Interview by Troy Palmer.

LF: How has your year been since we published Bed. Time. Story. back in February?

SH: Busy, thanks. And fun. I’ve enjoyed this year and have advanced a couple of projects to a stage I’m happy with. I’ve managed to eat, drink and clothe and shelter myself. And create. That's a good year I reckon.

LF: Tell us about Anonymous_Author©. What’s the story behind the pseudonym and why the desire for it?

SH: I love the epigram: “Write a wise saying and your name will live forever.” ~ Anonymous Author

A nascent Anonymous_Author© existed simply as a pseudonym. To begin, I wanted to get my writing noticed without having to be noticed myself. (You’re all welcome to my 15 minutes of fame.) A clever pseudonym would help, I thought very late one night. He then morphed into the protagonist of a story about the contamination of ‘text’ by ‘author’. Bed. Time. Story. touches on this idea in parts, but is more about the way reality gets in the way of fiction, which in turn creates its own reality (and fiction).

Anonymous_Author© has since evolved into a layered creative endeavour. He’s now a literary voice: a device which is simultaneously the narrator, protagonist, antagonist, theme, plot and tone of an entire universe inside my head. A universe in which a mirror is held to the face of humanity, asking what it really means to be human, and in doing so blurs the line between what is good and bad writing.

He’s not as unruly as an alter ego, nor as sleight as a pseudonym. He’s a device through which I channel various techniques, self-indulgences, creativity, seriousness, humour and metaphysical musings, and around which I’m able to wrap unlimited content, including merchandise like his ‘Framed Excerpts’.

LF: With Bed. Time. Story. you’ve written an excellent exploration about the creative process and the self-doubt and procrastination that writers (or any creatives) go through. Because the piece is so relatable for many, is it safe to say that it was cathartic for you? Or is it simply a piece of fiction?

SH: That's a very kind critique. It is simply a piece of fiction. I’m interested in the removal of an author’s ego from the text they write, so the reader has the opportunity to interpret and experience the work as they wish. I attempted to get inside the mind of a writer grappling with procrastination, while never having grappled with it myself. Honestly. I am very task orientated. I never put off writing once I’ve set a deadline, but I’m often unsure of the merit of any finished piece. (Existential angst rather than performance anxiety.) Simon's problem in Bed. Time. Story. is that he wants excuses. He’s relatively unhappy in his life and feels sorry for himself. If that isn't motivation to undertake at least the thing he can control i.e. his own creative endeavour, then he should be doing something else.

I think the reason it works well is because I was able to write Simon as if he had the experience of his author in him, some aspect of ‘another’ when he is actually devoid of that. He is ultimately selfish, despite protestations that he loves his family. I'm pleased that he captured a relatable occurrence. Self-doubt and procrastination is a huge part of being human. And I'm pleased he appears to be contaminated with a little of me as ‘writer’. It illustrates my interest in that angle, and gives Anonymous_Author© kudos as a construct.

LF: How do you deal with procrastination?

SH: I don’t procrastinate. (Editor’s note: damn) I’m passionate about the process and the output. I spend far more time wondering ‘what’s the point of doing X?’ (while eagerly doing it), rather than ‘I really ought to be doing X’ (yet not doing it).

To avoid procrastination (and to give purpose) I involve someone else in a task’s consequence. Once you’re relied on to produce a piece (whether that be as simple as not disappointing someone by its non-production, or missing a deadline for a publication, or destroying a schedule for editing or whatever) then the physical process of creating has a reason to exist outside your own introspection. I find that to be a very strong driver. Produce something. Then crafting it into an acceptable work becomes a shared goal, with your editor or whoever. But at least you’ve got something to work on.

LF: And speaking of working on things, what can you tell us about your unauthorized autobiography, The Ghostwriter in the Machine?

SH: Funnily enough, it's the reason I haven’t been writing short stories for the past few months. (Sorry about that, Little Fiction.) Anonymous_Author©’s UnAuthorised AutoBiography is currently with my editor, the very accomplished Michelle Elvy (who curates various journals including Flash Frontier, Blue Five Notebook and A Baker's Dozen).

The Ghostwriter in the Machine is book 1 of a trilogy. It’s a cross-genre work that depicts Anonymous_Author©’s struggle to exist outside of the words on a page, and the life of William Wright, an everyman who struggles with just about everything. They battle each other and the people who love them and discover what must be done for each to achieve peace. What that is, and whether it happens… well, you’ll have to wait until publication, which I’m aiming for mid-2013. Publishers may contact me to bid for rights, thank you.

In the meantime, a series of limited edition Framed Excerpts (epigrams which appear in the books) are available (here) for those inclined to patronage.

Book 2, which is still in conceptual draft mode, will see a ‘serious’ attempt by either William Wright or Anonymous_Author© or both, to write the ‘Great New Zealand Novella’ — an oeuvre that sits somewhere on a continuum between War and Peace and an emoticon in a tweet.

Yes, it may sound self-indulgent and a little woolly-headed. But it’s not glib, and is a genuine and authentic attempt to be the best writer I can be. And anyway, aren’t all proponents of fiction self-indulgent and woolly-headed?

LF: We’ll have to think about that. In the meantime, what writers have influenced you the most?

SH: Janet Frame and John Updike for the longest time. Many others influenced me through particular works. Great Apes by Will Self, or Keri Hulme’s The Bone People are two examples.

Often it’s not the author who influences me, or even their body of work. It’s the reaction to moments within a book. I’m someone who can forgive traditional plot or character development if instead I get the experience of reading a flawless piece of poetic prose or brilliantly expressed idea.

LF: What is your writing process like? Any habits or rituals (music, writing spaces, drinks)? 

SH: I write everything long-hand into notebooks: screeds of stream of consciousness jotted down in barely legible ink when inspiration strikes. When it comes to transferring that into a digital format, I’ll sit at my computer and tap away to reasonably fast-paced music to assist typing. Then, for anything longer than 3000 words, I like to go away somewhere with a view, preferably coastal, to craft a solid first draft.

If it’s a short piece I’ll stay at home in my studio. My writing space is reasonably sparse. Cream walls, black art, a shelf full of books and stationery, and a wooden desk with a G5 perched proudly upon it. The drinks come while the notebooks are being filled and between each draft. I never drink and type.

LF: Good policy. Last question, what was the best short story (or collection) you read in the past year?

SH: In May I was given Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman. It’s not strictly a short story collection but a series of inter-connected vignettes. Highly recommended.


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