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Short Sharp Stories

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Die Laughing Teaser: Q&A with Janine Milne

Screen Shot 2016-10-19 at 11.36.42 PMJanine Milne holds a Bachelors degree in Theory of Literature, with majors in English and Creative Writing, from the University of South Africa. Like most aspiring poets she occupies the illustrious post of drink mixer in the service industry, while supplementing her income with freelance copywriting and writing gigs. Janine has a penchant for horror stories and is lucky to have her two dogs, Emma and Django, to keep her company at night when she writes her scary stuff, and to watch out for ghosts and fleas with equal vigilance. Janine lives in Slaapstad with her long suffering mom/editor and her equally long-suffering fiancé, Daniel. She has had poetry published in the Sol Plaaitjie Poetry Award Anthology and another dark tale highly commended in the annual SA Writers’ College short story contest. Janine is currently working on her first horror novel.


What is your take on humour SA-style?

The greatest asset in our crazy/beautiful country is the ability to laugh at ourselves. I mean we’re just microbes on a piece of rock hurtling in an ever-expanding universe that in itself makes our self importance hilarious!


Horror? Humour? Are they closely connected?

Horace Walpole said it best, before Woody Allen stole it, that “comedy is for those that think, and tragedy for those who feel.” I think we are striving for that essence of irony, that juxtaposition of incongruities, that ‘Ah ha moment’ that shifts someone’s mindset for a moment. Comedy, to me kinda fiddles while we burn. I like to cast a spotlight in that place we don’t want to look. Our own mortality. The inevitability of the grim reaper.


Your DIE LAUGHING story, ‘Prank’ was sparked by a nasty rumour — about a medical cadaver — making the rounds at UCT when you were a student. What was it about this rumour that really freaked you out?

I have always had an eerie respect for the dead. It chills me when people flippantly disregard the kind of residue that I believe we as living souls leave behind. No it’s not supernatural, it quantum physics, wave and particle. We all leave a thumbprint in this phantasmagoria we call our world, nothing disappears, we all change shape. Just because it is beyond our linear comprehension does not allow the possibility of countless parallel worlds, it cannot deprive a soul of their reality. We can only deprive ourselves of the experience.


Your story is indeed a horror fantasy of note. Your character Chad has fallen from the face of the earth. The urgency to locate him is heightened with every email sent from Baz to Chad. This is every mother’s worst nightmare — a missing child. How did you go about building up the angst?

Chad kind of ran away with the story. It happens in first person point of view, you kind of get hijacked by your protagonist. Chad was such a strong, opinionated character that he amped the angst on his own. I just kind of curbed him in every now and then.  Sometimes, if you are lucky, writing can be like a séance. Chad was on a rampage. I just tried to keep him in plot.


This practical joke which goes horribly wrong highlights the paradox that a ‘prank’ can often be malicious and hurtful. Can you comment on this, and the title?

As the youngest sibling growing under the tyranny of two older brothers, I think I have a PHD in the distinction between prank and clown faced, ball juggling bullying. Many people guise their motives behind humour. I think that I had a happy moment, for the kid in me, when that very posturing resulted in disaster. That and what I said previously, I believe our indoctrinated and manipulated perceptions of this world have deprived us of our innate connection with our dead, and our earth. It’s not a hippy thing. All quantum theories and ancient wisdoms support this.


Did you deliciously scare yourself writing this story?

As my friends will attest, I am a bit of a ghoul when it comes to scary stuff. Scared? No. Involved in the reality of it? Very much. In fact I had a nightmare or two while writing this.


Would you recommend that writers explore the ‘horror’genre?

Oh God, I would urge them to stay away! Genre fiction, even if you are a genius, will give you money but leave you doubting yourself as writer, always. Literary fiction will give you a name and tenure in a posh varsity, kudos and imitators. But you have to write what you love. One day the critics will crawl out of their own parasitic arseholes and start recognising that within this genre, high literary fiction thrives! Not that I’m saying mine does. Just saying.


You are also a poet. How do you extend that talent to the longer form — of novel, and short story?

Hell, it’s like a ten kg breech birth from a virgin. Blood and tears. To take the soul of feeling and stretch it into plot, objectives, conflict, characterisation. Ouch. It’s a murder of passion turned to premeditation. Years of struggle. I’m innately a literary strangler. I had to teach myself to utilise people, situations, and weapons.


(Haha!) As this is your first published short story (squeezed from between your thighs) what can you share about the Short.Sharp.Stories experience?

Ouch you make me sound like I crawled out from under a rock with a lottery ticket! I have been serious about my writing since forever. However, the fact that I submitted to such a broad minded anthology makes all the difference. Short Sharp is the open eye on the future of writing, I’m proud for them to have been my first. Forward thinking, genre busting mavericks  will eventually transform this platform and give readers a taste of what’s new, not just what sells. Mwah.



Screen Shot 2016-08-22 at 9.00.45 AMBook Details:
Editor Joanne Hichens
Foreword Evita Bezuidenhout
ISBN / EAN 9780994680518
Publication date July 2016
Buy the book here!




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