Jason Franks joins our Clamour and Mischief anthology with his short story "The Language of Birds," which you can enjoy him reading a snippet of on our YouTube channel.
What is the most unexpected titbit you learned while researching your story?
Well, there was a lot of stuff as I took a deep dive into the various King Solomon apocrypha, looking for some kind of coherent narrative (spoiler: there isn't) but probably the thing I enjoyed the most was reading about the Doll House (aka the Doll's House, aka The Dollhouse), a roadhouse that was around the corner from the house where I grew up in Johannesburg. I can't remember a whole lot about the food – I doubt we went there often – but it was a landmark that we used to explain where we lived more often than not. Reading about its history, from its opening in 1936 to its closure in 2017 really brought back some memories. I remember the mysterious menu, and the way the wait staff would clip your tray onto the window of your car. I did not know it was a place where Greek, Portuguese, Lebanese, Italian and Jewish gangs would go to rumble.
What was your favourite thing about writing a story for Clamour and Mischief?
First and foremost, it was another opportunity to work on something with editor Narrelle Harris, who is one of the best human beings I've ever encountered in the deep dark woods of publishing. Last time out with Narrelle (The Only One in the World anthology) was a career highlight, and I'm sure this one is going to be better still.
My favourite part of doing this story was looking back on a part of my childhood I've rarely thought about. When I saw the Hebrew school scenes in the Coen brothers' A Serious Man I was astounded by the familiarity of them... but the American Midwest of the 1960s was a very different place to apartheid South Africa in the 1980s. Some of Jacob's experiences are drawn from my own, or my friends', or situations related to me by my uncle that I most certainly was not aware of when I was 9 or 10. The cheder is an amalgam of the one I attended (in close proximity to the Doll House, I might add) and the Sunday school where I studied here in Melbourne. At the time I was bored stupid, but looking back, they were experiences I've never really seen captured in fiction.
Which is your favourite corvid and why?
My favourite corvid is a particular animal, rather than a species: a wild crow that my mother-in-law feeds whenever it comes into her garden, which she has named Gaan-chan ("Gaan" being its cry.) Most likely it's a hashiboso garasu – a carrion crow. The crow in my story is a Cape crow, native to South Africa, which is a bit larger and scruffier than Gaan-chan, and a lot cheekier.
My website is http://www.jasonfranks.com.
Read all the Q&As with our Clamour and Mischief authors.