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  • Nikky Lee

10 Questions with Rebecca Fraser

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Rebecca Fraser author profile photo

Rebecca Fraser is an award-nominated Australian author who writes genre-mashing fiction for both children and adults. Her fiction, and poetry has appeared in numerous anthologies, magazines, and journals. Her first novel Curtis Creed and the Lore of the Ocean was released in 2018, and her collection Coralesque and Other Tales to Disturb and Distract is due for release in 2021, both through IFWG Publishing Australia.

Rebecca holds a MA in Creative Writing, and a Certificate of Copy Editing and Proofreading. To provide her muse with life’s essentials, Rebecca copywrites and edits in a freelance capacity and operates StoryCraft Creative Writing Workshops for aspiring authors of every age and ability…but her true passion is storytelling.

1. Tell us a bit about yourself! Where do you call home and what do you write?

I live on and write from Bunurong land and acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land, and their elders, past, present, and emerging. I’ve lived on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula since 2012—a beautiful coastal-bush region heaving with natural assets and set between two bays, each unique in their moods and biodiversity. I’m also close enough to the culture and character of Melbourne to enjoy all the city has to offer. I’m fortunate that where I call home offers a deep well of natural inspiration. I share that home with my husband, son, and two naughty rescue cats collectively known as The Flying Tuxedo Brothers.

I wear a few different hats, so I’ve always called myself a ‘Writer and Moonlighter’. By day I’m a mild-mannered copywriter, copy editor, and facilitator of creative writing workshops; by night I’m a genre-mashing storyteller with a particular fondness for all things dark and speculative. I write for both children and adults, but I’m happiest exploring the dark underbelly of the human condition.

2. What drew you to that particular genre?

Back when I was a girl of about nine or ten, my father used to work in an auction house. It was a venue that auctioned lots ranging from jewellery to collectibles to household items, and antiques. Every now and then, Dad would bring home a box of books that was unsold, knowing I was a voracious reader.

One day he brought home a box and riffled through it like he normally did, retrieving the usual Enid Blyton, Judy Blume, C S Lewis, et al. One book, he looked at the cover and said, “Maybe when you’re older.” He put the book at the top of a cupboard, out of my reach.

Man, did I want to know what was in that book! I watched and waited, and bided my time, until I felt Dad would have forgotten about it. I used a chair to get the book down. That book was Deadly Nightshade: Strange Tales of the Dark edited by Peter Haining, an anthology of stories from some of the masters: Ray Bradbury, Joan Aiken, Conrad Aiken, Saki, Algernon Blackwood, M R James.

I was hooked! I read every story and hung off every word. And here we are…

3. What are you currently working on?

It’s an eclectic mix with regards to works in progress this year! I recently completed another middle grade fantasy novel, which is ready to be shopped around, and have another middle grade novel in progress. Sea Glass is a contemporary Australian tale about a grandfather reuniting with his estranged granddaughter, so a move away from genre with this one, but a story I’m very invested in.

I’m still tinkering away at Tawn, a YA space opera/space western, which is proving to be a lot of fun, but also a worldbuilding challenge. I’ve also started outlining a novella titled Perfect For Us, which will blend psychological horror with haunted house tropes.

I’ve only set myself two writing goals this year: to complete first drafts of Sea Glass and Tawn, so hopefully I’ll accomplish both, with room to spare for other projects.

4. What inspired you to write it?

Perfect For Us was inspired by my family’s own true-life experiences. Naturally, the story and characters are 100% changed, however 90% of the inexplicable occurrences described really did happen!

With Tawn, the idea came to me in the shower­—a complete and fully-formed novel! That’s never happened to me before (it was a long shower 😊). My main character is dyslexic and inspired by my son, who manages to overcome some of the challenges associated with his learning disorder in the most creative and inspiring ways.

Sea Glass came about by my own fascination with sea glass. As a long-term beachcomber and collector of sea glass, I began to take more of an interest in its formation and origins, and undertook extensive research and reading from collectors and experts around the world. Sea glass is so interesting! It deserves to be showcased, and the plot of Sea Glass feels like a fitting tribute to such a wonderful ‘trash to treasure’ natural jewel.

5. How do you research? Do you research upfront or dive right in and Google as you go?

I love research. If you ever need to form a trivia team, throw a writer in the mix. They know the most random facts about everything from how many meters of intestines are inside a cow’s belly, to how many seconds it takes between pulling the pin from a grenade to it exploding, to what Pluto’s moons are named!

With short stories, I normally ‘Google as I go’, but with longer works, I like to be forearmed with a certain amount of information, especially if it’s to inform a large part of the work. For example, on a recent trip to Tasmania, I spent a day in and around the outskirts of the Weld River Valley, a region that will provide the setting for another work I’m planning to tackle next year (or this year, if time allows).

6. What’s the strangest or most interesting thing you’ve researched for your writing?

I wouldn’t say it’s the strangest thing I’ve ever researched, but it’s certainly one of the most interesting. I wrote a story Beneath the Cliffs of Darknoon Bay (you can find it in IFWG Publishing Australia’s soon-to-be-released anthology Spawn: Weird Tales of Pregnancy, Birth and Babies).

My story is set on Darknoon Island, a fictious island in the very real Furneaux Group, a scattering of approximately one hundred islands located in the treacherous ink-black waters of Bass Strait, that separates Tasmania from mainland Australia. The year is 1836, at the height of Australia’s sealing industry. The story begins when naively-adventurous Edward and his wife, Cecily, arrive on Darknoon, where Edward has undertaken a year’s contract as the island’s lighthouse keeper. That’s all well and good…but it turned out I only had a base level knowledge of lighthouses!

The research component for this story was fun, but quite intensive. I disappeared down an ever-expanding rabbit hole, exploring everything from the climate and indigenous flora and fauna present in the Furneaux Group, to the various styles of lighthouses in the 1800’s, the logistics, duties and responsibilities of a lighthouse keeper, and learned all about lighthouse operation and technologies of the era, including the impressive Fresnal lens, a type of composite compact lens developed by French physicist Augustin-Jean Fresnel, described as "the invention that saved a million ships".

Put me on your trivia team for the evolution of lighthouse technology! 😊

7. What’s the most personal story/scene you’ve written and why?

That’s a really thought-provoking question and one I had to think long and hard about. I’m going to run with William’s Mummy, a story that explores a new mother’s devastating search for belonging.

Motherhood can be a complicated, sometimes frightening space, especially for first time mothers. When my son was born, I clearly recall the emotional weight of responsibility and expectation that arrived with him. William’s Mummy was written around that time. Thankfully, my Play Group experience was very different to the experience Selena Morris navigates in this dark little story. (special shout out to Carrara Funtime in Queensland)!

William’s Mummy is included in my forthcoming collection Coralesque and Other Tales to Disturb & Distract.

8. Who are your literary influences? In what way?

So many! I’m inspired by the greats of the late 1800’s / early 1900’s—M R James, Guy de Maupassant, H G Wells, Saki, and others of that ilk, their understated style of horror is unsettling by insinuation.

I can’t rate Shirley Jackson enough—her quiet, cunning style is truly masterful.

More contemporary influences—Robert McCammon, Joe Lansdale, Annie Proulx, Kaaron Warren, Bren MacDibble. I really enjoy Liane Moriarty’s keen observations and portrayal of suburban familiarity, and Tim Winton for his lyrical loveliness.

Stephen King has been a giant to me since my early teens. His earlier works influenced me greatly—they challenged me to write outside the safety of my cognitive parameters; to look more intensely at the mechanics of character, and to indulge and embrace my love of horror.

9. What books are on your bedside table right now?

I’m currently reading Lucid’ a psychological murder mystery by local writer, Muriel Cooper. Straight after that will be Paul Tremblay’s Survivor Song, and then I’m looking forward to the dystopian world of The Given (Book One of The Given Trilogy), by another local writer, Mickey Martin. Then on to Honeybee by Craig Silvey…so many books, so little time!

10. Last and most important, where can we find your books/stories?

You can find Curtis Creed and the Lore of the Ocean through all good physical and digital bookstores.

Coralesque and Other Tales to Disturb and Distract is being released worldwide on April 15, but pre-orders are available here until 15 March.

A full list of where my short fiction and poetry has been published can be found on my website here.

Follow Rebecca on these platforms!


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