- Guest Journalist -
Today, I introduce and interview an Australian journalist, photographer and author - Jason Nahrung.
Welcome, Jason ...
1. TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR WRITING JOURNEY.
I’ve always been a writer; it was a natural pairing with being a voracious and perhaps a tad precocious reader as a child. I only got serious about getting published when I moved to Brisbane in the late ’90s and was able to access the Queensland Writers Centre’s programs – a workshop with Kim Wilkins was particularly inspiring – and also the Vision writers group, a wonderful critique and support network for speculative fiction writers that’s still going. My then girlfriend and I wrote a novella, turn by turn, when we were living states apart, and I later turned that into the novel that became The Darkness Within, my first published long fiction (Hachette, 2007). I now have more than 20 short stories under my belt, as well as the novels Salvage (Twelfth Planet Press, 2012) and this year’s outback vampire duology with Clan Destine Press: Blood and Dust (originally published digitally by Xoum in 2012) and The Big Smoke.
In terms of non-fiction, I’ve been a newspaper journalist for about 25 years, and have provided numerous interviews and articles, as well as reviews of books, movies, live entertainment and travel experiences, for newspapers and magazines in that time.
I’m also the editor of Writing Queensland, the newsletter of the Queensland Writers Centre. So in some ways, my writing journey has turned a circle.
2. WHEN AND HOW DID YOU BECOME A JOURNALIST? WHAT INSPIRED YOU?
I started work as a newspaper journalist in 1989, a year after I finished university where I studied, among other things, journalism. It was a job that opened up – not always easy to find in rural Queensland – at the right time, and one where I could use my skills and, I hoped, do some good. I haven’t operated as a reporter for many years – I found sub-editing a more comfortable fit.
3. WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING A JOURNALIST?
There is a feeling of being part of society – an important part of it, despite our current professional environment and challenges. I do believe a healthy democracy needs the fourth estate. Also, the deadline pressure lets you know you’re alive some nights; it really brings the team together.
4. WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING A PROFESSIONAL WRITER?
Paying the bills! Certainly as a writer of fiction, but I’m told the freelance environment is also pretty darn tough these days, too, as markets lessen and tighten.
5. WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE AUTHOR AND WHY?
William Gibson – I’ve read and greatly enjoyed The Peripheral, so he’s top of mind at the moment – is one of the writers whose work I will buy without first cracking open the cover. His characterisation is spectacularly good – right up there with Stephen King – and his plotting a treat. He isn’t afraid to reveal details as part of a natural process – I love he is able to not tell the reader everything at once, and has writing of sufficient assuredness for the reader to continue unflustered. I enjoy the futurist element to his work, as well, and how it’s incorporated into the world so seamlessly.
Here’s a shout out to a few of the Australian authors I buy without bothering to consider the blurb: Kim Wilkins and Alison Goodman, who are narrative geniuses (amongst other things); Glenda Larke, whose fantasy worldbuilding is second to none; and Kirstyn McDermott, whose dark tales are beautifully told and get into your psyche, like blood into this chalk ...
And I’ve got to mention Bram Stoker: Dracula was given to me in high school, and it’s had me hooked on the Gothic, and vampires, ever since. Thanks, Brinky!
6. DO YOU WORK AS PART OF A TEAM, FREELANCE OR BOTH?
My writing career, such as it is, is broken into a few streams at this time. There’s the newspaper journalism; there’s the editorship for QWC, which has involved writing interviews and articles; there’s occasional proofreading for a publisher, and stray bits of manuscript assessment. I’ve been privileged to work as a mentor with the Australian Horror Writers Association. And I’m pursuing further works of short and long fiction, not all related to the PhD. One of the neat things about getting something published, particularly fiction, is working with the editor and publisher to craft that story into its final state, to make it as good as it can be within the limits of the available resources.
7. WRITERS ARE SOMETIMES INFLUENCED BY THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN THEIR OWN LIVES. ARE YOU BY THE STORIES YOU COVER?
I don’t cover stories these days, but I’m certainly exposed to a wide array of events on the subs’ desk. It’s healthy for a writer to be open to a lot of influences – to read a variety of genres, non-fiction as well as fiction and poetry and points between and beyond. I’ve tapped events and feelings from my own life, and it’s not unusual for news stories to seep into my fiction to some extent – sometimes years later. Writers want to be bower birds, collecting all manner of shiny things, because you never know which two (or more) of those things are going to come together and make a story.
8. HAVE YOU WON ANY PRIZES OR AWARDS?
A couple, at low level in the fiction world, and I’ve had some short-listings that have made me happy.
9. WHAT DID THEY MEAN TO YOU?
Awards are a nice pat on the back, but you don’t let them get to you – either winning or losing, or being overlooked. Being a finalist is very neat – it means a few people like your work, and they like it a lot! But these things are often selective and subjective. For instance, stories I’ve thought the weakest in an anthology have bobbed up on recommended reading lists and awards short-lists. My feeling is, take it where you can get it, but don’t judge yourself too harshly using awards as a measure. If you’re going to be a writer, it’s about expectations management – hope for the best, sure, but stay grounded.
10. WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IF YOU HAD AN OPPORTUNITY TO SPEAK TO WORLD LEADERS?
Do you lot think you could maybe do what’s good for everyone trying to get by on this planet instead of making policy based solely on self-interest and corporate selfishness?
11. WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS / ASPIRATIONS FOR THE FUTURE?
I’m starting a PhD through research in creative writing this year, so that’s my immediate objective. I’m looking forward to investigating climate change and writing about a possible future within that context, as well as further exploring my creative writing process. After that? To live comfortably, keep travelling, pay off the mortgage, write some stories, be as happy as I can be and help others where I can.
12. DO YOU THINK PRINT NEWSPAPERS ARE SERIOUSLY CHALLENGED BY THE INTERNET? HOW?
Absolutely. The punters like their free news and aren’t too fussy about where they get it from. Newspapers – some more than others – have abandoned the high ground of quality, balanced journalism as they mistake clicks for effectiveness. They also face the problem of monetising the internet – advertising revenue drives newspapers, and it’s hard to come by online.
13. WHO OR WHAT HAS INFLUENCED YOU IN YOUR WORK?
Coming up through newspapers, back in the day, I was fortunate to have editors and sub-editors had the time and the access (we were all in the same room, a mere shout away) to impart some wisdom. That focus on a well-crafted, economically told, emotionally neutral story has served me well, even if I had to learn to loosen up and get emotional in my fiction!
14. DO YOU TAKE PHOTOGRAPHS TOO?
Coming up through regional media, you learn to do all things, and taking photos was one of them. I’ve always enjoyed photography – my nana gave me a point-and-shoot when I was just a nipper, and I bought my first SLR when I was in high school (a Minolta X-300, if anyone needs a body or two!). I still dabble with a digital SLR, not as much as I’d like. It’s an asset for freelancers to be able to take useful pictures to provide with their copy, especially from obscure locations or specific events that photo libraries might not cover well.
Bio on Jason:
Jason Nahrung grew up on a Queensland cattle property and now lives in Ballarat with his wife, the writer Kirstyn McDermott. He works as an editor and journalist to support his travel addiction. His fiction is invariably darkly themed, perhaps reflecting his passion for classic B-grade horror films and ’80s goth rock. His most recent long fiction title is the Gothic tale Salvage (Twelfth Planet Press), with his outback vampire duology Blood and Dust and The Big Smoke coming soon through Clan Destine Press.
Jason lurks online at:
Clancy's comment: Thank you, Jason. Good luck with your investigations on climate change. Keep writing ...