Saturday 10 April 2021

Murder and Machinery: An Interview with Sarah Jane Justice


Sarah Jane Justice's "The Box" is just one of the mad mechanical tales featured in Murder and Machinery.

Tell us three interesting facts about yourself.

These are the barest summaries of stories that I could talk about for hours. Reducing them to a single sentence makes them all the more intriguing.

- When I was fresh out of high school, I was recruited by an established ska band and spent two years touring Australia and New Zealand.

- Over the course of a few strange years, I managed to achieve nationwide notoriety in an extremely competitive augmented reality game.

- In 2016, I wrote and performed a science-fiction cabaret show that was on the programme for the Adelaide Fringe Festival that year.

What drew you to this particular theme? 

I love writing to prompts, and I especially love finding creative ways to approach any given theme. The submission call for this anthology came with a list of suggested authors for stylistic influence, and that drew my attention more than anything else. The list contained some of the most classic authors in the genre, and it completely set the tone for how I should approach writing this piece. I took the time to sit with it, aiming to think of something that might not have been done before. With the style in mind and the idea I came up with, I had an excellent time writing ‘The Box’. (Editor’s note: And what a chillingly original tale you came up with!)

What’s the most frightening machine for you personally?

This might seem like an odd answer, but cars. These are immensely powerful machines that have the potential to kill in an instant. What makes them so frightening is that most drivers rarely, if ever, consider that. Because we drive them every day, we let ourselves get distracted, we ignore safety regulations, and we drive dangerously just for the fun of it. Even though the worst consequences are happening every day, it’s far too easy to forget about them. These are machines that surround us, that kill more consistently than any other, and we barely think twice about it. It can be quite terrifying when you stop to think about it.

Which short story authors or authors in the horror genre inspire you? 

Shirley Jackson is a horror author whom I find both inspiring and deeply fascinating. I highly encourage readers to look up her work, as well as her life story. For a more obvious choice, Mary Shelley is incredible as a pioneer of the genre.

Do you have a favourite story about machines, other than The Pit and the Pendulum?

‘The Fly’ – When I was a teenager, I worked at a video rental store. We were encouraged to watch as many movies as we could, and I decided to watch all the most classic horror and thriller movies. This one stuck with me. It’s such a fascinating concept.

What does your editing process look like? 

I’m very methodical in my writing and organisation, and my editing process is no exception.

I get the initial draft down first. Then, I go back and pick it apart from start to finish, rewriting everything that needs to be changed while keeping the flow of the story intact. Finally, I go through and neaten up the writing. I watch for phrases that are too repetitive, metaphors that could be more creative, grammatical mistakes etc. I go over and over until I can finally declare myself to be finished. Then I let it sit for a few days and discover that I was not, in fact, finished. Repeat.

Do you write everything and then edit or do you meticulously plan before you write? 

There is an element of spontaneity in the drafting process, but always within the frame of a plan. I find that my writing is far more efficient if I know where it is going, and where I want it to end up.

What are you working on now?

Currently, I’m crawling through the editing processes on a science-fiction novella. This has been very satisfying to write, especially given how easily it seems to be coming together. There have been no major problems in the drafting process, major plot elements and characters are all fitting where they need to, and I’m already pleased with the quality of the writing. I’m getting very excited about the finished product.

Where can we find you online?

I have a website that I keep regularly updated –

Additionally, I have a Facebook page, an Instagram, and a Twitter, all linked below:

Thanks, Sarah!