More like this

Each month we celebrate an Australian debut release of fiction or non-fiction in the Kill Your Darlings Debut Spotlight feature. For July that debut is Big Time by Jordan Prosser (UQP), an anti-fascist ode to the power of pop music, wrapped up in an unforgettable, psychedelic road trip.

Can you tell us about your journey to publication?

In June of 2021, I quit my corporate copywriting job, thinking it would be the perfect time to get back into film and TV. Then, a few weeks later in Victoria, we were thrown back into the longest and bleakest lockdown we’d had yet. I really wanted some kind of creative outlet. Being on set wasn’t an option at the time, so I decided to pick up this novel which I started in 2014 and have a go and finishing it. It was always a bucket list of mine to try and write a novel.

One of the chapters—chapter three—actually functioned quite well as a standalone story, so I thought I’d enter it into a bunch of competitions. I entered probably twenty, it didn’t even get longlisted for nineteen of them, but it won the Peter Carey Short Story Award in 2022. By the time I’d left the award ceremony, I had an email from Aviva Tuffield at UQP. She read the rest of the book that I’d written. They offered to publish it based on the partial manuscript, and then I spent the next year and a half to two years getting it done.

You started writing this book ten years ago—how has your approach to writing, or your writing style itself, changed in that time?

Maybe the biggest change in terms of my approach to actual writing is that I don’t waste time anymore waiting for inspiration to hit, waiting to clear my calendar, waiting for the planets to align. Writing is a grind—it’s not some romantic fever state that you may be magically flung into at a moment’s notice. You have to force yourself to do it, and I think I’ve gotten better at that. I’ve become much more pragmatic about the actual writing process.

In terms of my writing style I think, at least I hope, that I’ve become more ruthless, more concise. I do have a tendency to be very verbose and will often pad out my sentences and ideas with all sorts of unnecessary embellishments. That just comes from a lack of confidence. I think I’m getting better at that. I’m a recovering purple prose writer.

You’re a man of many talents! As a filmmaker and performer, what drew you to writing?

I was drawn to writing before I was drawn to film actually! I’ve been writing short stories for as long as I can remember, pretty much since kindergarten. It wasn’t really until high school that filmmaking kind of swept in and stole my heart. So it feels really nice now to come full circle and return to something that’s a very old, original passion of mine.

Writing a book was a markedly different experience for quite a few reasons. There are two things in particular that I love about the form compared to writing a screenplay. The first is there’s no budget. In a screenplay there’s a dollar figure that gets attached to basically every single word you write, which is a lot of pressure. Writing a book—it’s a blank cheque for your imagination. The second thing I really love is the control that fiction gives you over time—something very key to my book of course. You can spend an entire chapter describing a single second, or you can skip an entire century in a single sentence without needing to resort to some cheesy montage.

This book is so visual and immersive. Does your background in film influence the way you write these captivating scenes?

I think so, yeah! The kinds of films I love to watch, and I love to make, are those that are really rich in terms of their set construction, production design and costumes. So in fiction, I love the ability to describe every minute detail of a scene or a world with words. Another thing I think that filmmaking taught me is how to organise visual information, how to lead the reader’s ‘eye’ from one object, person or action onto the next. Just like if you’re cutting an action sequence—your words on the page still need a sense of spatial geography so that your audience can keep track of where everyone and everything is at any given moment. Having said that, I’m very much looking forward to writing something that has maybe one or two characters in it, instead of twenty or thirty people in every scene.

What books or films have you loved lately?

I was just on holiday so I got to read lots! My favourite thing that I read was Our Wives Under the Sea by Julia Armfield—a really cracking entry into one my favourite horror subgenres which is ‘they came back wrong’. Good stuff.

Other than that, I’ve nearly finished reading Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel. I loved her book Sea of Tranquillity, and I’m enjoying this even more. I think she and I have very similar preoccupations when it comes to our writing. Anyone who reads Big Time will probably guess that Station Eleven is the kind of book that I’d love to be able to one day write.

In terms of movies, I do watch a few so I’ll just mention one. I saw this at the Sydney Film Festival recently—it’s called ‘A Different Man’ directed by Aaron Schimberg. It’s about performance, direction, authorship and ‘who gets to tell whose stories?’ It’s just a really gross, surprising, prickly, pitch-black comedy. It’ll be playing at MIFF and then released more widely later in the year.

You can pick up a copy of Big Time at your local bookstore today.