S.C. Farrow Interview

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Interview by Holly Jane Erin


S.C. Farrow is an Australian screenwriter and author. Throughout her life, she has had an array of left of field jobs and has many creative outlets (such as music, fine art and dance). Through her writing, Farrow explores the darker sides of the human condition and beacons readers to question our social norms. In 2019 she published Open Wounds, a book of short stories, and her upcoming novel This Is Not A Lie will be released this year, on the 28th of November.

 

INTERVIEWER

Your upcoming book ‘This Is Not A Lie’ is based in the 80s; what drew you to write about this era?

FARROW

I grew up in Melbourne and in 1984, the year in which events in the book take place, I was in my early twenties. It was a time when Melbourne hadn’t quite grown up. There was still a sense of innocence about the city. It hadn’t quite developed that hard edge that modern cities seem to have. It was a great time, or at least to me it was a great time. Then again, maybe I’m looking back with a sense of fondness and romanticism.

INTERVIEWER

I believe this novel came about through a research project during your Master of Arts degree, could you tell us about that process?

FARROW

I’d started work on it prior to embarking on my MA. However, the content that I’d developed was a bit of a shambles. I’d toyed with different characters and locations, but the narrative really ‘found its groove’ when I started my MA. I went back to the drawing board and got serious about the when and the where, then got clear on what I was trying to say. Not surprisingly, I had a lot to say, so I had to be discerning about what I would ultimately include in the story and what I would leave out. Once I was clear on the when, the where, and the message, I reworked the characters and gave some thought to literary devices that could support and strengthen the narrative. Once I was clear on those things, the whole thing flowed and came together relatively quickly. 

INTERVIEWER

I heard through the grapevine you were in a band in the 80s, would you mind telling us a little about the band and how this experience informed your novel?

FARROW

I was in several bands. Mostly rock bands… And one reception band. I hate to say this because most of the musicians I gigged with were great people (mostly), but the bands were largely forgettable. Despite this, my experience as a vocalist and performer gave me the insight needed to write this story. I grew up in Melbourne’s southern suburbs, so I was familiar with many of the iconic venues referenced in the book. Sadly, some of those venues are no longer operating. At that time, I met a lot of musicians who were in various stages of success. As such, I had a lot of background knowledge which certainly helped when developing the characters.

INTERVIEWER

What are some of the other eras you’ve written about, and what are the joys and challenges of writing about those times?

FARROW

I wrote a screenplay about the last woman hanged in Australia. That was primarily set in the 1940s. I also wrote a short story about her which was included in my collection of short stories called Open Wounds (Dixi Books 2019). I’ve also written a short story set in 17th century France, another that was set in late 19th century USA, and another that was set in Italy in the Renaissance period. I confess that all of these stories are in various states of development and that apart from the screenplay none of them are actually complete!

INTERVIEWER

For emerging authors wanting to write about different eras, would you mind telling us a little about the process of getting yourself into the mindset of a time? 

FARROW

It all begins with research! Luckily, I love researching, so this isn’t a hardship for me. I love hunting down obscure reference material, anything that I believe will help me make my story more authentic. I do a lot of research before I start doing any writing. And I often continue researching while I’m writing. There might be some obscure thing I need to know, so I’ll stop writing and go and research it. 

I also love reading about people who lived in the relevant time period. I love reading about the small details of daily life. Small details, ones that are often overlooked, can make a world of difference to your story. They can be the difference between a text that feels authentic and one that feels inauthentic. Knowing these small intimate details also helps me to get into the right frame of mind for writing, as if somehow transporting me into that world. Kind of like total immersion. Or method acting. It helps me to visualise the world I am creating and to understand the way characters behave as a result of being in that world. It might not be the most efficient way of getting things, but it works for me. 

INTERVIEWER

You’ve had a myriad of life experiences and careers; how important do you think they are in informing your writing? 

FARROW

They are very important. I am the sum of my experiences! We are all the sum of our experiences! At heart, I’m a risk taker. I’m also a big believer in experiencing all that life has to offer—within your means, morality, and the law of the land, of course. And taking risks doesn’t mean doing stupid things. Or competing with others. Or hurting others. It simply means challenging yourself. Travel. Go places. Be with people. Observe people. Watch what drives them. Watch what disappoints them. Human beings are endlessly fascinating. If you simply watch other people, you’ll never run out of story ideas.

INTERVIEWER

Of your many different creative pursuits, what does writing give you or let you convey that you personally can’t get from the other artistic outlets?  

FARROW

You can have a love/hate relationship with words, can’t you? This is a great question and I’m not sure that I have an answer. It’s certainly the one creative pursuit that I’ve stuck with the longest. I’ve always wanted to write, even as a child. But as a child I wasn’t scholarly or interested in school and dropped out when I was relatively young. The rules and repression were devastatingly tedious. What I wanted to do was experience life. And that’s exactly what I did. I had fun, I experimented, and I learned about life. But I never forgot about my dream of becoming a writer. 

When I was in my early thirties, my life hit a turning point and I took the opportunity to go back to school. I was finally going to get serious about writing. I love the challenge that writing presents, the challenge of creating just the right character, of working out just the right plot, of hitting just the right tone, of conveying just the right meaning and message, and to finding just the right words to express it all. There are so many things that can go wrong, but when they go right, you just know it. You feel it in your bones. The words start to flow, and the writing seems effortless. It doesn’t matter what I’m working on, every piece of writing is different, yet every one offers an exciting new challenge.

INTERVIEWER

Finally, as someone who’s broken the rules of specialising, what would your advice be to others whose interests are more of a polymath nature? 

FARROW

I’d say that’s great! These days, I think it’s essential to be multi-skilled. I think the days of specialising in one thing are well and truly over. As well as writing, I believe new writers should also have a complimentary skill like graphic art or photography or social media, or html/SEO. I know that developing one skill is hard enough, but if you can possibly develop another, it will definitely boost your employability or the possibility that your work is seen by others.