Monday, 9 April 2012

Interview with Jodi Cleghorn and Adam Byatt

It gives me great pleasure to welcome Adam Byatt and Jodi Cleghorn to my blog, to discuss their new project Post Marked: Piper's Reach. 

Jodi Cleghorn
Hi Jodi and Adam, welcome to Ramblings of a Rusty Writer

Firstly could you tell us a little bit about your backgrounds and your writing? (Max 50 words each)

(AB) I am an English teacher and emerging writer. In this project I am the n00b to Jodi’s sensei. I write contemporary fiction. It’s the everyday situations, emotions and minutiae that interest me as subjects for writing.

(JC) I am a writer, editor and publisher... and definitely no sensei. I write predominantly dark speculative-fiction, exploring themes of power, love, loss, the intersection of technology and humanity, and yes, I have a penchant for time travel.

What is Post Marked: Pipers Reach?
(AB) It is an organic narrative, collaborative writing project traversing an odd path between old and new forms of communication, differing modalities of storytelling and mixed media, all played out in real and suspended time.

(JC) Or the short version... a collection of fictional letters shared weekly on a Tuesday as handwritten and digital missives. I like the pretentious sounding version - Adam.

Who came up with the idea and how?

(AB) It was Jodi’s idea *points the finger of blame in her direction*. She pitched it to me in January while I was on a camping holiday, waist deep in the surf. After that, we brainstormed via text message. Jodi - I’ve now called my black bikinis... “the pitch bikinis” though possibly inappropriate attire later down the track for trying to secure an agent or publisher!
Adam Byatt

(JC) The concept came to me late 2009 but took meeting Adam in person late last year to shift it from idea to potential project. The original concept focused on two colleagues who start writing letters to each other as an experiment. I wanted to explore the impact of the slower medium of letters and the faster medium of email/phone/text messaging on a relationship.

What Adam and I have pursued is a much simpler version of the original and connects two old friends across the void of 20 years of silence. It is us, not the characters living the original concept—an existence in two very different time streams.

Did you write a lot of letters when you were younger?

(AB) Throughout high school I wrote probably hundreds of letters. I’ve always been a bit of a thinker and it found an expression in writing. It was a natural extension of who I was and the relationships I had with people, especially those friends who lived interstate. . A friend and me once wrote a letter, put it in a bottle and sent it down a river. We hoped for a reply and it was some months later I received a letter in the post from someone who found it.

(JC) I started writing letters in primary school—originally to my cousin and the people I met on holidays, then later to my friends when I moved interstate. It was where my heart, hopes, thoughts and fears all went, committed to ink and sent two states away for safekeeping. It was also where my writing skills were honed.

(AB) I would cringe if I read what I wrote when I was 13 or so, and certainly into the later years of high school. In the moment I was so serious, intense, earnest and focused on the recipient. I’m not sure I would want to revisit them, That kid with the mullet haircut has a lot to answer for. If anyone I know is reading this, please don’t tell me if you still have my letters.

(JC) In 1989 (Year 10) I wrote between 20-30 A4 pages a week. In Year 12 I wrote weekly to my friend Ty in Geelong and almost 30 years on we are still friends (this Easter we celebrated 27 years of friendship). I’d love to see what I was writing to Ty back in 1992 given my letters weren’t epic dissertation on my latest crush (because for quite while it was Ty!) When I repatriated all my friends letters earlier this year I knew for every letter in the massive pile, I had written one in return!

What are the advantages and disadvantages of working with another writer on a project?

(JC) Writing collaboratively has always been a bigger and better experience than going solo for me. I find it almost intoxicating (but without the accompanying headache): the thrill of wowing your writing partner (as a prequel to wowing your readers); sharing the responsibility of building a narrative; riding the joint momentum.

Most of all I love watching my characters come alive through another writer. Watching Ella-Louise grow and evolve through the eyes of Jude is as beautiful as it is intimate.

(AB) This is a unique situation. We write independently of each other but the narratives are intrinsically tied to the other. We weave in and out of each other’s stories. The advantage of collaboration is the perspectives and insights another person provides. The downside to this project is the ‘no spoilers’ clause. Jodi and I do not talk about the usual things: characterisation, plot, motivation. We have to wait to read the letter and glean it all from there. It makes it very immediate and thrilling, but can be frustrating when you’re yearning to talk about what has happened and what might happen.

(JC) To be hermetically sealed away from the world, with just my character, was tough--especially for the first three months, when I could talk to no one. Now I just can’t talk to Adam about it, which is kind of an antithesis of working together, but in this instance, it’s absolutely appropriate. Working with Adam is manna for a troubled creative soul.

(AB) There are no disadvantages to working with Jodi. She is absolutely brilliant to work with. We are very aware of contributing equally to the project: writing the letters, maintaining the site, admin, etc. Jodi - endeavouring to never be the social loafer! We each have strengths and play to those.

If you are thinking of collaborating choose your partner wisely. They need to be your foil, nemesis, partner, spouse and confidante in the creation, development and completion of a project.  
Have you written one character each or has it been entirely collaborative?

(AB) We have written one character each: Jodi created Ella-Louise, and I created Jude, although Jodi named Jude (after the patron saint of hopeless causes). I suggested the name of the town and the initial history of Piper’s Reach.

(JC) While we write letters from the perspective of one character, we both influence and shape the teenager versions of each other’s character. I’ll drop in a reference to something in the past and it’s up to Adam to fill in the details... or as is often the case... not fill in the details. That’s Jude’s fault, not mine - Adam

How will people be able to read Post Marked: Pipers Reach?
Postmarked: Piper’s Reach launches on April 10 at the following site:
Each Tuesday a new letter will be posted (no pun intended). You can download the handwritten letter or read the text version on the site. Each story also comes with a music clip.

What are your future plans both writing together and individually?

(AB) There are many more letters to be written by Jude and Ella-Louise. We have no plans to work together in the future (Jodi was my editor for the Literary Mix Tapes: Nothing But Flowers and Eighty-Nine anthologies) and I wouldn’t rule out another collaborative project should the right one present itself.

I am about to live the cliche: take long service leave to write my first novel. It’s the chance to extend and expand my skills from short fiction into long fiction. I have a long list of projects stuck to the wall beside my desk including a multimedia novella, a YA novel, a collection of short stories and there are another two novels (one YA, one adult) composting in my head.

(JC) I hope there are more opportunities to work with Adam. For now I’m just not thinking about the ride ending.

I’m preparing to start work on my debut novel via The Year of the Novel online course, fitting writing around my editing and publishing responsibilities at eMergent. I’m also working toward completing all 52 of the Form and Genre Challenges at Write Anything with the view to bundle them into a collection entitled “52 Degrees of Madness”.

Thank you both so much for taking the time to answer my questions.

Further information on Post Marked: Piper's Reach can be found below:




Post Marked: Piper’s Reach is an ambitious organic narrative collaborative project between Jodi Cleghorn and Adam Byatt traversing an odd path between old and new forms of communication, differing modalities of storytelling and mixed media, all played out in real and suspended time.


In December 1992 Ella-Louise Wilson boarded the Greyhound Coach for Sydney leaving behind the small coastal town of Piper’s Reach and her best friend and soulmate, Jude Smith. After twenty years of silence, a letter arrives at Piper’s Reach reopening wounds that never really healed. When the past reaches into the future, is it worth risking a second chance?


  1. Great interview :-) Working with another artist must be so much fun!

    1. I agree, it must be, especially in this form!

    2. It's been a whole heap of fun working together, yet individually, on this project.
      Adam B @revhappiness

  2. Many thanks for having us at your place today, Rebecca. We are stoked to be launching on Tuesday. It's been a whole heap of fun.
    Adam B @revhappiness

    1. It's my pleasure, Adam and I really can't wait until the launch tomorrow.

  3. What an interesting interview. Thanks for sharing. x

  4. That's a fascinating interview.

  5. I'm always in awe of any writers who can work together. Very interesting interview -- thank you!