Georgina Bruce is a writer and teacher. Her writing lives in various dark corners of the internet, including her flash fiction site http://thebeardedlady.wordpress.com. Her stories can also be found in Strange Horizons, Expanded Horizons, and the Clockwork Phoenix anthology. Her story “Dogs” can be found in Shimmer Issue #13.
Tell us how “Dogs” came to be.
“Dogs” was a lovely story to write. It started with the line, “Dr Zoloft takes his head off and puts it on the table…” which I came up with in a sort of dreamy doodling time. I loved the oddness of that sentence, so I used it as a starting point for what I thought might be a poem or flash fiction piece. I thought it was complete nonsense while I was writing the first draft, but after reading it through I saw the thread of narrative emerging. I kept picking at it until it came clear. Some of the images in the story, such as the pattern on the bedspread growing around the character, and the literal storm in the coffee cup, are thoughts I’ve been playing with for many years, which finally found a home in this story. Actually this story also brings together many of my favourite themes – humans that are/have the qualities of animals, reality vs fantasy, madness, brain injury, betrayal in love and friendship, Indian cuisine…
Which authors, if any, have had an influence on your own writing?
Kelly Link has had a massive influence on my writing. It was her stories that made me see a way to write about the kind of strangeness I’m interested in, as well as how to transition between scenes, and how to (hopefully!) make a connection with the reader. Angela Carter is another writer I admire hugely, for the way she writes about female myths and the visceral experiences of being female. Joanna Russ and Lisa Tuttle also both tell stories that centre female experience. Reading those kinds of writers has definitely fed into my own work. At the moment I am also really enjoying Helen Oyeyemi’s novels.
As a child, did you want to be a writer, or did you have different aspirations?
I always wanted to be a writer, and as a child and teenager I wrote lots of stories and poetry. However, I abandoned that aspiration for most of my twenties, whilst I travelled the world and took recreational drugs and generally behaved like someone who didn’t know her own mind. It took a dramatic personal disaster for me to come face to face with the idea that I should be writing. It was like this desire and need to write was all that was left in the wreckage of my life. I grabbed it, and clung onto it, and never looked back.
When did you know you were a writer?
I’m not sure! I still have my moments where I have to remind myself that I am a writer, and that I should probably be doing some actual writing.
If you could choose any five literary people — real or imagined, living or not, friends or otherwise — for a gathering (lunch, tea party, etc)… who would they be?
I hate this question! I change my mind every two seconds. But I’ll settle on Margaret Atwood, Toni Morrison, Angela Carter, Clarissa Pinkola Estes, and Ursula Le Guin. We would eat cakes, drink champagne and/or smoke marijuana, and play truth or dare.
Favorite book that you’ve read recently?
‘Room’, by Emma Donoghoe. I found the main character’s voice and point of view rather irritating, actually, although I guess that was kind of the point, and I can’t see how she could have done any differently without losing the great strengths of the story. Anyway, it was a truly compelling read.
Favorite book from your childhood?
It has to be Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. I must have read both books about fifty times. I was horrified when I read the theories that Lewis Carroll had a sexual interest in Alice Liddell, and that this whole wonderful world was his way of drawing her inside his influence. As a child I had no idea about that, of course, and I loved the silliness and wordplay, and most particularly, Alice herself.
Where have you visited that you would like to return?
I lived in Japan for a while and found it both awesome and alienating. The country, and the experience of living there, has influenced my writing massively. I’d love to go back and re-visit some of the cities and towns and beaches, and to visit some of the places I never got a chance to see the first time. I lived in Okinawa, which is incredibly beautiful and tropical. I’d love to see it again, to check out my old neighbourhood and the school where I taught. But I’d also really like to travel up the country. Hokkaido looks like a very beautiful place, and I do prefer cold weather, so I would probably head north.
If you could have written any short story or novel in the world, which would it be?
For novels, it’s a toss up between Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle, and Judy Budnitz’s If I Told You Once. Or The Dispossessed, by Ursula Le Guin. Or… If we’re talking short stories, it would have to be Magic for Beginners, by Kelly Link. I love her short stories. They have a quality that is completely engaging and wonderful.
If you were stranded on a desert island, which ice cream (or other sweet) would you want to have with you?
I am not mentally, physically, or emotionally equipped to be stranded on a desert island, and sweets are not going to help! I’m not a big fan of sweeties in general. Maybe I’d choose chewing gum instead, so I could have a minty fresh smile as I went insane and died of loneliness and beri-beri.