15 April 20114 March 2014 Main Posts Helen Dinmore interview Clare Strahan Adelaide writer Helen Dinmore takes time from her PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Adelaide to chat with Overland about her short story ‘Unplugged’. How did you come to write the story – was there a catalyst? As a short-story writer, what kind of thing inspires you? This story came out of some research I was doing into the New Puritan literary manifesto of 2000. The New Puritans proposed a kind of neorealism that struck me as a rather hollow, technique-focused reaction to postmodernism. It prompted me to wonder whether it’s useful to imagine that a return to straight realism would offer access to an available authenticity or objective truth. Once you’re unplugged, can you really go back into the Matrix? So ‘Unplugged’ became an experiment in metafictional realism. I first saw The Matrix in a bar on the Khao San Rd in Bangkok in early 2000, at the jaded end of many years travelling in India and South East Asia, and the idea for the story began from there. Travel to foreign places ruptures what we think we know about the world; there’s also a discourse in backpacking communities about ‘real’ places and ‘real’ culture, and a competitiveness and pretension around that. Romanticism about certain locations and modes of travelling, and the desire to construct experiences according to our expectations of what they should or will be like, have led to a commodification of both experience and identity. But the reality is that we take our cultural baggage with us wherever we go. Short fiction is a great place to experiment with form and content. I don’t always write out of theory in such a direct way but I’m very interested in how theory influences writing. The mysterious bit of the creative process is always informed by my preoccupations and what I’m reading and doing. Can you tell us a little about your journey as a writer? Jonathan Franzen wrote: ‘Every writer is first a member of a community of readers’. The more I develop as a writer, the more I see writing as inextricable from the practice of reading. I’ve been a massive book nerd since I was very small. I flirted with the sciences but there was never any real hope for me. Perhaps it’s wanky to talk about your art as a calling, but I’ve definitely been drawn to writing because books have always spoken so very clearly to me. Where are you now, with your writing practice? In practical terms, I’ve just begun a PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Adelaide. In more abstract terms, I’d love to write something narratively coherent but with an effect as visceral as this: It brings to mind a sculptor finding form in stone, as opposed to creating something from the ground up. Clare Strahan Clare Strahan is a two-time novelist with Allen & Unwin publishers, long-ago contributing editor to Overland, and teaches in the RMIT Professional Writing & Editing Associate Degree. More by Clare Strahan Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places. If you like this piece, or support Overland’s work in general, please subscribe or donate. Related articles & Essays First published in Overland Issue 228 11 November 202211 November 2022 Main Posts On the last day of Subscriberthon, our amazing online editor gives you one last (very good) reason to subscribe Editorial team What's in store for the last day of Subscriberthon? First published in Overland Issue 228 10 November 202210 November 2022 Main Posts On the second-last day of Subscriberthon, our favourite editor-duo give you reason #1002 to subscribe to Overland Editorial team What's in store for the second-last day of Subscriberthon?