Saturday, May 18, 2013

Archival Activity

One for the archives

I'm in the process of updating, which means sloughing away a lot of the A Man Melting-centric material and adding more current stuff about The Mannequin Makers and my general awesomeness (it won't take long).

In the interests of nothing much, except my own curiosity in twenty years time (what did my website actually say in 2010-13?) I'm plugging the soon-to-be-excised text here.

About Craig

Standard author's bio you'll find all over the place

Craig Cliff was born in Palmerston North in 1983. Since then he has accumulated three university degrees, experienced office life in Australia and Scotland, swum in piranha-infested waters, slept at 4,200 metres above sea level, tried to write a million words in one year and learnt there's not much to do in Liechtenstein. His short stories have been published in New Zealand and Australia; one of them made it into Essential New Zealand Short Stories edited by Owen Marshall. These days he lives on Wellington's south coast and works for the government.

Bonus Q&A — exclusive to

You attended the International Institute of Modern Letters MA programme back in 2006. Did you write the stories in A Man Melting during your MA year?

No. I actually tried to write a novel that year — a great experience but I think it was a mistake to try and write a novel from go to whoa in eight months. Too many decisions were made for the sake of expedience that then became so integral to the fabric of the novel that it was beyond fixing. The manuscript now sits in my bottom drawer along with the novel I tried to write when I was twenty-one.

So when did you turn your attention to short fiction?
I've always written short fiction. It's a natural progression to start with the shorter form and work your way up to the longer, if that's your goal. I mostly read novels when I was younger (Douglas Coupland, Kurt Vonnegut, Chuck Palahniuk), so that's what I grew up wanting to write. Tastes change, of course, and eventually I found an appreciation for subtlety (though I still love me some Vonnegut). After finishing my MA, I really wanted to keep writing, but didn't have the reserves of energy needed to start another novel. So I returned to short fiction. The two stories I wrote were 'Copies' (already anthologised twice before appearing in A Man Melting) and 'Another Language' (won the novice section of the 2007 BNZ Katherine Mansfield Awards). After that, things began to fall into place. In 2008, while living in Edinburgh, I tried to write one million words in 366 days (it was a leap year). I only wrote 800,737 words, but it was a very successful failure. Almost every story in A Man Melting was written or revised during that year.

But to write 800,000 words, you must have written more than short stories?

Oh, sure. There were long rambling blog posts about the Tragically Hip, audiobooks, life in Edinburgh and the places I was travelling that year. There were also a couple of aborted novels and screeds of poetry.

Travel is a common thread in a lot of the stories in A Man Melting. Are these travel stories based on your own experience?

Some more than others. I've never been to Equador or Cambodia, two places characters find themselves in A Man Melting. I used my experience in similar countries like Peru and Thailand, and read a lot of travel blogs and guidebooks to try and get the key details while keeping a tourist-eye view. Fiction, and short fiction in particular, works best when things are called into question. An easy way to do that is to take a character and pop them in an unfamiliar country. I guess I'm less interested in where people travel than what they might find out about themselves when they get there.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m working on a novel set in the past. I hesitate to call it a historical novel as that phrase isn’t quite right: ‘history’ shouldn’t come before ‘novel’. It’s fiction with a research element. Fantasy tethered by the occasional fact. No corsets are removed. No street urchins or rich benefactors. There is a lighthouse, though. If everything goes to plan it should come out in this part of the world in 2013.

A Man Melting
The blurb

A son worries he is becoming too perfect a copy of his father. The co-owner of a weight-loss camp for teens finds himself running the black market in chocolate bars. A man starts melting and nothing can stop it, not even poetry.

This terrific collection of stories by an exciting new talent moves from the serious and realistic to the humorous and outlandish, each story copying an element from the previous piece in a kind of evolutionary chain. Amid pigeons with a taste for cigarette ash, a rash of moa sightings, and the identity crisis of an imaginary friend, the characters in these eighteen entertaining stories look for ways to reconnect with people and the world around them, even if that means befriending a robber wielding an iguana.

Why you really oughta buy the book 

Variety. Is it the spice of life, or is that cardamom? Either way, you've gotta love a book that covers house hunting and celestial mechanics, cheerleader porn and travel blogs, tug of war and car crashes, pregnancy tests, dwarves, hermits, cooking shows, dodgy teachers, the poetry of Sappho and the artistic potential of photocopiers.

Like animals? You'll find a veritable menagerie: cockroaches, fleas, lions, trout (rainbow), kittens (dead), apes (Planet of the), meerkats, whales, kereru, dodo, Yangtzee sturgeon, the indefatigable Galapagos mouse and many more.

Music aficionado? Well, there's references to Blur, The Beatles, Debussy and Dire Straits, but there's also Nelly Furtado, Neil Sedaka, Van Morrison, U2, Styx, and... urr... Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music.

Want a dose of kiwiana? What about Cameo Cremes, Raro, Ford Escorts, PVA glue, New World Supermarkets, Rashuns, Ka Mate, Minties, cricket at the Basin, MAF consultants, Nick Harrison and those breast cancer t-shirts you get from Glassons?

Other reasons to buy A Man Melting

1) You're related to Craig by blood or marriage
2) You are Craig's mechanic, accountant, dentist, supervisor-one-removed, former teacher, or best friend from kindergarten
3) You collect books by authors with two first names
4) You have read the other 56 works longlisted for the 2010 Frank O'Connor Prize
5) You have read the other 99 books in The Listener's Top 100 Books of 2010
6) You love lists.

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