Glass Fiction Week is an annual celebration of QUT students writing fiction. As part of Glass Fiction Week 2022, we sat down with Jaime Colley, author of Hot Pink Blues, for a discussion about her writing practice. Read Jaime’s story here, and submit your details here if you would like a (free!) hardcopy of Glass: The Fiction Edition, which includes all five stories published during the week.
Tell us about your writing practice.
My writing practice isn’t linear, at all. I can’t just sit down and churn out a story, beginning to end. I typically start with a line, and then the story builds around that line. My Word documents are colourful and crazy. Some paragraphs are in red, and others are in green. Typically what I first put down does not end up as the beginning, if it makes it at all. I like writing like that. Rather than forcing the story, I’m letting it naturally come through, letting it make its way out of the chaos that is my Word document. I also have zero consistent writing habits, other than how I actually write. I like it like that though. There’s no pressure. I can just create when I feel like it, which for me is lovely because writing is cathartic, just as much as it can be challenging.
Where do you do your writing?
I will write anywhere where I don’t have to break my back to do so. Lately though, it’s in bed, at night just before I go to sleep. The fan is on high, even if it’s winter, and there’s something low and sultry playing from my phone like the Eagles, or if the occasion calls for it, just Taylor Swift. I don’t have the time during the day, and I find writing before bed helps me reclaim some ‘me’ time rather than finishing work and just going to bed, that classic devoting-my-life-to-capitalism cycle. I like the light my bedside table lamp gives off. It’s soft and warm and reminds me of starlight.
What inspired your Fiction Edition piece?
My fiction piece is very much fiction, but also in a way non-fiction. There was a morning in July, when I woke up before the sun. I was visiting my parents, and they live out west, so it was absolutely freezing (the sun would reveal later the sparkling white frost crackling on the lawn). I pried my eyes open and it was still dark and I reached for my phone straight away, the same way some people reach for coffee. And the news was everywhere. Roe v Wade in America had been overturned. I was angry straight away, and I couldn’t stop being angry. I was burning for women halfway around the world.
But still the world rotates. Women have just been stripped of numerous rights – it felt like the world should stop. But it didn’t. And for the first time, I had the thought of, I wish I was a bloke. I don’t actually wish that. I’m so very proud to be a woman. But this thought caused me to reflect over my life, and the struggle I’ve had with my womanhood, and my femininity, and how it has not always been a love-love relationship. So I guess I wanted to write about that, and the journey it took for me to become so proud of being a woman.
What influences your writing?
My room is packed to the brim with artwork. Every wall is covered with multiple pieces (God forbid they spill into the halls of my sharehouse—curse you minimalist housemates). My grandmother was an artist, a little bit experimental, and her house was full of art. So when I see my cluttered walls, I think of her and her softness, and I think that influences the way I like to write about human relationships.
I also think my life is having a bigger influence over what I write as I get older. I used to despise anything non-fiction. I’m not sure why, I think I used to attribute non-fiction with the word boring. I don’t see it that way so much anymore. While I don’t typically write non-fiction, the things I’ve experienced are starting to emerge at the forefront of my stories, and I’m okay with that.
My other big influence would be the bush. I come off a property; my dad literally was a professional bull-rider, and my mum was one of the best wool classers in New South Wales back in the day. Other than romance airport novels, you don’t see that stuff much anymore. I love Banjo Patterson and the way he cultivated words to tell these brilliant ballads about stockmen and the country. We live in such a beautiful place, and I have such a close connection to it. The bush is full of adventure, hardships, mateship, community, resilience—I could go on. It only makes sense that it would influence what I do.
Best (or worst!) writing advice you’ve received.
Firstly, for any fellow writers out there, you need to read Stephen King’s memoir, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. It’s genuinely one of my favourite books. It’s chockers with good advice and it’s a bloody good read!
Okay, the actual best writing advice I’ve ever received was that writing doesn’t have to be a linear process. It can be whatever you want it to be, but it doesn’t need to be this structured thing. Once I embraced that advice, I found I was more comfortable experimenting, and I found a way to write my stories that agreed with me as a creative. I’m not a linear person, I’m messy and a maximalist (I will never declutter my walls!), and impulsive. When I adapted this approach, I actually found things came easier, and I was liking the stuff I was writing more.
As for the worst … well it’s not exactly advice, but I think it’s the worst thing for writers or any creative to hear, and we hear it a lot. When I told people I would be studying for a creative writing degree, a lot of people would ask me, ‘What are you going to do with that?’
I think that’s a horrible, condescending question that makes any beginning creative want to curl up in a ball and question their entire life. Appropriate responses could include: well done, that’s great, good for you. It’s so important to have confidence in your art, I feel anyway. So as to ‘What am I going to do with that?’
Whatever I bloody like Karen, whatever I bloody like.
What’s your biggest, craziest writing goal?
When I was like nine, I wrote a whole novel in a Smiggle book. It was about war, and romance, and God knows what else, but I wrote a novel, technically. When I was fifteen I wrote another novel, it was better and proper, about 100,000 words, and it was about friendship and time travel. I think now, I would like to write an ‘actual’ novel, and have it published, and it be a bestseller and then it becomes a movie and Zendaya stars in it with Timothee Chalamet or Chris Hemsworth. I don’t think that’s too much to ask. I’d also like to rewrite the novel I wrote when I was fifteen, but the other goal seems more likely.