A Conversation with Vacen Taylor
In Conversation with Vacen Taylor
Q. Where were you born and raised, and how has this impacted on your adult life?
I was born in Rockhampton, the Beef Capital of Australia. I’ve always considered Rockhampton to be a country town so I guess the impact has been to appreciate the land and animals. I was lucky enough to have parents who encouraged real respect for the land, and I grew up around cattle and horses so naturally I love animals. I developed a great appreciation and love for our beautiful country and the animals around me. Those feelings have remained with me throughout my adult life.
My father was a financial accountant and my mother was a homebody, stay-at-home mum. They were both kind, generous people who loved the country. We lived in Rockhampton itself but on weekends we left to spend time on our farm, one hundred acres at Alton Downs. My grandfather was often there with us. My father would have a few head of cattle in the paddocks and there were always horses for me to ride. I was an only child so my father taught me how to drive a tractor, plough a paddock, fix a fence, plant seed, ride a horse, brand a cow, make a fire, cook damper, and be mindful of the carpet python that lived in the cupboard in the shed. Every time I was thrown off my horse he’d say, “Get back on.” That in itself was a lesson in resilience. I learnt quickly when black soil was wet you would sink into it like a stone. Shifting irrigation pipes meant you’d go knee deep into the black earth. My mother also loved the land. She’d plant seed and help with the fencing too. My parents always said I was fearless on a horse and I had two speeds, stop and flat out crazy fast. There’s nothing more exciting than to ride as fast as the wind.
Q. What does the act of writing do for you?
I consider myself to be a visual writer. On any given day I might have two or three mental visions appear. Some are more powerful than others. So the act of writing allows me to bring those visuals to life. Some visuals are turned into flash fiction, but others are much more complex and require more work. Bringing the visuals to life on the page is the challenging part. So writing challenges me. Often I’ll do research to understand what I’ve seen visually. To translate the visual into a story that resonates with readers requires a good understanding of the subject. So writing also provides me with opportunity to learn every day. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t learn something new.
Sometimes I don’t deal very well with them at all. One particular time I had a story playing over and over. I didn’t want to write the story because it would cross cultural grounds, and even though I had adequate links, twenty-plus years of understanding the culture, I was still unwilling to write the story. But the mental images drove me to the point of distraction. I couldn’t function without seeing snippets of the story all the time. So one day I just sat down and wrote the whole story. It took me three months to purge the story entirely. And then it was gone. I still have the manuscript in a bottom draw waiting for me to read over it again.
My After the Rain Series might be the best example of how I develop a story. http://www.deathheadgrin.com/11_06/id379.html This story has a futuristic theme with a sic-fi element and is some of my early writing.
I remember reading a submissions theme called After the Rain. The moment I read those three words I had the visual images of a story begin to appear in my mind. Two collaborators squatting as they watched another man in an apartment across from them. Not long after that first scene the rest just flowed like a movie. When I see the images in their entirety I provide it with a working title and physical folder (a book) where I write a story arc and then begin to build a character sketch. Then any research that’s required is done, though, sometimes I research as I’m writing the first draft. I begin to add the sensory elements and the feelings and emotions and the story begins its gestation period. Sometimes I have to revisit the mental pictures many times before I truly have the scenes depicted and then it’s a matter of fleshing out the parts I think need it. After the Rain, Part One: Incursion was my first real attempt at doing that. In actual fact I think it could’ve been done much better now. Perhaps in the future I will develop the concept into a novel.
Once I’ve completed a story the visuals vanish from my mind, purged for good.
Q. What would you do in another life?
I would be a scientist in the disciplinary field of astrophysics. Space has always intrigued me, so much so that I often paint what I called my ‘Space Art’: One of my oil paintings I created in 1994 http://www.vacentaylor.com/art/paintings/
I’ve been fascinated with astronomy for years but understanding the physics of the universe is just awesome stuff. Time, space, the big bang, temporal plains and spatial dimensions. I’ve used my interest in astrophysics in my YA manuscript, working title Stardust. It’s now in its final edit phase.
I’m also intrigued by orbital mechanics and how these applications might be used in spacecraft. I also have an interest in astrobiology and extraterrestrials.
Q. Which books attract you?
In a bookshop I always start at the new releases then work my way around. I read fiction to non-fiction. At the moment I’m reading Me & Her: A Memoir of Madness by Karen Tyrrell. She’s a local writer from Brisbane. And I’m also reading The Wind Through the Key Hole by Stephen King.
I admire so many writers for different reasons. I’ve always admired Stephen King for his horror writing, but also for his prolific writing ability, forging a career that has lasted throughout the years. I admire J.R.R Tolkien for the creation of Middle-earth and his dedication to the characters and the world itself. I also admire the Dalai Lama for opening his mind to the world and spreading his wisdom. Then there’s J. K. Rowling for inspiring children to read again. Stephanie Meyer and Susan Collins for writing books that encourage people to engage in conversation. I regard conversation to be the most powerful medium for debate and reflection, whether you like vampires that glisten in the sun or not, Stephanie provided the world with something new to think and talk about. And Susan did the same with The Hunger Games. She provided the world with something to think about, questioning a democracy, a class of entertainment that engages in the collision of life and death, and of course the value of life itself.
And let’s not forget these books have been written by women. Rowling, Meyer and Collins have all brought their own kind of story to the world. Whether you like how they write or not their stories have resonated strongly with a mass readership.
Q. What do you think are the most important lessons a growing child can learn?
Don’t be afraid to try something new or different and more importantly don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Every mistake is an opportunity to learn and grow. And realise that it’s okay to colour outside the lines. Being creative sometimes means being bold and brave, thinking outside the box, and letting go of the idea of perfection.
Q. Will you share some of your bucket list?
I visited Borneo a few years back and met a few people who were climbing Mt Kinabalu. I didn’t get the chance then so I’d like to go back and climb the mountain.
I’d like to volunteer abroad for six months and be part of a worthy community project in a developing country. Perhaps build a school or health care facility, something that’s needed in the community. Lastly, I’d like to have my own exhibition showcasing some of my photography and artwork.