This is the seventh post published in conjunction with the release of The Great Unknown, where authors share their experience of writing eerie stories for the anthology, and give you an idea of what to expect (and, I hope, look forward to). The Great Unknown is available from Booktopia, Readings, Avid Reader, Fishpond (free shipping worldwide) and all good bookstores. You might also want to add it to your shelves on Goodreads.
Marion Halligan is an award-winning Australian novelist and short story writer. Her books include Lovers’ Knots: A Hundred-Year Novel, The Golden Dress, The Fog Garden and Valley of Grace. Here she talks about writing her elegant story ‘Her Dress Was a Pale Glimmer’, about an unexpected dinner guest, for The Great Unknown.
I love writing short stories, and I enjoy fitting what I want to write to someone else’s brief. The idea of The Great Unknown was exciting, but I cannot say I have ever spent a lot of time reading or watching the supernatural. Though recently I had great fun with a collection of Montague James’ brilliant ghost stories, edited by Ruth Rendell. They had the charm for me of an unexplored genre. So when Angela asked me to submit a piece for this anthology I didn’t say yes straightaway but that I would think about it.
Then one morning, in that lovely half-waking half-sleeping time when one is so cosy not getting up out of bed, I had a dream. I didn’t remember it as well as I would have liked, but it gave me the story. I am not entirely sure what it is about, it is quite a mystery to me, which is a good thing because it will be mysterious to the reader too. That is the wonderful thing about a short story, it doesn’t need to be all worked out. I enjoyed writing from my narrator’s point of view, a young girl, intelligent certainly, but perhaps not knowing a lot, not being as sophisticated as she thinks she is. I couldn’t have written her story in the third person, and one of the other characters would have told quite a different tale. I liked the title too, it doesn’t give anything way, it’s a small statement of fact but it doesn’t actually mean much, though it is nicely poetic, ‘glimmer’ always is.