We talk to Jane Flett about some of the themes and ideas behind her short story “The Idea Groves”, which appears in Neon #15.
“The Idea Groves” is something of an urban fairytale. What do you think of classic fairytales? Do you aim to do something similar, or something completely different with “The Idea Groves”?
Fairytales are fascinating, if you look at old Italian folklore or Aborigine mythology, they’re insane. They start as people trying to explain some aspect of humanity, but instead of just talking about it normally, they create these way-out situations with disguises and poisons and kings, and then it all turns a bit dark and gruesome. They’re proper stories too. I love the idea of returning to actual story telling and pushing it out there a bit. I was reading a Muriel Gray interview about the submissions for the Orange prize, she said she was tired of this “rural schoolteacher syndrome” where women felt like the domesticities of their lives were interesting enough to write as fiction, but that was boring. I agree with that. I want to read mad flights of the imagination, like Richard Brautigan or Tom Robbins. It’s a lot more fun to write like that, too.
Is there actually a chip shop on Otago Lane?
There aren’t any chip shops there. There are some fine bookshops, an excellent record store and a wee tea shop called Tchaiovna that does the best chai you’ve ever tasted. I don’t know where you can get good chips in Glasgow. If anyone knows, they should tell me. Chips are delicious. Especially with too much vinegar on.
Why did you identify the Swiss, in particular, as the pioneers of “synthetic ideas”?
At the time I wrote this, they were conducting an experiment in Switzerland where they built a 17 mile long underground circular tunnel in which they were going to fire some particles around and try to recreate the big bang. Apparently, this would reveal the secrets of the universe to us. I found it all a little terrifying. Personally, I’m not sure recreating the big bang underneath Geneva is a good idea. The first time they tested it, the magnets flew off the walls and everywhere had to be evacuated. I don’t know what ever happened with that plan.
Do you find a special correlation between your ideas and the hours of “still-before-bedtime”. Do you find this a good time to write?
Still-before-bedtime is the best time for coming up with ideas. I do like to write then, though it’s not always the best idea. I tend to spill whisky on the laptop.
I liked the use of perspective–the emergence of a first person narrator towards the end. Did you know you would do this from the start? What did you want to achieve with this?
I never know where stories are going when I start them. I liked the way it came round like that though; it’s true, I do still think of the Chipshop Darlings. It’s all terribly sad. The council always fuck things up that way.
Jane Flett lives in Edinburgh, where she writes poems and stories that she occasionally reads aloud to people. She is also a philosopher, gin drinker and cellist.