Bryan Harrell chats about creative writing and chihuahuas

Posted on March 15, 2013


Bryan Harrell’s blog is fun and quirky. His short stories are fun and quirky. His interview with the chat show blog was fun. Oh, and quirky.

First time I came across you was your ‘case against rebranding’ piece published in The Advertiser. How did that come about?

Wow, that apparently got popular. It was my first published piece. I was 4 months getting into serious writing and a friend suggested I submit an article to The Advertiser. 3-4 months after I submitted it they sent me an email asking if they could get my headshot. It was a really happy moment in my life, being judged good enough for a newspaper, particularly as I had done no formal English classes since Year 11.

The piece itself was more a rant than anything else. I’m of the opinion that you improve stuff first, then make it popular. And by making it better it sells itself anyway. I love this state, it just has some gaping holes in places.

Incidentally, what do you think of the new state brand?

The actual logo? It didn’t strike me as incredible, but I was probably expecting too much from it in the 10 seconds I looked at it.


I like the idea of us being a door or gateway or whatever they were trying to accomplish, but the test will be if people remember it or treat South Australia differently.

I just think we need to work hard to create things. You make things better. You contribute to society. You do something innovative, out of this world.

What’s more powerful as a rule: words or images?

Images are more powerful on a first impression. Images are like the beautiful girl you see across the hall in high school, who you can’t stop staring at. Words are like the same beautiful girl talking to you and having a conversation, and for minutes, hours, days afterwards you still are giddy about the whole thing.

For me at least, images and art don’t have that lasting impression.

Don’t get me wrong though, some things can’t be put in words like they can in paint. The Mona Lisa, while overrated, has a smile that I can’t believe is real.

You’re partway through your first novel. How would you describe it?

I’ve actually just finished the first draft. “I have a bone to pick with accountants and managers” is the non-subtle pretext of the novel.

I wanted to write a novel about a world where accountants and managers rule, which is not so different from what you and I live in today. But I wanted to write it like an adventure story.

“Vlad, the main character, is a murdering accountant. He’s a troubled soul who unravels a web of lies and deceit. It’s like regular office culture in a way.”

My favourite parts are the surreal humor in the adventures.

Can you tell us a little about your writing process?

I rarely have a plan. And when I do I take the plan and delete it in an instant.

I just write random sentences. Well not random. Something like making one sentence fit in with the next one and so on. I typically write dialogue first, because that’s how I hear a story. I use a fountain pen when I feel like being more poetic – a third of my novel was originally done in long hand.

For short articles on lifeofbrybry, I just write and it seems to come out. Then I edit. And edit again, and argue with the grammar checker.

You recently blogged about a plan to get a lot of writing done in LA. How’d that go?

Brilliantly actually. It’s amazing what time away from responsibilities can do for the imagination. I got up at 9, had a coffee and a bagel, and started writing. I was doing around 6000 words a day, with breaks in-between.

I think it helped incredibly that the weather was beautiful.

If you were a chihuahua, whose handbag would you most want to be carried around in?

I would love to get that question when applying for a job. Well assuming that Quentin Tarantino carries a handbag, I would love to be in there. They tell me his parties are out of this world, which stands to reason given the guy is a little weird.

But a woman? I would think maybe Alex Borstein who plays Lois on Family guy. Or Lisa Lampanelli who regularly does celebrity roasts.

Maybe Thatcher during her prime ministerial years. Whatever people may say of her, she had courage.

Note: not actually Bryan

Note: not actually Bryan

Ok, favourite writers?

George Orwell, Tolkien, Stephen R. Donaldson (the Thomas Covenant series), Douglas Adams, Ernest Hemingway, Dan Brown (not for the subject matter. For the way he captivates people so well). The writer that wrote the story to Final Fantasy VIII, Kazushige Nojima. Vladimir Nabokov. And David Wong on Paul Jennings deserves a thousand mentions. His shorts basically convinced me to be the quirky chap I am now.

Explain your issue with printers.

Printers destroy people’s souls. The only ones that work cost a bucket load of money. Ever seen a paper jam? They buckle under the pressure of one measly piece of paper.

Have you had to find ways to remain creative in the face of resistance?

Yes. I come from an IT background, which is great for problem solving, but terrible for creative work. Distractions are terrible and continuous – email, Facebook and the like. I try to keep checking email to an absolute minimum if I can do so.

The best help has been coffee, Scrivener, and an old macbook.

But resistance is mainly self-generated. Our entire lives we seem to doubt ourselves, whether we can be great or awesome or poignant or some other word we have come up with. But in reality, everyone can do something, they just have to find it and do it. I can’t stress ‘do it’ enough. Doing it means actually writing something, studying something, fixing something. It is not looking up a Wikipedia article.

(Readers needing a push to get going are directed to the prolonged (and profane) ear-bashing Alec Baldwin hands the real estate agents in Glengarry Glen Ross.)

Your favourite Tarantino film?

Inglorious Basterds. For two scenes, one with Christoph Waltz and one with Michael Fassbender – two of my favourite actors. The dairy farm scene, and the bar scene. No one can scare you as easily as Christoph Waltz. And it’s so beautifully written.

Though I could watch the dialogue scenes with Jules and Vincent in Pulp Fiction any day.

"No one can scare you as easily as Christoph Waltz."

“No one can scare you as easily as Christoph Waltz.”

I’m calling this bit the bathtub – it’s where you put your plug…

You can check out my home at and subscribe on the left. Or follow me at @lifeofbrybry. If you want to read my work, ‘Middle-aged Machines’ is on Amazon, which is a great quirky tale to read on a bus or to cheer you up after a long day. I have another short story coming out called (at the moment) ‘Chosen Death’.

Lastly my novel should come out by the end of the year. Keep your eyes peeled for ‘Vlad’.

Posted in: Arts