Please welcome Eugen Bacon to The Qwillery as part of the 2019 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Claiming T-Mo is published on August 13, 2019 by Meerkat Press.
TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery. What is the first fiction piece you remember writing?
Eugen: Aha, let’s talk about English composition, as in elementary school subject… I was the teacher’s nightmare, or bliss. Such vivid imagination from what an early age—one couldn’t tell where reality closed, and fiction opened.
But my first published piece was ‘Morning Dew’, and I have a certificate from the Writers Bureau to show for it! I later republished the short story as ‘The Writer’—it is a cathartic piece that is also autoethnographic, fictionalised. It was also my first earnings as a writer.
TQ: Are you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?
Eugen: So pantser. When I write short stories, my writing is a search, a journey, a coming through… I often start with a skeleton, a general idea, and the writing shapes itself. Characters tell their story and the story’s ending astonishes me.
But the hybrid birthed itself with Claiming T-Mo and other longer works—I had to find structure for the outcomes I sought, for example in my book Writing Speculative Fiction (2019) by Macmillan International.
TQ: What is the most challenging thing for you about writing? How does your background in computer science affect (or not) your fiction writing?
Eugen: Time—there are never enough hours in a day, this is my biggest writing challenge. But I’ve learnt to steal hours, to write under pressure. I’d likely be taken aback, utterly stupefied by time if I had plenty of it to borrow!
My background in computer science complements my writing. I’d like to think the scientist in me is learning passion, aesthetics, vision and creativity from the artist. And the artist in me is learning structure, curiosity, attention to detail and organised scepticism from the scientist.
TQ: What has influenced / influences your writing?
Eugen: Toni Morrison. Ray Bradbury. Michael Ondaatje. Peter Temple. Authors as mentors who seduce me, magnetise me in the boldness of their writing that pays attention to mood, prose, characterisation—writing that listens to the playfulness of language.
TQ: Describe Claiming T-Mo using only 5 words.
Eugen: Him, her: mother, wife, daughter.
TQ: Tell us something about Claiming T-Mo that is not found in the book description.
Eugen: The novel was first named Outbreeds to introduce characters within the context of ‘being different’, a breed of others with an anti-hero. It nearly became A Puzzle-Piece Woman.
TQ: What inspired you to write Claiming T-Mo?
Eugen: It was the creative artefact of my PhD in writing, where I approached the study with two research questions linked to ‘writing different’:
Can a writer of short fiction productively apply a model of stories-within-a-story to build a novel; and if so, what techniques or experiences are transferable from one form to the other?
Does literary writing contribute to the quality of works in science fiction, fantasy or speculative fiction?
In Claiming T-Mo I created purposeful adaptations, embedded vignettes layered, and amounting to a cohesive novel that is almost like a story circle. It flows smoothly from one point to another, each story part bearing a concealed self-sufficiency interlinked and layered into a composite. And I bet you won’t notice.
TQ: What sort of research did you do for Claiming T-Mo?
Eugen: I paid attention to speculative fiction comprised of embedded stories carefully placed within the novel, stories continued rather than expanded. I wrote story by story, creating in a discipline already familiar, while layering the novel with characters, timelines, motifs and interplay—a sum of the parts.
I researched story cycles—how texts are held together by arrangement, thematic ties or a collective protagonist (for example Silhouette). I borrowed from the concept of the ‘rhizome’ that philosopher Gilles Deleuze and his collaborator psychoanalyst Felix Guattari produced in A Thousand Plateaus (1987)—where a rhizome ‘has no beginning or end; it is always in the middle, between things, interbeing, intermezzo’. I also found fascination in art as language—playfulness in the language of writing.
TQ: Please tell us about the cover for Claiming T-Mo.
Eugen: Remember Him, her: mother, wife, daughter? There, no spoilers. Micaela Dawn (@DawnMicaela on Twitter) is phenomenal in her illustration and conceptual art. And Meerkat Press is simply awesome! What a mesmeric cover from my simplistic idea: An ancient world picturing three women and a man. Staring at the horizon.
TQ: In Claiming T-Mo who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?
Eugen: Silhouette was a breeze—her psycho-spiritual journey to find healing from deep wounding in the hands of significant males in her life. She remains the character who haunts other characters across the story, the omniscient narrator from whose eyes we see.
Odysseus was a tough nut to crack. Read the novel, you’ll see why.
TQ: Does Claiming T-Mo touch on any social issues?
Eugen: Claiming T-Mo addresses themes around the challenges and possibilities of being different, a scrutiny of embodiment, the nature of being, the ‘self’ and ‘other’ and dichotomy.
TQ: Which question about Claiming T-Mo do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!
Q. Is there a sequel?
A. No. (I think the story is complete within itself.)
Q. How do you pronounce Myra?
A. My (as in ‘my name is…) Rah (as in ‘ra-ra-rasputin’)
TQ: Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Claiming T-Mo.
T-Mo happened exactly one week after the puzzle-piece woman with fifty-cent eyes. —in Salem’s story
It started with a name. And ended in a swim. —in Myra’s story
a literary dark fantasy that is also a mystery / adventure, set in Australia
a speculative prose poetry collaboration with an amazing award-winning poet and translator, A/Prof. Dominique Hecq, who was also my PhD supervisor.
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
Meerkat Press, August 13, 2019
Trade Paperback and eBook, 260 pages
In this lush interplanetary tale, Novic is an immortal Sayneth priest who flouts the conventions of a matriarchal society by choosing a name for his child. This act initiates chaos that splits the boy in two, unleashing a Jekyll-and-Hyde child upon the universe. Named T-Mo by his mother and Odysseus by his father, the story spans the boy’s lifetime — from his early years with his mother Silhouette on planet Grovea to his travels to Earth where he meets and marries Salem, and together they bear a hybrid named Myra. The story unfolds through the eyes of these three distinctive women: Silhouette, Salem and Myra. As they confront their fears and navigate the treacherous paths to love and accept T-Mo/Odysseus and themselves, the darkness in Odysseus urges them to unbearable choices that threaten their very existence.
Eugen Bacon is a computer scientist mentally re-engineered into creative writing. She has published over 100 short stories and articles, together with anthologies. Her stories have won, been shortlisted and commended in international awards, including the Bridport Prize, L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest, Copyright Agency Prize and Fellowship of Australian Writers National Literary Awards. Her creative work has appeared in literary and speculative fiction publications worldwide, including Award Winning Australian Writing, AntipodeanSF, Andromeda, Aurealis, Bards and Sages Quarterly, and through Routledge in New Writing. Creative nonfiction book – Palgrave MacMillan (2019)