounds and the reader must find a comfy position on the edge of their seat." Jo Peulen.

Here's a link to the rest of the Booklover Review of Bruno Kramzer

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Canary Press Launch

I’m delighted to have a short story called Amy in #12 in the next Canary Press. Issue #3 of this brilliant Aussie literary journal will be launched tomorrow night. (7:00pm Level 1, 24-26 Hope Street, Brunswick.) Come along.

Monday, October 21, 2013

The definitive Kafka biography - Reiner Stach

I’ve never been a fan of biographies but my favourite book last year was the David Foster Wallace bio by D.T. Max. This year, I might hold up the Kafka biography by Reiner Stach. You wouldn’t expect either biography to make for happy reading. And yet both writers lived eyes-wide-open lives and laid their souls bare—which does make for a compelling read. Reading a great bio is similar to watching a brilliant documentary. They seem rare, but one will occasionally come along that reveals the world in a whole new way. They leave you feeling it might be years before you come across that unique perspective again; that particular pleasure of insight.

A documentary will give glimpses of the subject but will often rely on talking heads for the most part, the experts and critics, the family and friends, the narrator, a montage. In this case it’s as though the filmmaker had discovered hundreds and hundreds of hours of Super 8 film and audio tapes and can build a cinematic portrait, and then, it goes a step further. Suddenly, you are watching and listening to Kafka, and you are more intimate than you ever would have been merely watching a film on a screen—because literature is, of course, the most intimate of all the arts. It allows us into the mind/heart/soul of another human being like nothing else, and when it’s Franz Kafka… it leaves me almost speechless. The Decisive Years, by Reiner Stach, has been an ecstatic revelation.

* * *

 This rave (not a review, of course) first appeared on the Readings website Friday, 18th October as part of a booksellers segment called What We’reReading.

Friday, October 11, 2013

3CR Community Radio Interview - Bruno Kramzer

I enjoyed going into the 3CR radio recently to talk on the program Published or Not. I was joined in the studio by my publisher, Julian Davies, from Finlay Lloyd Publications. We talked about Bruno Kramzer, novellas, and the Final Lloyd Smalls series. You'll find us on about 13 minutes into the podcast. Worth a listen. Here's the link.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Wait for a Knock

I imagine an old man, a former boxer, in a room with broken windows. I imagine a different man, a man who cannot see his reflection in mirrors, a remarkable circumstance that might or might not have metaphorical value, well at least not to him. He would be literal. He would have to be. I imagine these two men in very separate worlds, but imagination might be too strong a word. What’s outside the broken windows? How long would a man look into a mirror that will not cast a reflection back to him? Different kinds of blank spaces.

The ruination of a punch drunk man is appealing. Outside my windows the day is lovely, spring light fluttering across the leaves. My window is open a crack and I can hear the noise of 20 children at play. A friend is on the way. Any moment now he will knock on the door. This is not a metaphor. I am literal. I have to be. I can see my reflection in the page. Ruination is appealing in that face.

Soon there will be a knock at the door. Something will happen. The old man, a boxer, perhaps never a champion, would be easily forgotten as soon as there’s a knock on the door. He sits on a mattress. He’s just woken up. Looks at his fists. The broken windows do not admit sound. There’s nothing to distract him, and there’s not a chance of a knock at the door. He barely exists beyond his fists.

Maybe it takes the second man days to realise he doesn’t appear in mirrors anymore. He shaves in the shower and he’s able to do that by feel. He will notice and conclude insanity. He’s not insane. Even so, no reflection. When he mentions it to a friend, his friend will assure him that he does indeed exist, whether the mirror casts back a reflection or not. Of course, he doesn’t.

Soon there will be a knock at my door. It will break the windows. The light in the tree. The sounds of 20 children. The window open a crack. It will break his knuckles. And I will ask myself, what have I imagined? Twice failed to see anything in my mind. For half an hour enjoyed a reflection of ruination. Nothing more as I wait for a knock on the door.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Aural Text Interview - Bruno Kramzer

I had the pleasure of speaking with Alicia Sometimes on radio last week about my new book Bruno Kramzer. Aural Text on Three Triple R 102.7fm is a brilliant literary show airing every Wednesday, 12:00pm to 2:00pm. Here's my interview from September 25th. You'll find me about 9:10 into the podcast.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Bruno Kramzer

Writers sometimes compare the launching of a book to giving birth, but if there’s truth to that clichĂ©, then I reckon it’s less nursery and more a jungle scene in which what’s given birth needs to fend for itself a few days after emerging into the world. It’s been a hectic week launching Bruno Kramzer, but the exhaustion has eased away to leave a perfect euphoria, which I suspect will soon turn into a cold sense of moving-on-now, abandoning the book to its fate, good or bad. While that euphoria lingers, all I feel is pure gratitude to the people that helped give Bruno Kramzer a shot at life.

First thanks to Miles Allinson, the kind of bloke that makes inspiration easy. We’ve had so many creative conversations over the years and Bruno Kramzer was nothing more than a Saturday afternoon chat in the bookstore we were both working in. What if I told a story about one of the men who come to arrest Josef K. in The Trial. I don’t know if the book would have even been started if it wasn’t for that conversation and his reaction to my question. I also feel gratitude to a few other people who helped along the way (most I can thank personally) but particularly to Ryan O’Neill for superb feedback and encouragement in the three years Bruno Kramzer took to grow from a conversation into a book — also to Laurie Steed who read the short story and saw the novella it needed to be, which was obvious only afterwards.

And, vitally, thank you to my publisher Finlay Lloyd — to Phil Day for the brilliant original art that is our cover, for the impeccable design and production of the book, and to Julian Davies for his ferocious commitment to the story (to the possible perfection of prose) in our editing process. Previously, the manuscript had gone to the last round of the CAL/Griffith REVIEW novella project in 2012 and was shortlisted for the 2013 Viva la Novella Award, which might have meant the story was OK. It was through working with Finlay Lloyd that Bruno Kramzer really evolved (grew that most major 10% in the eleventh hour, which really, is what writing is all about) became a book I’m very proud of and a story worth reading. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Bruno Kramzer Launch

Come along to the launch of Bruno Kramzer next week at Readings Carlton, Thursday 6:30pm. Finlay Lloyd — my fine publisher — is launching five books on the night as part of their FLSmalls series. All the details of each superb book are on the Finlay Lloyd website. Should be a great night, so if you’ve enjoyed the writing on my blog or read one of my previous books, you might want to come along and share some wine and words, and join me in launching Bruno Kramzer.

“Someone must have traduced Joseph K., for without having done anything wrong he was arrested one fine morning.” 
So begins The Trial by Franz Kafka.
Bruno Kramzer is the story of the man sent to arrest Joseph K.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Concrete & Brick

A dismal place — a fucking dive would be my only response if it wasn’t for the sun coming in and lending us spring. The previous owners’ furniture moved out for the most part. The remnants of their troll lives remain everywhere. Two stripped beds abandoned in the middle of one room. A thin plastic jacket over the back of a brown vinyl kitchen chair. A bottle of yellow cooking oil on the sunny patio outside, half a glass poured beside it, as though someone had been drinking apple juice. Motley tourist posters (Jerusalem, Kobe Japan, a safari park in Bali) peeling off the walls in the garage among boxes of transistor parts and a VCR that looks fresh out of the box next to a pile of clean bricks. A stack of wire coat hangers against the wall. Around a dry shrub garden, a two tiered wall of unmortared bricks. Concrete. Brick. Everywhere — brick and concrete in miniature monolithic. The kinds of trees or bushes that have never needed a moment of consideration, let alone been attended to with anything approaching love. My wife turns the whole place over again and again as though it was a snow globe full of swirling white dust, within which, she divines a living city of lights. We can only talk of knocking out walls, breaking and pulling up concrete outside, painting brick green and putting up a trellis, bamboo along the front wall, new glass for new spaces inside, and of course, all the floors, walls and ceilings done, and what wouldn’t we need to change? Our kids walk around for half an hour happy with adventure — as if all they might ever need is shelter.