5 Questions with Bryant Apolonio
Bryant Apolonio is a Filipino-Australian writer and lawyer. He came to Sydney with his family when he was three and he currently lives in Darwin. In 2017, he won the Overland Fair Australia prize for fiction.
Bryant is the winner of the inaugural 2019 Liminal Fiction Prize. He tells us a little bit about himself and about writing the winning story, ‘Bad Weather’.
Tell our readers a bit about ‘Bad Weather’!
‘Bad Weather’ is a short story in two parts. The left-side is about a boy in the Philippines who helps his father rebuild a church. In the story on the right-side, the same boy has grown up into a young man who’s migrated to Australia. It’s a familiar story to us, to our parents, but I had hoped to tell it in a unique way.
What inspired ‘Bad Weather’? We love the experimental formatting.
Before I began writing, I’d been reading about religion and folklore in the Philippines and how the two things had come to be entwined following Spanish colonisation. This is why I’d decided to set it in a church and also why I got so fixated on the duende, a kind of Filipino goblin.
I thought that the formatting would be an interesting way to represent the character’s past informing his future, and how his life at the current moment was affected by and always shadowed by his past. The two stories spill over into each other and can be read in any order (and even concurrently).
It was also just fun to write, like a sort of constrained writing game. The first draft flirted with the idea of having four columns, with each section set during different points of the character’s life, though that ended up being a bit too messy and it could only fit on a landscape A3 page.
When did you first decide you wanted to become a writer?
Probably ever since I started reading good books, which would be high school. That said, I was the kind of teenager who wanted to be seen as a writer more than to sit down and actually write. I’d start a bunch of blogs about art or whatever, rant about some stuff that I’d get embarrassed about weeks later – often for good reasons – and scour off the internet (which I’m now thankful for). During university, I wrote for and eventually came to edit the student newspaper, though back then I’d mostly draw and paint or write glib opinion pieces.
In 2017, I submitted a story to the Overland Fair Australia Prize and won. It was only after that that I started taking my own writing seriously. I suppose I needed some external validation before I got a move on. Who doesn’t?
How do you make time for writing?
I work at a union for screenwriters and playwrights. Since I moved to Darwin earlier this year – my partner is based there – I’ve been able to go part-time and work from home. This was a great opportunity for me and I think it would be for anyone who wants to create art: you’re suddenly in a city where the rent’s cheap, where you don’t know anybody, and where you have a lot of time.
I’ve been working at the NT Library most days, in Parliament House. It’s this massive, airy building, white and palm-treed like a tropical dictator’s estate. I get there in the morning and sit quietly and try to write – which is the only way I can be productive.
During the wet season, I plan to be locked away at home with three chickens and one morose duck and I’ll be in the same spot under the awning all day, surprised to hear the sound of my own hoarse voice if I do even speak at all. It’ll be monsoonal and too hot to do anything but sit and type and I’m excited.
What can we expect next?
I’m working on a novel at the moment and ‘Bad Weather’ actually started off as a chapter from the manuscript. It’s going to be a story about a Filipino-Australian family living in Sydney and it’ll explore all the things I’m interested in. Like: cultural identity, dysfunctional families, what it’s like to be a second-generation immigrant in Australia, colonialism’s reverberating violence, apocalyptic capitalism. But also: ghosts, malevolent yuppies, global conspiracies, buried treasure.
It was also just fun to write,
like a sort of constrained writing game.
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