I met SC Farrow through an online group of writers. I was asking for advice and Susannah kindly answered my query. Fast forward a year, and now we’re stablemates at the same publishing house, Dixi Books, based in Sofia, Bulgaria! Last week, I read Susannah’s book, Open Wounds, a wonderful hard-hitting collection of short stories. I’m delighted to interview her here…
NLK: I’m intrigued by your array of jobs like lamp shade maker, cigarette girl, dressmaker, and vocalist, when did you start writing and how did this varied work history help your creative endeavours?
SCF: I’ve always been a ‘writer’, but I didn’t get serious about it until I was in my early thirties. I was going through a divorce, which was unquestionably tough. However, the upheaval forced me to reflect on what I really wanted to do with my life. I’d always wanted to write, and so that’s what I decided to do. The hardest part was giving myself permission to follow that dream and make it a reality. Once I gave myself that permission, I never looked back.
As for my array jobs, I’ve had some odd ones, that’s for sure! Some I took out of necessity; others were out of curiosity. I feel blessed to have had so many unique experiences and opportunities. No matter how great or how humble, each one has helped shaped the person I am today. And to this day, I draw upon those experiences in all of my work. Without question they help to inform my writing and bring a sense of truth and authenticity to it.
NLK: What was your first published book?
SCF: It was a non-fiction children’s education title called Sea Jellies. As far as I know it’s still being distributed to schools in the USA under the title Jellyfish.
NLK: Why did you make the change from screenwriting to writing prose?
SCF: Actually, I’m going to back to prose. I started my professional writing career as a prose writer. I got involved in screenwriting when one of my short scripts was produced in 2002. I continued writing prose, but at the time screenwriting was more appealing to me. I love screenwriting but I also love prose writing and feel that now is the right time for me to return to that format.
NLK: What are the main differences between screenwriting and writing short fiction or novels?
SCF: Number one is the economy of words. Essentially a screenplay is blueprint for a team of people to create a story that is to be viewed. As such, when writing a screenplay, you simply do not have the luxury of writing lengthy passages of literary text. You can, and should, write smart and beautiful text, just not lengthy passages of it.
Number two is structure. Scriptwriting is very formulaic, and some writers are put off by that. However, others, like me, love the challenge of creating something fresh and new despite the limitations of formulaic structure.
NLK: What’s the most exciting project you’ve worked on to date?
SCF: Oh, that’s a tough question because I’ve worked on some really great projects. However, I guess at this time I’d have to say my most exciting project to date is Killervision, a feature film that I co-wrote and co-produced in 2011. A micro-budget psychological thriller//horror, Killervision was distributed by Maxim Media in Canada and the US.
Killervision was a passion project for me. I’d made a number of short films and was ready to move onto features. This project provided that opportunity. The limited budget made shooting a challenge; however, it was an incredible experience and I’m eternally grateful to every single member of the cast and crew who put in 110% to make it happen. The time we spent on set, the camaraderie… It was one of the greatest times of my life. And I’m pleased to say that a number of the cast and crew have gone on to do remarkable things in the biz.
NLK: As an editor, what is the most common mistake that writers make?
SCF: I work with a lot of new writers, so my response is really reflective of the challenges that aspiring writers face. One of the biggest mistakes is in thinking that writing is easy. Or that just picking up a pen qualifies you to be a ‘writer’. Yes, the literal act of writing words on a page is easy. What is not easy is the ability to write those words in a way that is meaningful, and in a way that induces some kind of emotional response in the reader. That ability to do that is a skill which requires practice and dedication.
One of the other most common mistakes is the lack of understanding about, or appreciation for, structure. The value of structure is an age-old argument but one that continues to be debated. Some writers feel that adhering to structure, even loosely, stifles or constricts their creativity. Some argue that they understand it inherently or intuitively and that their completed narratives will be structurally sound.
As an editor, I can generally tell within the first few pages which stories are structurally sound and which ones aren’t. Even a ‘slice of life’ piece should have a clear beginning, middle, and end. You wouldn’t build a house without some kind of framework, so why on earth would you think it’s possible to build a solid story without the same consideration? If you want to be a writer, learn structure. When you’ve learned it, you can then decide if, or how, it will serve your purpose.
NLK: As a teacher of creative writing, what do you most want your students to master?
SCF: Grammar! Grammar exists for a reason—it helps writers to create the best possible expression of their work. It also helps to prevent misunderstandings of meaning and/or poor interpretations of the text. If you want to be published, if you want to build an audience, you need to understand that grammar skills are an essential part of the craft. You know that old saying, the one about knowing the rules before breaking the rules? It’s true.
NLK: Can you tell us about your prose, especially ‘Open Wounds’, and how your short story collection was acquired by European publisher, Dixi Books?
Open Wounds is a small collection of short stories that mostly came together when I was a student. None of them share a truly common theme other than emotionally charged circumstances and the main characters’ resulting ‘brokenness’. I was doing some editing work for Dixi Books around the time I was choosing which stories to include in the compilation. I knew Dixi was interested in publishing literary fiction, so I asked if they’d be interested in taking a look at my work. They were interested, and much to my delight they added Open Wounds to their list of titles. I am, of course, eternally grateful to Ayse Ozden and Dixi Books for their confidence in my writing.
Now that Open Wounds is available my focus is on finishing my novel, which is another passion project. Set in St Kilda in the mid-1980s, This is Not a Lie is about a heroin-addicted musician who is forced to keep his homosexuality secret while on the road to stardom. It’s another story that’s been shaped and informed by real-life experiences. In between work, study, and other general life commitments, progress has been slow; however, after five long years, I’m happy to say that ‘The End’ is almost in sight.
NLK: If you could write a letter to your ten-year-old self, what would you say?
You’ve always liked reading and telling stories. And those plays you wrote were a big hit with your classmates! If I told you that one day it would be your job to write plays, would you believe me? Well, it’s true! One day, you will write plays and books for a job and it will make you very, very happy.
But before you can do that, there are four important things you need to remember…
Number one is to try new things. It doesn’t matter if you fail at them. The important thing is to learn from doing something new and different.
Number two is to travel far and wide. Learn about other people. See what makes them different to you. See what makes them the same.
Number three is to practice. The only way to get better at something is to practice it every day. Read what other people write then practice your own way of doing it.
Number four is to believe. If you want to write stories when you grow up, you need to believe that you can do it and never give up.
I have faith in you.
Connect with SC Farrow
You can learn more about S.C. Farrow @ scfarrow.com
You can follow her on Facebook facebook.com/scfarrowthiswriterslife/
Or Instagram instagram.com/sc_farrow/
Killervision is available on DVD or to stream online @ killervisionmovie.com
About SC Farrow
S.C. Farrow is an author, screenwriter, and content creator.
She hasn’t always been a writer. In the past she’s had some pretty wacky jobs like lampshade maker, cigarette girl, dressmaker, and vocalist. And she’s done some pretty wacky things like spending a week in a Swiss castle with the Mel Gibson of Cuba, climbing inside the Great Pyramid of Egypt, and getting arrested for the possession of a prohibited substance.
As a writer, she’s fascinated by beautiful words and tormented characters. They are the essence of her work. She has a Master of Arts degree in Creative Writing and teaches Professional Writing at institutions across Melbourne.
About Open Wounds
Publishing Date: May 2019
Her eyes drift as she wonders who they are and where they’re going. More importantly, where is she going? Where are they going? And what’s going to happen when they get there? A new life? A new beginning? She bites her lip. She doesn’t think so.
Australia is known as the lucky country, but as we know luck is relative.
S.C. Farrow’s Open Wounds is a collection of unflinching Australian short stories that shines light on those moments in life that are as profound as they are traumatic.