Intermissions Author Q&A: Sam Elkin

Sam Elkin is a writer, event producer and radio maker living in the western suburbs of Naarm (Melbourne). Sam has been a Wheeler Centre Next Chapter fellow and his essays have been published in the Griffith Review, Overland Literary Journal and Kill Your Darlings. He is the currently co-editing a special trans and gender diverse edition of Bent Street and writing a memoir.

What is your writing process?
Ideas for short stories generally come to me when I am lying in bed, drifting off to sleep or just waking up. I usually write a quick first draft by hand in a notebook, and then type it up on the computer and add to it as I go. Sometimes an idea comes to me when I am out and about, and I just write one or two lines about it in Evernote, and eventually come back to it if I see a call out for submissions that the idea might be good for.

Tell us about your story for the anthology. Where did your idea for ‘The Monster of Ravenna’ come from? Were there any challenges writing it?
I was originally inspired by an open call out for submissions from another publisher called Arsenal Pulp Press.  They were calling for stories that engaged with the concept of monsters and monstrosity from an LGBTIQA+ perspective. I was interested in doing a queer retelling of a ‘monstrous birth’, which is a historical concept in which a birth defect or variation of some sort was understood to render the animal or human child monstrous. I was fascinated by what we would now consider to be congenital genetic conditions were considered bad omens. I found that it was often the case that part of the so-called monstrosity of the infant was their indeterminate sex characteristics. It seemed to me these maligned monstrous births could be considered to be part of an expansive trans and gender diverse history as we currently conceive of it.

As is often the case, I didn’t end up finishing this piece in time to submit to the call out that had inspired the idea, so I was totally stoked when I saw another potential home for my story with Grattan Street Press. I usually write memoir and spend my time slaving away re-creating painful moments of my own personal history. It was really fun to write about something completely different, while engaging with some of the same emotional landscape of shame and gender-nonconforming bodies. I’d love to write some more historical fiction, as this really was my first crack at it.

Tell us about your favourite reads. What do you like about them?’
I just finished reading two amazing essay collections Everybody: A book about Freedom by Olivia Laing, and Tomboyland by Melissa Faliveno. I love smart, captivating essay collections with queer themes that make me think differently about the works, and these two books certainly did that.

How did you hear about GSP?
I became aware of GSP after I read about it on the Hares and Hyena’s newsletter, which is a much-beloved queer bookshop in Fitzroy. GSP were doing a “pitch our tent” session, where authors could come along and pitch their manuscript to GSP. While I didn’t end up doing that, I did see that GSP had a call out for short stories for this anthology, which was really perfect timing for this piece. I’ve since read a couple of really interesting GSP’s books including Mer by Samantha Amy Mansell and Uncontained: Digital Disconnection and the Experience of Time by Robert Hassan.

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