Angela Slatter’s short story, The Little Match Girl, appears in the Spring 2006 issue of Shimmer.
Questions About the Story
Where did the idea come from?
I had signed up for my Masters in Creative Writing, looking at rewritten/recycled/reclaimed fairytales and was wondering where to start. I was sitting on the bus one day, thinking “Which fairy tale from childhood affected me most?” and remembered that my Mum had read The Little Match Girl to me when I was about 9 and it devastated me! She died!!!! That’s not a story for a kid! So, I started to think about TLMG and who she might have been (rather than a defenseless child), and that’s how my girl became someone who stands outside of society and refuses to bend to what others think she should do. I started scribbling it on a piece of paper on the bus, then had to decipher my handwriting at home later.
How did the story change as you developed it?
The main change came when I decided to use the matches to segment the different stories of her life – they provide the threshold moments for her. Things flowed much better from that point on… It was mainly a structural thing because the story itself came pretty much full-blown to my mind.
You know the advice “Sometimes you have to kill your darlings.” Was there a scene or line that it really hurt to cut, but cutting it made the story stronger?
Mmmmm, I think the only thing I refused to cut was the last line! My supervisor felt it did not work but I was determined it should stay because it summed my character up perfectly in her refusal to obey – she chose her own fate and I was very determined that the last line should stay. Funnily enough, that is the thing most readers comment on, how much they love that line and how powerful they think it is. Yay!
How is this story like your other work? How is it different?
It’s like my other work in the genre and the strong female character. It’s unlike my other pieces in that the main character is stripped of all her ‘helpers’, and her solution to her situation is definitely the most extreme.
Questions About Writing
Who do you write for? Yourself or someone else?
Me. Me, me, me! It’s the one area that I’m totally selfish in (I hope).
What writing projects are you presently working on?
I have 2 chick-lit novels half finished; and have a novel about suicide in families started (I’m taking that with me to the Tin House Summer Writers Workshop this year in the US). I also have started a book of re-written fairy tales for kids.
What time of day do you prefer to do your writing?
I’m a night person. On weekends I get up at the crack of midday, wander around for a while and start writing about 2 in the afternoon at the earliest…then I may write until the early hours of the morning. I try to write 500 words a day on weekdays, just to maintain the discipline – even if I throw out those 500 words, I’ve at least made myself do what I’m supposed to do. On weekends I write more. I heard yesterday from a friend that another mutual acquaintance had written his latest novel in 18 days – 4000 words a day for 18 consecutive days…I was filled with equal parts admiration and professional hatred!
Favorite book read when you were a child?
Ahhhhhh…? Too many. I loved Enid Blyton books when I was little and fairy tale collections; then as I grew older I read a lot of Nancy Drew mysteries; then ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, ‘Tangara’, and ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ in my teens…
If you could trade places with anyone, who would it be? And Why?
I just kinda like being me. Everyone has their problems, so if you swap lives you just swap your set of problems for someone else’s – so better the devil you know. If I could time-travel? I’d be a muse in a salon in eighteenth century France (great dresses).
Watch much TV? If so, what shows do you watch? Which shows are guilty pleasures?
TV is the thing to do at the end of a bad day; turn it on, stare at the pretty colours, and just zone out. There’ s a lot of crap on TV at the moment, nothing I rush home to watch. Am waiting for the return of Oz (fifth season about to run in Australia), I miss Sex and the City desperately, hate Desperate Housewives, I know NCIS is bad but I just can’t help watching it (think I may be mesmerized by Mark Harmon’s eyebrows). Any British cop drama is worth watching – especially the Val McDermid ‘Wire in the Blood’ series.
A place in Sydney called ‘Vamps’…superb food but the problem is that I’m now living in Brisbane! So, in Brisbane: CruBar or Luna Lounge or Ouzeri.
Cat or dog person? (or something else, like birds, iguanas, or even evil robot monkeys?)
Cats are cool coz they are dignified; dogs are great when you want unconditional love. I like them both…but don’t have any pets at the moment apart from the traditional Brisbane geckos.
If you had a working time machine what advice would you give a younger self?
It will all be okay – relax more, stress less. And don’t dye your hair blonde EVER.
Quiz: How many writers does it take to change a lightbulb? Please explain your answer:
None – you can always write by the light of the laptop…