Category Archives: The Co-op Book Podcast

Jerome Doraisamy

Jerome Doraisamy – The Wellness Doctrines – Podcast

Jerome Doraisamy speaks to the Co-op about his first book, The Wellness Doctrines, and the high levels of psychological distress, anxiety and depression for law students and lawyers.

Jerome Doraisamy is a lawyer from Sydney, New South Wales. He attended St Aloysius’ College and then the University of Technology, Sydney, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of Arts in Communication (Social Inquiry). Over the course of his legal career he has worked in a range of fields, from commercial practice to academic research to a major federal government inquiry. The Wellness Doctrines is his first book. The Wellness Doctrines examines the prevalence, causes and effects of psychological distress, anxiety and depression for law students and young lawyers in Australia in a manner never before seen – thematic discussion inspired by personal stories, first-hand accounts and case studies of over 45 legal professionals and health experts. It is hoped that this book will serve as a “survival guide” of sorts for new law students, incoming and current legal graduates, and other young lawyers.

http://www.coop.com.au/the-wellness-doctrines/doraisamy-jerome/9781921134951


Announcer:
You’re listening to The Co-Op Book podcast.


Rob:
I’d like to welcome Jerome Doraisamy to the Co-Op chat. Hello Jerome.


Jerome:
Hi, Rob. Thanks for having me.


Rob:
Now Jerome has just written an amazing book actually. It’s called “The Wellness Doctrines.” What’s it about, Jerome?


Jerome:
It’s essentially a self-help guide for law students and young lawyers to help them proactively combat or manage the issues of psychological distress, anxiety, and depression which they may face throughout their educational and vocational experience with law, given that the rates of depression within law are so much higher than in most if not all other professions.


Rob:
Now that may surprise a lot of people the rates for lawyers being, you know, they’re portrayed as these powerful people changing the world. Why do you think it’s, you know, the legal profession has those high rates?


Jerome:
Well there’s a number of reasons. First and foremost the volume of work that’s required both as a law student and as a lawyer is quite tremendous, the number of hours you have to put in. There’s a tendency amongst lawyers to self-medicate with alcohol as a way to unwind as opposed to seeking an outlet in a more healthy fashion, and that’s been [inaudible 00:01:36] by research. Lawyers by nature are generally very perfectionistic, very competitive with each other, and also rather pessimistic, and the way that you’re taught to study and then practice law can also be seen as quite pessimistic. The work is quite negatively geared in the sense that you’re always looking for the flaws, the mistakes, looking for the worst case scenarios so that you can rectify that. You’re seeing that through a very pessimistic prism. Then when you consider your clients, no client ever comes to you as a lawyer because they’re happy. If you’re a criminal lawyer, it’s because they’re in trouble. If you’re a family lawyer, it’s because they’re going through a divorce or there might be domestic violence. If you’re a commercial lawyer, there might be a major contractual dispute between parties, so nobody’s ever coming to you with a positive issue to be solved. The cumulative effect of all of these different cultural and environmental factors is such that lawyers can and do suffer much higher rates of depression than other people.


Rob:
There are certain people that I suppose are predisposed to depression. Do you think it is a type of person or, I don’t know, a characteristic?


Jerome:
Yeah, like I said, people can be very, display perfectionist traits. Nothing they do will be good enough in their own eyes. My experience with law school was witnessing friends, colleagues, classmates compete with each other for better possible marks and assessments, and never being satisfied with their own. When it came to penultimate and final years of study, people would be competing for summer clerkship or graduate roles with law firms and other legal organizations, and again there’s this real sense of not ever feeling good enough no matter how much you do achieve comparative to the rest of society or even just compared to what would be considered reasonable standards for yourself. People never let up and be so driven to achieve what they perceive to be the best.

Rob:
Now what prompted you specifically to write this book?


Jerome:
Oh, I had my own issues with depression towards the end of my law degree and then in the time following that, and that was quite a sort of debilitating and crippling experience for me to go through. Then I suppose the primary catalyst for undertaking this particular project was going back to work at my old university doing some academic and research work whereby I got to liaise with all the young students, and I could see the same issues that I had suffered repeating themselves in these new students coming through the ranks, and it struck me as being sort of an endless cycle of sorts whereby law students would be in this environment and suffer these issues, and perhaps there wasn’t enough being done about it. I came up with the idea of the book as potentially the best way possible that I could make a meaningful tangible contribution to the issue.


Rob:
Do you think the legal profession has had a bit of an ambivalent attitude to things? You know, it’s the rites of passage that … you’ve got this image of these young lawyers, and I remember colleagues of mine, 16 hour days, that kind of crazy thing, and it was a given. It wasn’t like a choice.


Jerome:
I think there has been that attitude over the years. Certainly that’s the traditional approach to it, but thankfully that is changing and has started to change over the last 10 years or so. The Tristan Jepson Memorial Foundation, who will receive 10% of the proceeds from this book, they’ve sort of really kickstarted the campaign of raising awareness for the dangers of depression in law and how it can affect you not only personally, but also professionally for law firms. It’s really important that their staff areas healthy and happy as possible so as to reduce turnover at the very least. Given that the Jepson Foundation have kickstarted this awareness campaign, a number of others have gotten on board, which has been great, so things are slowly changing, but there’s still a very long way to go.


Rob:
I think one of the interesting things when you wrote this book, you said the breadths and levels of depression and anxiety in the legal profession, was that surprising to you?


Jerome:
No, because it’s something that I had seen in friends and colleagues and classmates, and obviously in myself. It’s something that you’re made aware of from the first day of law school. You’re told 1 in 3 law students suffer from depression, and the implication is that you could be that 1 in 3, so you know about it right from the get go. The problem is that not everybody is then given the tools to deal with those issues. You’re sort of made aware of the problems, and then some people feel as though, well they’re on their own. That’s what this book tries to achieve is to continue that conversation to equip people with the practical tools necessary to not only help themselves, but also those around them.

Rob:
What are some practical steps that people can take if they … firstly, what are some of the symptoms that you may not be aware of that you should sort of evaluate?


Jerome:
Well, you could even point to something as simple as feeling stressed at your desk, feeling a bit overwhelmed with the volume of work you might have right in front of you, or just needing to get a bit of head space to be able to continue on with the rest of your working day. I have a chapter on this very issue, what are some ways that I can unwind when I’m feeling stressed at my desk. The interviewees that I had put forward some really sensible common sense solutions to dealing with this issue, and the solutions that they put forward are things that work for them. They may not necessarily work for everybody, but the idea is to look at the solutions being proposed, and then go out and identify what might work best for you. Not everyone will appreciate going for a walk around the block or going for a cup of tea or walking into the office of the person next to you and venting to them. These are all really reasonable ideas, but it’s important that you figure out what is going to be most helpful for you personally right then and there when you’re feeling stressed at your desk.


Rob:
What can you do, if you’re a friend or a family member, and you may, I think, someone’s going through tough times, what are some suggestions for them?


Jerome:
I think being kind to that person is the most important thing right from the get go, ensuring that they know that if they were to open up to you that it would be a safe place for them to do so, that there wouldn’t be any repercussions or detrimental effects as a result. Even if you don’t fully understand or appreciate what that person is going through, even just being there to listen can be the most cathartic thing for somebody who’s opening up about their health and well-being. Just being there in every sense of that phrase is so important. I think that a problem shared is a problem halved, so even just being able to have that release to a friend or family member or someone that you trust can make a huge amount of difference.


Rob:
What are some of the things that law firms could do sort of to minimize the potential for mental illness in the workplace?


Jerome:
The Tristan Jepson Memorial Foundation, which I referred to before, they recently released what they call the best practice guidelines, which is a set of suggested rules and regulations, if you like, ways in which legal workplaces or law school campuses can put in place initiatives or programs to ensure a more holistic and hospitable environment for law students and young lawyers, a whole raft of solutions that pertain to different issues that you might come across, and I think it’s very important that law firms and universities alike not only become signatories to these guidelines, but actually implement them, not simply pay lip service to the guidelines. I think that in most cases, law firms and universities are doing very well on that front. On a more individual level, it’s very important that law firms and universities keep going with whatever well-being programs or initiatives they might already have, lunchtime yoga classes or boot camps that they offer to their staff or their students. These little things are really important, not just so that people have an outlet, but at least so that they know that it’s there so they have that level of emotional security, the sense that their employer or their teachers are looking after them. Even just the idea of that can be quite important.

Rob:
What kind of manager, like if you’re sort of a partner or a senior solicitor in a firm, because there’s that pressure from the partners of the business to continue to bring in revenue and things like that and pump out the business, versus the management of your time, so what would you recommend to sort of senior executives?


Jerome:
Well, I would say to them that it’s important that you recognize if your staff are healthy and happy and on top of their game, they have a much better chance of being productive and successful employees that you would need them to be from a business or fiscal point of view. A lawyer who works at 100% the entire time, is working 15, 16 hour days, goes home for a couple of hours sleep and comes back into the office, is more likely to burn out sooner than later, and if that happens, then that person isn’t going to be any good to you either. It’s important that you allow your staff to take the rest time that they need, give them time to go and explore their hobbies and interests, whatever that might be, so that when they come into the office the next day, they’re recharged and refreshed and ready to go again. It’s really important for managers to lead the way in having this kind of culture where it is okay to prioritize your health and well-being, because at the end of the day, you’re a person first and a lawyer second.


Rob:
Who are some of your mentors in recent years that have helped you?


Jerome:
There were quite a few, because my initial breakdown came when I was at university. Some of the academics there were the first people that I would have spoken to, and when it comes to the academics from the faculty of law at UTS, the people I think of Professors Paul Redmond, Maxine Evers, and Jill McKeough, who have all been enormously helpful to me ever since 2011. Outside of the university, I would point to somebody like Graeme Cowan, who is also an author and he’s an internationally renowned speaker on mental health issues. He has been incredibly helpful to me on a more personal level as well. Then I would look to my friends and family who have offered unwavering and unconditional support through the best and worst of times, and having those people in my life, having the network that I do have has made such an incredible difference. I almost shudder to think what could be or what might have been had I not had those mentors and those close confidants.


Rob:
Jerome, thank you for your time. I think it’s … everyone says it’s a brave thing to put yourself out there, but more important, I think this is a very important publication that anyone, not only any students studying law and young lawyers, but anyone in any challenging profession will get something out of it. I think we can all acknowledge the hardships of doing a whole lot of things, but obviously there’s something about lawyers. Just for anyone that’s potentially going through anything, obviously purchasing the book from The Co-op site and The Co-op store is a great thing, but if you have immediate concerns, you can speak to someone on Lifeline on 131144 or Headspace, 1-800-650-890. Jerome, thank you for your time.


Jerome:
Thank you, Rob.
Jaclyn Moriarty

Jaclyn Moriarty – Tangled in Gold – Podcast

We speak to Author Jaclyn Moriarty about the final book of the Madeleine trilogy – Tangled in Gold. We also talk about sibling rivalry and her time living abroad.

www.coop.com.au/a-tangle-of-gold/9781743533239


Jaclyn:
Hello. How great to meet you.

 

Rob:
We’re here to speak about your latest novel A Tangle of Gold, imminently released in Australia, I think, February 23. Is that the big launch?

 

Jaclyn:
I think that’s the date. February 23, yes.

 

Rob:
That’s any day for The Co-op chat listeners. It’s not just your average novel, it’s the conclusion of the Madeleine series, a trilogy. What was is like writing a trilogy? Did you go in knowing that you were going to write 3 big books? They’re big books!

 

Jaclyn:
Originally I wanted to write, for some reason I wanted to write a series of 5 books about the Kingdom of Cello. The reason I wanted to do that was because I’d spent years and years thinking about this idea for this kingdom and it had got bigger and bigger and bigger in my mind, so I had enough material for 5 books and I had plot for 5 books, I had that all figured out. A publisher said to me, “Maybe a trilogy’s a better idea,” which I’m very glad he did say that to me because I managed to get the material much more under control and streamlined that way. It might have gone completely out of control if I kept with 5 books, but doing a trilogy, I’d never done a series of books before. All the other books I’d done have been stand alone books, although they’ve often been connected to each other in some way. This is the first time that I had planned, I did mean it to be a series, and so I planned the whole trilogy once I’d managed to let go of the whole 5 book idea.

 

Rob:
There’s a lot of fantasy trilogies out there. Philip Pullman.

 

Jaclyn:
Exactly.

 

Rob:
Lord of the Rings, is that a trilogy? No, it’s got to be more.

 

Jaclyn:
I think it’s a trilogy. Lord of the Rings, great. Yeah, isn’t it? I should know. We just read it. I just read it with my son, The Lord of the Rings. Anybody who knows about The Lord of the Rings will be so annoyed by this conversation.

 

Rob:
Absolutely. What’s it like to create a whole universe? The Kingdom of Cello is a whole world. What inspired that? Tell me a bit about The Kingdom of Cello.

 

Jaclyn:

I can tell you where I first came up with idea, if you like. I was living in Montreal, Canada for a few years a long time ago. I always work in cafes. When I’m working on my books, I always take that book and lots of colored textures and pencils to a café and plan whatever book I’m working on. I was working on Ashbury/Brookfield books which is what I did before. They were realistic fiction comedies set in high schools in Sydney’s Northwest. Because I’m a Sydney girl, the winter’s in Montreal were completely magical to me for the first two years, the third year not so much because it stopped being magical and just started being cold. These -30 degree days and waking up in the morning and seeing snow everywhere, cars buried under snow, and ice and going ice skating at lunchtime, to me I was just enchanted the whole time I was in Montreal winter. 


It was a day like that, a blue sky, and the white, white sparkling snow, that I went to a café to work on my latest Ashbury/Brookfield book. I had a new notebook which a friend had given to me because she knew I liked to take notebooks to cafes. This one was covered in nice, soft, red suede material. When I got to the café and opened up this notebook I discovered there was a row of little pockets sewed into the inside cover and inside each pocket was a colored pencil, and I hadn’t known they were there. I was so surprised to find this row of colored pencils. I was in this café with this silver, glittery snow outside and I had a coffee and I had a chocolate croissant so everything seemed magical to me. 


I decided instead of working on my Ashbury book I would draw pictures of a kingdom. I just started drawing pictures of a Kingdom and that’s when I drew a Lake of Spells and mountains that shifted and drifting seasons and a butterfly child and I called it a Kingdom of Cello just because I liked the word cello for no other reason. Then I closed the notebook and got on with my real work, but that kingdom stayed in the back of my mind for years and years and I kept coming back to it and drawing more pictures and maps. It took a long time to build up the kingdom, but that’s how it started.

Rob:
It’s amazing. It’s amazing that it’s all living inside your brain and it was slowly filtering out. Who’s Madeleine?

 

Jaclyn:
Madeleine is a 14 year old girl who lives in Cambridge, England. It took me a long time to start writing. Once I got the idea for the Kingdom of Cello and I knew I wanted to write about it, and as I was saying I just kept accumulating details on the Kingdom of Cello, it wasn’t until one day, I decided I wanted to have the real world in this book as well, that I knew that I was almost ready to write it because even though I like fantasy I always prefer fantasy which has the contrast of the real world, is framed by the real world, because if there is a connection to reality then I’m much more likely to believe it, that’s what I find. Seeing it from the perspective of someone who could be me brings the vision to life for me I think. I decided I wanted to have a girl living in Cambridge, England who finds a crack through to the Kingdom of Cello in a parking meter, and it’s only a crack big enough for letters and notes to go through. You can’t actually get through it, so she starts writing letters to a boy named Elliot who lives in the farming district of the Kingdom of Cello.

 

Rob:
I think anyone that hasn’t picked up any of the trilogy will be excited now to trace back the beginning steps with the first book. I wanted to ask you a broader question, because you seemed to have jumped all over categories in the book world. What do you prefer writing? This is a fantasy, whatever that means, but you write young adult, essays, what’s your favourite form?

 

Jaclyn:

That’s a good question. I just like writing. My favorite form of writing is writing. I want to  be able to … I know that publishers would like me to stick to one category, one genre, and they’ve even said to me, “Keep writing young adult, that’s what you’re big in, just stick with what works for you because then you build up a readership,” but I think that’s a mistake. You should follow where your imagination goes and that’s what I want my favourite writers to do. That’s what writing is, I think, just going in any direction that you want. Even my Ashbury/Brookfield books were realistic fiction, and they were set in the same high schools, but after I had written two of those, I suddenly thought, “I want to go outside, I want to extend my range beyond teenage romance and interactions with friendship.” I like writing about those things, but I wanted to follow a different path. My third book became a murder mystery, even though it was set in the same high school, and then the fourth book became a ghost story. I suppose in the back of my mind I always liked the idea of fantasy because that’s when that childhood imagination … that’s when I wanted to start writing, or when I wanted to be a writer, was when I was about 6 or 7 and reading those crazy fantasy world children’s books.

Rob:
How did you get started as a published author? I don’t think it was your average story.

 

Jaclyn:
I always wanted to be a writer from when I was little. I wrote lots of stories. I did a English and a Law degree. You grow up and you realize you can’t really be a writer, it’s not a sensible career option, so I studied English and Law, and when I finished the law degree I knew that meant now I had to become a lawyer and so I decided to run away and study more law to put off becoming a lawyer as long as I possibly could. I went to Yale and did a Master’s in Law and then I went to Cambridge and did a PhD in Law. While I was studying at Cambridge, I realized this was my last chance because I was going to run out of things to study and I would have to become a lawyer, so I kind of made a pact to myself that I wasn’t going to be allowed to come home from England until I was a published author. 


I wrote a novel called Feeling Sorry for Celia, while I was doing a PhD, and sent it to publishers in London and they all sent it back to me and said, “No thank you.” I kept sending it out and by then I ran out of, my PhD finished, and I ran out of money and my Visa expired. I came back home and got a job in a law firm in Sydney and I put the print out of Feeling Sorry for Celia in the corner of my office in the law firm and I thought, “I will work on that one day when I get a chance.” One year later it was still sitting in the corner of the office because I was working 12 hour days as a lawyer. When I was working very late and I saw that in the corner and I thought, “I’m never going to get a chance to write that. I’m just going to give it one more chance,” so I put in an envelope and sent it to an agency in Sydney. I don’t know. Do you know the author Garth Nix?

 

Rob:
Yeah.

 

Jaclyn:

He’s a big international author and he happened to be working as an agent in the agency at the time, and he’s the one who opened the envelope with Feeling Sorry for Celia in it. He called me in a few days and said that he loved it and wanted to represent me and then he found me publishers in Australia and The U. K. and America within a few months.

Rob:
We hear many stories of people’s path to becoming a published author and everyone feels there’s a book in them and there’s a dream but your story is the element of resilience, pushing, and the element of life that we all need as well. It’s an interesting bit of background. Your family’s very much been involved in writing and reading. Tell me a bit about your background growing up, how that influenced you.

 

Jaclyn:
I come from a family of 6 kids and most of us like to write stories or tell stories. Our dad used to encourage us by commissioning us to write stories. We didn’t get pocket money. We’d get $1 or $1.50 if we wrote a novel, if we filled up an exercise book, you were allowed to illustrate it as well, it didn’t just have to be words, so that was how we made money in our house, writing books. My older sister, Liane, used to tell stories to me and then I would tell stories to the next sister down every night. It was a big part of growing up. When I got Feeling Sorry For Celia published, my sister, Liane, who’s a couple of years older than me, was so mad because we all had that dream in the back of our mind that we were going to be writers but we didn’t think of it as practical. It had faded away a lot, so Liane was mad because she said, “Wait a minute, you are younger than me. You should not be getting published first because that’s not how the order goes in our family,” so then it reminded her that she can run and be an author. She wrote her first book then and got it published and now she’s huge and writes #1 New York Time’s best sellers. I think she’s the first Australian ever to debut with a novel at #1, and I think she’s the first Australian to have 3 of her books in the top 10 New York Time’s best seller list. She’s doing well. She’s back in her position as #1 sister in the family, and our youngest sister, Nicola, has written a couple of books now too and she’s about to take off too I think.

 

Rob:
It’s great to see how sibling rivalry can be used for the literary benefit of us all. As you know, at Co-op, we have a lot of university students listening to this podcast, what was Uni like for you?

 

Jaclyn:
That’s a good question. I went to Sydney University and I did English honors, and then I did Law at the law school. I’m trying to remember. It’s strange. My teenage years are really vivid in my mind. University has faded away so much, and I think that might not be for good reasons; a lot of parties and things like that. It was great, I loved studying. It wasn’t just that I didn’t want to be a lawyer, it was that opportunity to use your mind and I knew it was a privilege. It was just thinking in a completely different way and being able to follow the path of research and ideas twisting and turning, I loved that. Going to Yale was a revelation. A big difference to me between studying in America and studying in Australia was that in Australia, or at least at Sydney University, maybe things have changed, but at Sydney University everybody seemed to have to pretend that they didn’t really want to study or that we were quite cynical about studying. Everybody said it, I remember always going to exams and people saying, “Oh my God, I haven’t done any work,” and, “I haven’t done any work either,” and knowing actually I think you’ve both been staying up past 2 AM, but we don’t talk about it, we don’t talk about we were studying legal cases but we never discussed the law with each other. We talked about other things and went to parties and that was separate. When I got to Yale, suddenly I was surrounded by these American students who were openly passionate about what they were studying and proud of it. They were things, I could remember hearing young American law students flirting with each other in the corridor and their version of flirting was to say, “You haven’t told me what you think of New York Time’s [new sullivan 00:15:17] yet,” which is something that I would never have heard at Sydney University. I don’t know if things have changed, but it was surprising and I was a bit cynical about it at first but eventually I loved it because why not embrace this. You don’t realize until later in life, I think, how lucky you are to be surrounded by intelligent people who want to talk about ideas because you end up getting jobs with people who are, well, when I was in the law firm I was also lucky because I was surrounded by bright, creative people, but I had worked in places where day after day being with people who don’t really understand you and don’t want to discuss ideas, it’s soul destroying, the unimaginable, I think.

Rob:
Absolutely. I think for all the lawyers and writers out there, you’ve got interesting insight into potential pathways. Who do you enjoy reading? Who are you reading now?

 

Jaclyn:
I read a lot of young adult fiction because I want to know what’s going on out there and to inspire me to be better, because that’s mainly what I write, young adult fiction. I mix it up with adult books. My favourite young adult authors, there are so many, but I love and was inspired by the books of John Marsden. I think he’s one of the greatest young adult writers that we have. I love, I’ve recently started reading Fiona Wood’s books, I love them. Diana Wynne Jones is someone I discovered quite late, only recently, and I’ve completely fallen in love with her books. I think she’s amazing. Garth Nix is a great writer. In adult books, I like Carol Shields and Lorrie Moore, an American writer who often writes short stories, Lorrie Moore. Who else was I thinking of? Kate Atkinson. I could go on for a long time.

 

Rob:
Jaclyn Moriarty, thank you for being part of the podcast for The Co-op. For anyone that hasn’t had a chance to grab any of the Madeleine series, they’re all available online or in stores. Good luck with the launch of the book. I’m sure your fans are just waiting for that date, February 23, to get the final book of the trilogy.

 

Jaclyn:
I hope so. Thank you so much for having me.
Holly Seddon

Holly Seddon – Try Not To Breathe – Podcast

Holly Seddon’s impressive and engrossing fiction debut is taking the world by storm and she talks to the Co-op chat about this.

Shifting from present to past and back again, Try Not to Breathe unfolds layer by layer until its heart-stopping conclusion. The result is an utterly immersive, unforgettable debut. For fans of Gillian Flynn, Laura Lippman, and Paula Hawkins comes Holly Seddon’s arresting fiction debut—an engrossing thriller full of page-turning twists and turns, richly imagined characters, and gripping psychological suspense.

http://www.coop.com.au/try-not-to-breathe/9781782396680


Rob:
It’s my great pleasure to welcome Holly Seddon to the Co-op Chat. Hello, Holly.


Holly:
Hi, thanks for having me.


Rob:
Absolutely pleasure. Now, Holly, you’re living in Amsterdam at the moment, but you’re originally based and living in the UK. We’re here to talk about your latest book, your debut novel, Try Not to Breathe. It’s been compared to The Girl on the Train, and The Book of You.


Holly:
Well, it’s amazing. It’s really fantastic, and very, very flattering. I’m absolutely delighted. When I started writing Try Not to Breathe, quite a few years ago, those books hadn’t been out yet, so for Try Not to Breathe to come out during this really exciting time in psychological thrillers was fantastic, and a great bit of timing. It’s very, very flattering to be compared with books that I respect, by authors I respect.


Rob:
Tell me a bit about your writing process. Are you very sequential, or are you very planned? How does it work for you?


Holly:
I do plan. I have a basic framework for the story, so I have a beginning, middle, and an end. Initially, what will always happen is, I’ll have the basic spark of an idea, and that could just be one phrase, or one hook. From there, I’ll tend to rush in and do a bit of writing … Find the characters and work out what I’m attempting to say, and work out what my setting is. Then when I’ve done a little bit, maybe 10,000 words, I’ll stop, take stock, and that’s when most of my planning happens. I’ll start with the spark, and a heady rush of … It’s kind of like a romance, getting to know these characters … Then stopping and actually planning and being a bit more sensible, so that I don’t just rush ahead without any actual structure to it.


Rob:
I’ve phoned enough authors, everyone’s got their own method. Obviously, this is the one that works for you.


Holly:
So far, I’m definitely somebody who, if I plan too much, then I’m likely to get a little bit bored. If I have no plan, then I either veer off course, or the enormity of the task overwhelms me. It works well for me to have a basic plan, and then to day by day nibble away at that.


Rob:
Try Not to Breathe, and I’ll admit to being half way through it, so I don’t know where it’s going to end, but I’m completely riveted.


Holly:
Thank you.


Rob:
It examines the relationship between two strong women at various stages of life, and various positions of trauma, I suppose. One of your characters is in a coma. I won’t give away too much other than you use different times to help tell the story. Did you look at people in comas and how they react, as part of your research?


Holly:
Yes, I did, but I didn’t … I use artistic license, and I’m very honest about that. It’s not an academic text. It couldn’t be used in anything other than an imaginative sense, but I did want to get the basics right. I wanted to make sure that the lingo was right, and that the rough expectations of … The loved ones would have been around … Would have been correct. I wanted it to be authentic, but it’s not precise and scientific.

Rob:
No, but I think you’re right with the characterizations of the people around the various characters, and how they would react. That seemed very true to life, for me, anyway. I’m sure others will find the same kind of reaction. Have you always been attracted to psychological thrillers?


Holly:
Yes … Without knowing that’s what they were. I’ve always, since I was a kid, the stories that I’ve enjoyed the most have been quite dark. I grew up on a diet of ghost stories, way earlier than I would let my kids read ghost stories. I’ve always liked that kind of bitter-sweet experience as a reader, of being enthralled, but slightly spooked. I like the shadows as well as the light. I was never going to write something that was a fantastically happy romance. That’s not where I’m at. I love people who can write that stuff, but that’s not for me. I was always going to write something on the darker side of things. When I started writing Try Not to Breathe, the initial idea was around the Amy character, so somebody who was trapped in a long-term coma, who had essentially been filed away and forgotten, because of course that’s what’s going to happen to somebody. Even if somebody who was a big news story … Over 15 years, everything has to move on around them, because that’s life. Obviously, once I started with that … As you feel your way with planning a story, the questions were, “How did she get there,” “Why was she there?” For a 15 year old, as Amy was, to be in that kind of condition, automatically there is some trauma involved in that story. It just naturally went that way, but it wasn’t that I sat down and looked at those genres and thought, “Okay, this is going to rigidly fit into here,” because I don’t think that’s how anybody writes, to be honest.


Rob:
I think you’re right there. Now, this is your debut novel, however, you’ve got quite a lot of writing experience, and quite a varied experience. I see that you’ve written a lot of short pieces, from everything from balancing the act of motherhood and parenting, through to colonic irrigation. How does writing a novel compare?


Holly:
It’s obviously an awful lot longer, but I think having a daily writing habit, as you have to have when you’re an online journalist (which is mostly where I write), you’re used to having those daily deadlines. You’re used to having to turn up and write, even if you don’t feel like it. I think that sort of work ethic is probably there in the way that I approach novels as well. Also, again, having that research, that ability to quite quickly find out the basics around a subject. I’d say that I find it exhausts me a lot more. When I’m writing … Say I’m writing about colonic irrigation, for example, (which was a long time ago), the material is all out there. I can very quickly find what is it, who’s doing it, why they’re doing it, where to go to get it done. It’s all there, so even if I’m utterly exhausted, I can turn something in. When you’re scraping your own imagination, when you’re holding this universe in your head, that only exists in your head and on the page, it takes a lot more out of me. I think I am quite a fast writer, becau se of that writing habit that I’ve had over the years, but I’m definitely slower when I’m wri ting fiction, than if I’m writing non-fiction.

Rob:
Do you find it hard to exit the worlds that you’re writing in?


Holly:
Sometimes. I found it quite hard to shift. I found I was very immersed in Amy’s world. Without giving too much away, her experience is so unique, and very sad. I had to really put myself into the right kind of mood to write about her, and it takes a little while to shake that loose. What I find harder is finding the head space to get into the world in the first place. I’ve got 4 kids, and they are noisy. It takes a little while to shake off the day and actually shut everything out, but once I’m in it, then I’m really in it, and I’m in that new universe all of my own.


Rob:
As you may know, many of the Co-op listeners here are at University or have just finished University. Did you get to study, yourself?


Holly:
I did, I went to Further Education college, so that’s when you’re 16 to 18, and I did my A-levels. Then I actually went out and started working, rather than immediately went to University. It was always my plan. I’m a big believer in the value of higher education, not just from an academic sense, but as an important time in your life of finding yourself … Finding yourself intellectually, as well as socially. I never quite made it, because, as I think it’s probably quite a common story, life happened, and that special time was kind of eaten up. I never quite made it back, but what I did do is, I followed the Open University, which is … I don’t know if you have it in Australia, but it’s a distance learning University, it’s open to everybody. It’s fantastic, and it’s quite an affordable way to get a really good education. I got a higher certificate in Humanities. I scratched that itch, but it’s always a little bit of a regret that I never had those 3 years to totally immerse myself in University life.


Rob:
As we’ve learned with all the authors what we’ve interviewed, many paths lead to many outcomes. It sounds like you’ve had your own experiences to get where you are. Who do you read? Who are your influences?


Holly:
At the moment … I really struggle to read anything that’s too similar to what I’m currently writing. When I’m actually working on something, I don’t read any of the new thrillers. I don’t read anything by people I would dream to be compared with, or even anybody who is an emerging author in the same area. Which kind of narrows me a little bit, narrows my choices, but I go back in time a little bit. I read Agatha Christie and things like that. I shut myself away from the modern stuff. Growing up, I read anything I could get my hands on. I’m not slavish to one particular genre. My favourite author is actually Peter Carey, so he’s one of your own.


Rob:
One of our world-renowned ones … What’s the plan? Is there a follow-up to Try Not to Breathe? Is there another novel coming out?

Holly:
Yeah. What I’m working on now is a stand-alone, so it’s not a sequel. It’s a very similar genre. It’s set in contemporary Britain. It’s actually set in Manchester this time. It looks at another unique female character who has her challenges, which affect not just the way she sees the world, but also the way the world sees her. It’s fairly early days, but it’s looking at how a family dealt, or didn’t deal with childhood experiences that are coming to roost in their modern lives.


Rob:
I’m very excited by that. I need to go and finish Try Not to Breathe, which is sitting right next to me here. I’m very excited to do it, and it is a page-turner. I highly recommend it to all our listeners, and all the film producers looking for a script to make a movie, it’s very filmic in its nature as well. Thank you very much for your time, very early in the morning in Amsterdam. We look forward to reading and hearing what comes next for Holly, and if there’s any Dutch influence on your next book.


Holly:
I haven’t intended for there to be, but you never know … Probably creep in a little bit. Thank you so much for having me.
Hilary Spiers

Hilary Spiers – Hester and Harriet – Podcast

Hilary Spiers writes plays, novels and short stories. She enjoys giving a voice to ordinary women in sometimes extraordinary circumstances.

When widowed sisters, Hester and Harriet, move together into a comfortable cottage in a pretty English village, the only blights on their cosy landscape are their crushingly boring cousins, George and Isabelle, who are determined that the sisters will never want for company. Including Christmas Day.

http://www.coop.com.au/hester-and-harriet/9781925266412


Rob:
You’re listening to The Co-op Book Podcast. It’s my great pleasure to welcome Hilary Spiers to the co-op chat. Hello Hilary.

 

Hilary:
Hello there Rob. Lovely to be with you.

 

Rob:
Now, the joys of modern technology that this interview is actually taking place over the internet through Skype. As I sit here in Sydney, Hilary, where are you in the UK?

 

Hilary:
I’m in Stanford which is a small town quite near Peterborough, if anybody knows that, which itself is about 90 miles from London.

 

Rob:
Okay and what’s it like in the UK this evening?

 

Hilary:
Well, for me it’s the morning, of course, and for the first time in weeks we have some sunshine. You’ve probably heard on the news, we’ve had enormous amounts of rain and a lot of flooding up in the north of the country, but today it’s blue sky and sunshine which is a lovely change.

 

Rob:
Absolutely. Now, we’re talking about your book Hester and Harriet. Tell me a bit about how did you come up with this book, Hester and Harriet?

 

Hilary:
Well, the truth of the matter is, it came about as a result of a bit of a challenge. I was doing my MA in creative writing and wrote a short story about these two women which my tutor group, most of them said they really liked the characters, but I have a writing buddy and she read it and said, “Oh you should do something with these two.” At the time, I was in the middle of writing a play and I said, “Oh, I don’t know if I’ve got time to do this.” “Oh no,” she said, “Don’t let them go. Don’t let them go. I’ll tell you what. I’ll set you a challenge. You write me three chapters a week, get it to me by 6 o’clock on Friday. I’ll look at it over the weekend, give you some notes, and you can start again on Monday.” That was how it started. The truth of the matter is that once I started writing it, I just went with it. It was just such fun to write. The starting point really, wasn’t actually down to me.

 

Rob:
That’s actually quite a unique story. Now, Hilary, you’re a novelist. You write short stories and, of course, plays and more theatrical enterprises. What’s it like writing those three different forms?

 

Hilary:
I think, well short stories, as people always say, you now have to be incredibly tight and they are, in some ways, I think, well, a lot of people think this too, harder to write. It’s much harder to write short than long. I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. Plays, in a way, are similar. You can’t have any extraneous dialogue, but what I like about writing a novel is not only can you flush out the characters much more, but you can still have that joy of exciting dialogue to carry the story forward. I think it’s probably true to say that I’m quite a dialogue heavy novelist.

 

Rob:
Okay. I suppose the thing with books as well and novels is that there aren’t those imitations that, say, the theatrical piece has.

 

Hilary:
Oh, not at all. No, certainly not with things like how long it has to be. You know that you’re writing, next day for a play you might be writing between 15 and 20,000 and you can’t write more than that because people’s bottoms won’t last. I mean, there are obviously plays, Hamlet, four and a half hours, but not these days. You’re writing a modern piece, people are looking for something around two hours, that’s all. Which is why every word must count. And I’m not saying every word doesn’t count in a novel, clearly it does, but you’ve got much more latitude.

 

Rob:
That’s what you can get that access into people’s heads.

 

Hilary:
Absolutely, absolutely. That’s the joy of it. That’s what I so, so enjoyed because as you’re probably aware, this point of view changes between the two sisters. But I liked having that flexibility and they are such, I hope, entertaining and irascible sometimes people, that I loved exploring what they were thinking compared to what they were actually saying.

 

Rob:
Yeah, I think that’s one of the things that come with the book is a lot of humour and, to me, one of the things … It’s that whole sibling relationship and how we deal with people that are related to you by blood. You don’t choose them, you end up with them, and how those relationships play out.

 

Hilary:
Yeah, absolutely, because they have only been living together for a relatively short time. They’re still testing the boundaries of how this relationship and these living arrangements should work and that, for me, was part of the … I’m glad you said humour because I did want that. I don’t like books that are just completely heavy, but that was part of the humour is watching these two women, in a sense, dancing around themselves and trying to find a way to live together that suits both their needs. Because in their individual ways, as I suppose as most of us are, they are quite selfish. They want what they want and I think sibling relationships are particularly difficult. It’s not like a marriage. You’ve got all that shared history, and yet you’ve had an enormous amount of your life when you’ve been apart. So bringing those strands back together, I found it fascinating to explore.

 

Rob:
Now, it’s set in an English village. For us, me or Australians that have sort of the literary or television representations of English villages, why are they so obtuse?

 

Hilary:
Obtuse? The villages or the people?

 

Rob:
Both! There’s something that goes on in English villages that has it’s own unique kind of characteristic and-

 

Hilary:

Oh, I see what you mean. Absolutely, there is. I actually live in a town, but I have lots of friends who do live in villages and their lives are very different from mine in the sense that they have much closer idea about what everybody else is doing. I’m not saying that we live in complete sort of isolation in the town, but it’s more distant in a town. The fact that these people not exactly live in each other’s pockets, but clearly you can’t get away with a lot in a village normally. Although, of course, in this instance, something does go on that they’re not aware of.

Rob:
Yes, it’s interesting to see the outcome and I don’t want to spoil it for somebody. [crosstalk 00:07:11] One of the things that I’ve found interesting is you’ve had it released in Australia, but it’s yet to come out in the UK. What’s behind that?

 

Hilary:
That was a just a decision of the publishers about timing so I don’t know more than that really. They felt very much that it was a book that would suit the season in Australia. But yeah, it’s not coming out in the UK until March.

 

Rob:
So Australia’s ahead of the game, but-

 

Hilary:
Absolutely.

 

Rob:
As I can [testamount 00:07:44], it’s a great holiday read. We’re still in the midst of holidays here. I highly recommend it. I wonder just come back to your background, how did you get into writing? Have you always written?

 

Hilary:
Oh, I have always written. I haven’t always written, if you like, full time, but I certainly have always been writing. I think like most people when I was much mu ch younger. I used to write appalling poetry. I mean, not that everybody writes appalling poetry, but mine was. I’ve always been involved in the theater since I was about 13. There have always been opportunities if we’re putting some kind of show together to do that sort of thing. Yeah, short stories, I’ve always written. It’s taken me the decision to say, no I really really want to make this my career to actually get me on the novel path. Because of the time commitment really.

 

Rob:
Now, as I mentioned before, I interview many of our listeners that either at university or have just left university. What was the university like for you?

 

Hilary:
If I’m absolutely truthful, I studied law and I don’t think I should have studied law. My heart really wasn’t in it. I mean, I enjoyed university, don’t get me wrong, but my advice and certainly to my sons and will be to my granddaughters is to say choose the subject you really want to do. I chose law because I thought it was the right thing to do. I think it might be for some people, but I don’t think it was for me.

 

Rob:
No, that’s fair enough. I think it’s a part of the journey that many people take at university. Battle between passion and pragmatism.

 

Hilary:

Oh, absolutely. But the lovely thing about learning and education is it never needs stop because since then I then subsequently went on to do speech therapy, a degree in speech therapy. Then much more recently, of course I went on to study creative writing. It never stops. Just because sometimes you think, maybe I made the choice that wasn’t quite right to me, it doesn’t mean that in the future you can’t do what you really, really want to do. That’s the brilliant thing about it. Those opportunities are there throughout your life.

Rob:
Absolutely. As a writer, what kind of writer are you? Are you a planner? Or are you a just put it down and put structure around that?

 

Hilary:
I’m the latter. I’m absolutely not a planner. I find it really difficult when you get asked for a synopsis because I think well, I don’t know where this is going to go. I kind of have a rough idea, but I’m very easily led astray. If I think I’ve got a thread that’s worth exploring, then I will go off down the side road and fiddle around there and then come back. No, the idea of … I know some writers have story boards and it’s all perfectly planned out. I just don’t know that I could stick to that because I’m probably quite ill disciplined if I’m honest with myself.

 

Rob:
I’ve found through my interviews that it’s 50/50. Some writers are one way, some are the other way. It’s very-

 

Hilary:
[inaudible 00:11:07] I think you can’t … I mean certainly when I was doing my MA, there’s a tendency to say, well this is one approach, would you like to try? I did try them. It wasn’t that I’d set my heart and my mind against things. I tried different approaches and I just knew instantly, I thought, now this isn’t going to work for me. So went back to [inaudible 00:11:27] and not very structured way of working.

 

Rob:
Now, tell me, you’ve studied writing as well. Who are you influences? Who sort of-

 

Hilary:
Well, like a lot of women writers, and going back a bit, Barbara Pym, I think is an absolutely master of writing about small lives, but still making you want to know more. Helen Dunmore. Oh, let me think. Oh, I love William Boyd. I think he’s a fantastic writer. In fact, Any Human Heart, probably one of my favourite books. But and absolutely top of the list and going back a very long way, would be Thackeray. Because he writes so brilliantly about women. There can’t be a better heroine than Becky Sharp.

 

Rob:
That I would agree with. Look, those listeners out there that get a chance, please grab a copy of Hester and Harriet. It’s actually a really fun book and it’s got humour, both upfront and dark humour. Highly recommend it. More importantly, we can get ahead of the UK because it’s not out there for a few months. Hilary, I appreciate your time. Getting up this morning to have a chat with your distant cousins in Australia.

 

Hilary:
Oh, it’s been such a pleasure. Thank you.

 

Rob:
Now, all the best. We look forward to hearing what’s coming next.

 

Hilary:
Oh, right. Well, yes. I think the ladies are off on some other adventure quite soon. I very much hope so anyway. I’ll keep you posted.

 

Richard Glover

Richard Glover – Flesh Wounds – Podcast

Richard Glover discusses his most recent book, Flesh Wounds is a comic romp for anyone whose family was not what they ordered.

It’s been described by the British writer Jeanette Winterson as “Sad, funny, revealing, optimistic and hopeful” and by the Sun-Herald as “heartbreaking and hilarious”. Richard’s weekly humour column has been published in the Sydney Morning Herald for over twenty years. He also presents the top-rating Drive show on ABC radio in Sydney.

http://www.coop.com.au/books/flesh-wounds/glover-richard/9780733334320


Rob:
You’re listening to the Co-op Book Podcast. We welcome Richard Glover to the Co-op chat, hello Richard.

 

Richard:
Hi Rob, how are you?

 

Rob:
I’m very well. Now Richard is a well known broadcaster, author, humorist,
[inaudible 00:00:33] tragic, and presenter of the ABC Sydney Drive show. We’re talking about Richard’s autobiography, Flesh Wounds. Richard, first what’s it like to be the interviewee as opposed to the interviewer?

 

Richard:
A little bit weird, yeah, I have three hours everyday where I talk to people so it’s strange having the tables turned.

 

Rob:
Okay, this isn’t 60 Minutes, so there’s nothing … Now Flesh Wounds is very different to your other books, it’s a lot more personal. What was it like writing an autobiography?

 

Richard:
I don’t know if it’s any autobiography, I think of it at a very particular part of life, which is it’s really a book not about the whole of my life, but about ones relationship with one’s parents. The question the book asks, really, is are neglectful parents slightly … The sort of parents you might not order, are they survivable? The really strong conclusion of the book is that they are. It’s a book about the eccentricities of my particular family, but I think it’s also … I hope it’s a book for anybody who had parents, the sort of parents you wouldn’t necessarily order. It’s partly about this amazing resilience of human beings, that quite a lot of us survive these sort of upbringings, and we survive them well, and we do so by creating this quilt of love that we find the love elsewhere, and with different people, you find the love in different places. I think for me it was my New Guinea nanny, I think it was Steve Stevens, the man who came into my life when both of my parents had left. I think it’s probably my partner who I got together with very early, and this will be different for different people. I think it’s important to say, I suppose, that of how common it is to have non-ideal parents. We have a whole language of parenting, of how a mother’s love for a child is automatic, and inexorable, and built into our DNA, and we talk about cats and their kittens, and cows and their calves, and dogs and their puppies, and all this other stuff, as if it’s incredibly rare not to have that. If you didn’t have it, well not only is that almost freakish, but you have the right to especially aggrieved, you probably can’t live a successful life yourself, you certainly can’t be a successful parent yourself. Yet, and yet, even though it is kind of built into our DNA for mothers to love their children, and fathers to love, even though that’s true, there are so many barriers to the effective delivery of that love. There are fathers who lost their job and became depressed, there’s mothers who went on the pills, there’s alcoholism, there’s heroin addiction, and in my case, if it doesn’t sound too weird, there’s the British class system, and my mother’s self lacerating attempts to escape it. The truth is that even though all those things are so common, that we need to understand they’re common, and we need to understand that most of us survive it. Most of us aren’t drug addicted, and suicidal, and depressed, most of us actually get over these childhoods, we live successful lives, and we are, and this is a very defiant part of the book, we are good parents ourselves.

 

Rob:
By calling Flesh Wounds though, you’re implying that we still carry some of those burdens from the past.

 

Richard:
They’re only flesh wounds. Obviously it’s a pun in a way, because they’re wounds that are born of your flesh, of your flesh and blood, of your parents. Yeah, the other point about that pun is… All my works have got puns in them. The point about that pun is that it’s a flesh wound, it’s not a deep wound. It’s a wound from which you can recover. That’s the point of the title.

 

Rob:
Sort of referring to that Monty Python gag, where there’s an arm getting chopped off, “It’s just a flesh wound.”

 

Richard:
Yeah, yeah, yeah.

 

Rob:
What about the process of writing this book, was it different to your other books, or is it a lot more personal?

 

Richard:
Yeah look, I’ve written a lot of humour books in the past, and yes this has been different, this has been kind of ripped from my heart, and thrown bleeding on the desk, I suppose. Although it’s got a lot of humour in it, and I think part of the book is how you can use humour and perspective as a stick, particularly jokes, as a stick to hold at bay reality, and to get a perspective on reality. The book, I think, in the end maybe shows the limits of that too, that you can do that to a certain extent you can’t do it completely. The book tussles, and I don’t know if it ever really answers this, but it tussles with the idea of whether you can hold inadequate parents that are removed, and not, in the end, deal with them. There’s a view among psychiatrists that you have to deal with your parents, and you have to have the deathbed discussion, and you have to somehow resolve the issues. The book questions that and asks whether … That’s all very well, but some parents aren’t particularly well suited to that process. What do you do then? Can you hold a reserve? Or do you have to, in the end, engage with them somehow? There’s a … I don’t know if that’s answered clearly in the book, but we go somewhere to answering that.

 

Rob:
I think one of the things that does come through, to me anyway, is you really portray eras and generations, and how they’ve changed.

 

Richard:
Parenting styles, yeah.

 

Rob:
Parenting styles and I imagine at some stage in the future, you’ll become a grandparent yourself, maybe. How do you think you reacted to the way you’re parented in your parenting.

 

Richard:

In terms of my parenting I think I’m a very good parent, and I think a lot of people who have had bad parents are quite good parents. I’ve already said that in a way, but that’s a very strong message in the book. As far as different parenting styles go, one of the other things that I say in the book, which I think is really true, is that a lot of the neglect and un-interest I … I’m not going to say suffered, I experienced, was really common. Some of the things in this book are really about my very eccentric family, I don’t think everybody reading it will have been artificial insemination baby, and I don’t think everyone will have had a mother who ran off to a Tolkien nudest colony. I don’t think everybody will have a father who ended up having five wives. I think some of these things I can claim as eccentricities, colorful eccentricities of my own story. I think a lot of the other things in the book are really shared. The idea of bad parenting in various forms, the idea of surviving it in various forms, the idea find love elsewhere in various forms. The idea that parents in the 60s and 70s really weren’t that interested. I mean some of them were, obviously, but there’s a whole language now of criticism for today’s young parents as being helicopter parents, and not affording their children any risk, and it’s the subject of a million talk back radio discussions, and Facebook posts, “We use to ramble the fields. We could stay out til dark and my mom would … ” All of that goes on, and by contrast by today’s parents are criticized as being… As crushing their children’s spirit. The time it is … Maybe it’s true that we’ve over … Gone too far in the opposite direction, and we do need to change the risk profile a bit for our children. The tone of those discussions is as if the parents of the 50s and 60s and 70s were making some sort of very intelligent assessment of risk about their children, and allowing their children this level of play because of it, and that wasn’t what was going on. What was going on was they were interested in other things, and they didn’t see parenting as particularly central to their life. They were a helicopter themselves, flying off, flying away. The definition of a good father in those days, really, was the good father was the father when he put the three kids in the Valiant outside the pub, would remember halfway through the drinking session to go and take them a lemonade. That was the good father.

Rob:
You’re very, for all the foibles of both your parents, you’re very accepting of them. Was there ever a stage that you were resentful, judgmental?

 

Richard:
Well I think I held them at a distance, really. It’s important to say they weren’t cruel parents, or that they were uninterested, rather than actively terrible, and so yes, I think I disconnected with them from very early, and always attempted to be dutiful towards them, without necessarily engaging with them emotionally to the extent that I was angry, or not angry. Again, I think the book plays with that idea of whether that’s entirely possible. I say in the book that I thought of myself as self raising like flower, is that just a glib way of pretending that the hurt, the existential hurt, I suppose, of having an uninterested mother and doesn’t matter? Is it glib way of pushing it aside? Or is it something real? Again, you have to read the book, really, because I don’t have a simple answer to any of these things. I certainly think that was what I attempted to do. I attempted to focus on what was successful in my life, rather than focus on what was unsuccessful. I think that’s a technique that a lot of people use, and I think it can be a successful technique, for whatever the criticism of that, that your psychologist will make.

 

Rob:
Now a lot of our listeners are university age, and I would say a lot of the tumultuous period that you refer to in the book happened when you were in that kind of age. Firstly, what was uni like for you?

 

Richard:
It was something that I tended really, and there’s quite a lot in the book about sort of aiming low in life, and then missing. I had a real dream of being, basically a assistant floor manager in television, which, in the early stages of which means dreaming of being a coffee boy, dreaming of being sufficiently successful to be allowed coffee to actors. I really gave it a red hot go for a long period of time, and kept on failing at getting a job. I finally went to ANU in Canberra, but partly, I think, just because I was still trying to do this dream, and I really wanted somewhere to park my name, park my … So I had something I had, at least, supposedly doing, while I kept on applying for these jobs, and kept on getting rejected from them. I think all that happened was that half way through first year in university, I just started slowly getting interested. I started doing [inaudible 00:12:05] at Canberra, and then I moved to Sydney and started doing [inaudible 00:12:08]. I started Community Radio 2XX in Canberra. I started getting interested in the academic studies. By the time I was in year two, second year in Sydney, I really actually became quite academic, and hardworking, and became really quite dutiful. I ended up do ing history honors, and doing quite well, and writing a lot for the student newspaper, and doing [inaudible 00:12:33] in Sydney, and all of that, and ended up loving university. I really
fell into by accident.

 

Rob:
Okay, Richard I really appreciate your time, because it’s … I highly recommend anyone to have a look at, have a read, purchase it from the [inaudible 00:12:49] bookstore for gods sake. It’s a great read, and it really does have that message of resilience, and getting through things. Just a final message, if you were to sort of travel back in time and say something to a young Richard Glover, what would you say?

 

Richard:
Stop dreaming of serving coffee to actors and get on with it.

 

Rob:
Richard thanks for your [inaudible 00:13:13]

 

Richard:
Go to uni, work hard.

 

Di Morrissey

Di Morrissey – Rain Music – Podcast

Di Morrissey speaks to the Co-op in a compelling interview about Rain Music.

Di Morrissey writes about the Australia she knows, she loves, she’s explored. Rain Music is inspired by her adventures in far north Queensland – its characters, its forgotten history, its modern dilemmas. A brother and sister, Ned and Bella Chisholm, are struggling with a family tragedy that has set them on opposite paths. After Ned takes off to pursue his musical dreams in far north Queensland, he disappears. When Bella goes in search of her brother, she ends up in remote Cooktown and both their lives are dramatically changed in the isolated, little-known far north of Australia.One story through two sets of eyes. http://www.coop.com.au/rain-music/9781743533307


Speaker 1:
You’re listening to the [Co-op 00:00:02] Book Podcast.

 

Rob:
We’d like to welcome Diane Morrissey to the [Co-op 00:00:15] chat. Hello Di.

 

Diane Morrissey:
Hi.

 

Rob:
Now, if there’s anyone who hasn’t heard of Diane Morrissey, you’re going to have to do a bit of your refresher course, because Di is a best-selling author, and this is book 23 we’re talking about, is that right?

 

Diane Morrissey:
That’s right.

 

Rob:
23 books, Di!

 

Diane Morrissey:
23 novels. I’ve also done 3 children’s books.

 

Rob:
Look, that concept [along 00:00:39] those numbers freak me out. We’re here to talk about your latest book Rain Music. Rain Music is set in Cooktown in far north Queensland. What prompted you or motivated you to write in that environment?

 

Diane Morrissey:
You’ve never been there, I can tell.

 

Rob:
I’ve been … I haven’t been to Cooktown, but I’ve been to far north Queensland.

 

Diane Morrissey:
Yes, well Cooktown makes a big impression, there’s not much there, but I went there years ago and always wanted to go back and set a novel there because it’s really the cradle of so much Australian history. You know, the Cook [cast ashore 00:01:17] and Cooktown when he founded on the reef, then there was Palmer River gold rush and the Kanakas that came to you know, really out of Australian slave trade that was shanghaied out of places like now called [inaudible 00:01:30] to work in the sugar cane fields. It was a very sort of rich tapestry that doesn’t often get explored, and what I do in popular fiction is to take a contemporary story and then it’s a place that always is, you know, the catalyst for where the story is going to be set, and then I tell it through the eyes of protagonists who were there in the place, I. E. me. You know, I go and live in the place that I write about. I contrast the contemporary story often, most times, not always but I then weave in the essence of the place which includes its history of course, the people, and the colors and you can’t describe a place, or I can’t if I haven’t been there. Cooktown is rich pickings for a novelist. I’m here to tell you.

 

Rob:
It’s not Cairns, it’s not Port Douglas, it’s not Townsville, so it’s a bit more rural in it’s [center 00:02:28]?

 

Diane Morrissey:
It’s just that it’s so remote. It’s the last town before you drop off the tip of Australia other than [Bamako 00:02:34], but [Bamako 00:02:35] is pretty small, and it was, you know, it was the setting of such a … I mean, they really believed that it was going to be the metropolis of Australia, and you know, they built this extraordinary convent for the Irish nuns that came out in 1888, which is now the wonderful James Cook museum. There’s really only two main buildings there, but it’s surrounded by extraordinary setting and all of this history. The book does also look at the Daintree and Cairns and some of the … Cairns in the 70s was an extraordinary wild place with the fishing and the music, the Barbary Coast, extraordinary music. There’s a theme, I’m writing about a brother and a sister and I’ve never written or explained a siblings relationship before in the relationships I look at. There’s the practical sister, and then there’s the dreamer older brother who wants to be a musician. The catalyst is that the brother has kind of disappeared and dropped off the family radar. There’s an event for their late father and of course the mother and the sister want him there and when they can’t find him, the sister sets off from rural Victoria to find her brother and she travels all up through Queensland and again, changes her as a landscape can, and then when she finds her brother in Cooktown, wow. All hell breaks loose, so that’s the story.

 

Rob:
The theme of, I suppose, of getting out of your comfort zone, the way that you explained it reminds me of a road movie.

 

Diane Morrissey:
Yeah!

 

Rob:
What is it about, you know, changing circumstances that affect people, you think?

 

Diane Morrissey:
I think it’s the environment, it’s the landscape because here is a very busy, practical, efficient, you know professional woman in her 30s, and we see how her personality changes, how her attitude changes, and her pace slows the further north she goes, then she meets those eccentric people with no last names that drift up to the far north. Some people, like Bella embrace this new scenery and landscape and philosophy, but some people can also be quite intimidated or quite confronted by this extraordinary, when you’re very much out of your comfort zone in an extraordinary landscape. I think it does have quite an effect, whether you recognize it or not, on the psyche so I kind of like to explore that in this book. The story is told through 2 sets of eyes, one through Bella and one through Ned, her brother, so you get both perspectives which was quite a balancing act to do.

 

Rob:
How was that? How did you get into different head spaces?

 

Diane Morrissey:
Just by sort of saying, okay what is Ned doing? Speak to me Ned, and I heard Ned’s voice in my head. You know, I’m a very visual writer, but I see what I’m writing about, maybe because I’ve been there, like scrolling through my head like a movie, and I hear them. They talk to me and I just write it down.

 

Rob:
Tell me a bit about your writing process. Are you an organized writer? Do you plan things out?

Diane Morrissey:
Not really. I choose the … or the place choose me, the place. The relationship, I’m meant to be doing these characters, and then I go to the place and I get all of that kind of color and characters and stuff from being there. I come back and I’m very disciplined and I work every single day, from you know, 7 to 6 o’clock, 7 days a week for 6 months. I mean, I take places family things, okay. Essentially, I have a deadline, I’ve never missed a deadline and I’m very disciplined, but equally, I can be 2 chapters off the end and have no idea how it’s going to end. I’ve learned to trust.

 

Rob:
You trust the story and you’re along for the ride as well?

 

Diane Morrissey:
Yeah. Yeah, yeah. That’s why I could never … I’m asked all the time to teach, like, you know, classes in creative writing courses which I have never done, but I can’t possibly explain how I do what I do. I seriously really do believe that you can either tell a story, write a story, or you can’t. I can’t paint and I can’t sing, but I can tell a story, I mean we are given different gifts.

 

Rob:
One of the things that I got out of the book is the nature of seasons and how that affects people, especially obviously the title of Rain Music. How does that relate to the book?

 

Diane Morrissey:
The impending wet season up north, the beginning of the wet season which they call the Mango Season, which was what another possible title, sends people crazy. They really, really… their behavior change, the humidity, they go nuts, there’s all these false storms. Also, your lifestyle has to completely change. You have to hunker down for 6 months, not being able to go anywhere, when you’re … so many people are cut-off. There’s … you have to juggle your life and often you get caught during the wet season, and then there’s this sense of, I found, music that really kind of influenced … influenced me when I, you know, plotting the book as much as I ever do, that it’s very strong this Cairns is rich in music and musical history and there’s some amazing characters that are out there who were musicians. I just had Ned being this kind of dreamer and his father wanted him to be a doctor, go into, you know, the law and he wanted to write songs and he’s had one sort of successful album, but he wants to write the great Australian musical, or the great Australian rock opera, and he’s a drifter and a dreamer, and he’s now approaching 40 and everyone’s telling him to get a proper job. I wanted that kind of sense of impending doom like when the wet season is coming because now suddenly he’s been confronted with having to make a decision about, you know, get a real job and go back home, you have to front up to the family, or are you just going to drift and be a loser.

 

Rob:
That’s interesting. I really like the time stamp that the seasons give you. Actually reminds me of Summer of the Seventeenth Doll.

 

Diane Morrissey:

Yes.

Rob:
Where it all ends, you know, it ends with each summer and each winter and there was travel involved.

 

Diane Morrissey:
Yes. You had to get the cane in, and it had to be cut again before the seasons change. Well, it used to be how life was dictated by the seasons but frankly now, with climate change, the seasons are extending people quite [inaudible 00:09:37] because you can’t plan anymore, nothing is as assured. People on the land really struggling in many ways.

 

Rob:
You know, many of your books have been set in rural settings, and you live in a rural setting.

 

Diane Morrissey:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).


Rob:
What’s the appeal verse, you know, living in the country verses city for you?

 

Diane Morrissey:
The tranquility, the peace, the productivity. I’m not so distracted. I like the environment, and so it’s, you know, to come down to Sydney, or you know, go to a big city is kind of fun for a = couple of days, and I’m at a stage in my life now where I’ve kind of been there, done that. Your life gets dictated by job, family, school, all of that stuff and I’m in the lovely position now of having a career that can go anywhere and so I like to sit in that peaceful sort of environment. I travel to exotic places a lot, so it’s the best of both worlds.

 

Rob:
Sounds like it. Now as you know many of our listeners are either at University or leaving University, you didn’t get to go to University, did you?

 

Diane Morrissey:
No, I didn’t. It was considered quite the shame because I was fairly bright at school but in those days you know, you had to, it was before Whitlam, you had to pay to go to University. My mother was widowed and she simply couldn’t afford it, but I knew what I wanted to do from age 7, and that was to write books. It was that simple, I was going to write books, tell stories, but then I discovered you actually don’t leave school and become a novelist.

 

Rob:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

 

Diane Morrissey:
Nothing … that hasn’t changed. The smartest thing I did through my uncle who was a foreign correspondent, said you go and get a job at a newspaper or a magazine, and I did. I went in and got a cadetship on The Australian Woman’s Weekly after 6 weeks of running around as a copy girl making cups of tea and stuff. I got 4 years training as a journalist, taught me how to research, taught my how to interview. There is nothing better than on-the-job training. Those wonderful old hands and these extraordinary women who ran The Woman’s Weekly in those days taught me stuff you can never learn in school. You can have the most wonderful lecturer that can tell you things but until you are thrown into the deep-end and you have to go and interview someone who maybe doesn’t want to be interviewed, or you know, you have to learn tactics. I still believe in softly, softly catchy monkey. I don’t believe in foot-in-the-door journalism. I do think that you you can’t feel that, yes you put in the hard-yard so you deserve now to, like be recognized for what you do. You do have to be somewhat humble and consider that there are still things that you can learn. Now, it’s hard there’s so many, you know, kids going to University. Everyone goes to University now. But there out the jobs. It is really … I mean a lot of graduates properly have to suffer a couple of years before they really get their foot-in-the-door of the job that, you know, is meaningful. It’s tough, I wouldn’t want to be, you know, in that position myself … I wouldn’t want to be starting out now, I tell you th at.

 

Rob:
Who has been your influences as a writer?

 

Diane Morrissey:
Well, I’ve been very fortunate in that I just happen to live in an area, again, a very tranquil, beautiful, peaceful area on Sydney’s northern beaches. Morris West and Tom Keneally, were, you know, neighbors and very good friends, and they were very generous with their time and advice and stuff to a new, you know, struggling writer.

 

Rob:
If you were all on the same street, that was quite a …

 

Diane Morrissey:
Quite a neighbourhood.

 

Rob:
Very different writers, too.

 

Diane Morrissey:
Jon Cleary, they’re quite a few, yeah. When I grew up I was influenced by, well Dorothea Mackellar, the old poetess who told me when I was 7, put your stories that you make up in your head down in a book one day, and I go oh, right-o, that’s what I’ll do.

 

Rob:
Everyone that hasn’t had a chance to grab a copy of Rain Music, it is available at the Co-op Bookstore and various other places. What’s next, Di? What’s next on the horizon?

 

Diane Morrissey:
Well, I have decided I know where I’m going, so this … occasionally I go off-shore for part of the book, so I’ll be going off-shore again, I’ve set a book in Burma, I’ve set a book in Malaysia, and Hawaii, books that have a connection with Australia, I mean stories that have a connection with Australia, but I’m not going to tell you. That’s going to be a big secret.

 

Rob:
Okay.

 

Diane Morrissey:
I’m keeping myself busy. I’ve started a newspaper as well. I have a daily, I mean a monthly newspaper that I put out. I got a bit fed-up with the local press so I started my own.

 

Rob:

Wow. Just a small sidelight. Getting back into the media business.

Diane Morrissey:
See, once a journo, always a journo.

 

Rob:
Diane Morrissey, thank you for speaking us speaking to us at the Co-op Chat.

 

Diane Morrissey:
Thank you Rob, it’s been fun.

 

Rob:
Thanks.
Jane Caro

Jane Caro – Just a Queen – Podcast

Author, lecturer, mentor, social commentator, columnist, speaker and broadcaster, Jano Caro talks to the Co-op about her latest book about Queen Elizabeth I “Just a Queen”.

The common thread running through her career is a delight in words and a talent for using them to connect with other people. This is her second book on QE1 and is a gripping and page-turning young adult book about one of history’s greatest women. Just a girl to those around her, Elizabeth is now the Queen of England. She has outsmarted her enemies and risen above a lifetime of hurt and betrayal – a mother executed by her father, a beloved brother who died too young and an enemy sister whose death made her queen.

http://www.coop.com.au/books/just-a-queen/caro-jane/9780702253621


Rob:
You’re listening to the Co-op Book Podcast. I’d like to welcome Jane Caro to the co-op chat live here in the ambiance of the [Corkscrew 00:00:21] River at the St. Albans Writers’ Festival. Hello Jane.


Jane:
Hello!


Rob:
Now, we know Jane as a media commentator, a lecturer in her past lives, social commentator, and most recently and at the moment most importantly, author of two books on Queen Elizabeth the first. Jane, what’s the fascination with QE 1?


Jane:
QE 1, well I think the fascination with her is she’s one of the few women in history who wielded power, is universally seen as having wielded it well. Wielded it on her own. And lived a long life and died in her own bed. She didn’t come to a sticky end, she wasn’t a martyr, and she was a remarkable human being and probably a genius. What’s not to be fascinated by?


Rob:
Absolutely. Now, us me mortals are fascinated by paper, we do a bit of research. You took it to the next level. You wrote a book in the first person as QE [crosstalk 00:01:25].


Jane:
I know! I know, how could I be so arrogant?


Rob:
Well, what was it like to get into her skin every day writing those books?


Jane:
Oh, I loved it. I loved every minute of it because I mean, it couldn’t be in a way more removed from what I do every day which is deal with the current political situation or the current social situation and get on my high horse about various things that I feel strongly about. I was able to escape into the world of the 1550’s and completely immerse myself in a life that couldn’t be more removed from mine if you tried. That was just wonderful. It was exciting from an imagination in time travel point of view, but also it was such a change, such a difference. Also, I didn’t have to plot anything. I didn’t have to wonder how it was going to turn out. The history’s all there and really accessible so all I needed to do was [nut 00:02:15] out why she did was she did, what sort of a person she was, and what it must have felt to be her. Because she was a real human being with all the strengths and weaknesses that real human beings have. It was so much fun doing that.


Rob:
It sounds like a hoot. Her life, though, it didn’t start out as a hoot did it?


Jane:
No, no, no. She had a tough life. Women in that period, though, very rarely had a lovely life. Child birth was unbelievable dangerous. They died like flies and in the most agonizing way. They had no right to their own income earnings, didn’t work, they were completely at the mercy of their husbands. Then if their husbands died, of their sons. It wasn’t fun being female. I think of the women of her period, she probably had one of the better lives because she was in control of her life. She could make decisions for herself. That was rare and [gee 00:03:07], she made some good ones.


Rob:
This spirit of hers that made her, in a way, take on what was commonly expected, this independence, where did that come from do you think?

Jane:
I think it came out of her childhood which was really uniquely awful. She was rejected by her father before she was three, after he executed her mother. She was really totally neglected and not expected to amount to anything. I mean, I think the most that was expected for was that she be married off to some bloke and be, if she was lucky, the mother of princes and kings. But she was of no importance. Yet, she got so me opportunity. She was very, very well educated. Her tutors thought she was remarkable. They recognized her ability. I think her sister loved her even though they had a terrible and [bivalent 00:03:59] relationship. I think her father sort of loved her. She was a reminder to him of her mother all the time and his awful crime in killing that women, but nevertheless I think she have something. And her ladies loved her. In fact, that’s one of the things about her life. She was an incredibly loyal person and people were incredibly loyal to her. No one left her, she never fired anybody.


Rob:
Now, you’ve written currently two books. One focused on her childhood, and then I don’t want to give away the ending, but-


Jane:
Well, most people know.


Rob:
Yes. Oh, true true. The demise of Mary Queen of Scots and the second books are the takes on her adult life. Where do we go from here?


Jane:
Well, we go to Elizabeth’s death cushion because at 69, she sat on a cushion and sucked her finger for about quite a few days and they kept trying to get her to go to bed. They realized that she was on the way out. She refused to go to bed. She just sat on that cushion silently sucking her finger. Eventually at the very, very end she went to bed and she died. So my concede for the third book will be that she’s thinking back over her whole life and trying to make sense of it. Trying to decide whether she did what she set out to do and like most of us, I think, not being sure and having many regrets.


Rob:
Now, if I think of people that would’ve potentially written books on Elizabeth, I wouldn’t have picked you as a Republican.


Jane:
Well, I am a Republican, but I’m a Republican for Australian. I think now it would be absolute desecration to get rid of the monarchy in England. I mean, they have these extraordinary line to their ancient past. Through one, okay it has many permutations in it, but basically one family. Well, I’m interested in families and relationships and all that kind of thing and there they all are. They’re past is documented right, right back because they were royal. Well, we don’t have access to that kind of knowledge about anybody else. I think it’s an extraordinary asset to have this royal family. I don’t think they should have anything to do with Australia, that’s just silly.


Rob:
I won’t give away my [lennings 00:06:18], but I agree.

Jane:
[crosstalk 00:06:20]


Rob:
It’s interesting that in the monarchy you think of sort of the iconic monarchs. The most powerful and successful seem to be three women; two Elizabeth’s and a Vic.


Jane:
That’s exactly right and they’re all along this reigning. Queen Elizabeth the first is the third longest reigning monarch. Victoria is the second longest reigning monarch. And about two weeks ago, Elizabeth the second surpassed Victoria and became the longest reigning monarch ever in England. It’s quite interesting, George the third actually lived, was on the throne longer than Elizabeth the first. But because he went crazy at various intervals, and there was a regency in between, it’s not considered one unbroken rule.


Rob:
Now, as you know many of our listeners are university students or recently graduated students, what was life for you like a university.


Jane:
From what I can see, it was much more fun than it is at university now. I did a straight English Literature degree and I didn’t work very hard and I had a lot of fun in extra curricular activities. I was in the ancient history reviews and thoroughly enjoyed doing all of that. My great friends … The things I remember about university had nothing to do with what went on in lectures and tutorials. It’s everything else. Al l the friends I made and the fun I had.


Rob:
Think it’s tougher now for students now with expectations?


Jane:
I think it’s much tougher. I think we’re a much nastier community. We sort of feel that there’s something illegitimate about anybody having any fun, but my view is, you only learn when you’re having fun.


Rob:
Do you think there’s anything we can learn or our leaders, more importantly, can learn from QE 1?


Jane:
Oh yeah, absolutely. I think she was very, very reluctant to go to war. She often used to delay making decisions and I found, this as I get older. When there’s a difficult decision to make, sometimes it’s worthwhile just doing nothing and waiting to see what happens. Because sometimes events move in a certain way and you think, well, I’m glad I didn’t jump in there because I would have made the wrong decision. Or I didn’t have to make that decision, get the blame for it because it happened anyway or someone else did it. She was cautious. She took her time. Infuriated the men around her. They wanted her to make a decision! She would go, “Mm, not making that decision yet. I’m waiting to see.” I think there’s something to be said for that. We expect instantaneous decisions now and I don’t think that’s helpful. She wanted to be kind and merciful whenever she could and she didn’t want to make windows into men’s souls. In other words, she didn’t care what you did privately, as long as you obeyed the law outwardly. Well, I think that some of our more religious politicians could learn a very, very useful lesson from that. Same sex marriage for starters, reproductive rights is another one. Get your nose out. Nothing to do with you.


Rob:
Absolutely. Absolutely.


Jane:
Absolutely, yes.


Rob:
Jane, who do you read? Who are you reading at the moment? Who do you like to read?


Jane:
At the moment, I’m just about to start reading a [Michael Robotham 00:09:36] because I bought it at a … I heard him at the Brisbane Writers’ Festival, loved it. So I thought, okay, I’ll read one of his books. I haven’t read any of Michael’s before which is very slack of me. I’ve also thoroughly enjoy reading historical novels. CJ Sampson is one of my favorites. I loved Elizabeth Gilbert’s, The Signature of All Things. I’m a big of a cherry picker. I go around and pick all sorts of things. I read a fascinating book I picked up in a news agent somewhere which is called Why They Did It. It’s two psychologists analyzing Australia’s strangest killers and trying to work out why they did what they did. I love that stuff. I love that stuff! I love the why. That’s part of the thing with the Elizabeth. Why was she the way she was? Why did she do what she did? What made her tick? That’s what I’m really interested in.


Rob:
Well, I’m sure we’re all awaiting the final part of the trilogy.


Jane:
Just Flesh and Blood, it’ll be called.


Rob:
Thank you for your time today.


Jane:
Thank you.
Stephanie Bishop

Stephanie Bishop – The Other Side of the World – Podcast

A stunning emerging Australian writer, Stephanie Bishop’s speaks to the Co-op about her first novel THE SINGING, for which she was named one of the SYDNEY MORNING HERALD’s Best Young Australian Novelists.

A story of melancholy beauty that proves the only thing harder than losing home is trying to find it again. ‘A striking new voice, calm and fresh’ – Helen Garner on Stephanie Bishop’s debut novel, THE SINGING. THE SINGING was also highly commended for the Kathleen Mitchell Award. This, her second novel, was recently shortlisted for the 2014 Australian/Vogel’s Literary Award under the title DREAM ENGLAND. http://www.coop.com.au/the-other-side-of-the-world/bishop-stephanie/9780733633782


Rob:
You’re listening to The Co-op Book Podcast. I’d like to welcome Stephanie Bishop to the Co-op Chat. Hello, Stephanie.

 

Stephanie:
Hello. Thank you for having me.

 

Rob:
We’re speaking at the St. Albans Writers’ Festival on the Hawkesbury River. We’re very blessed to be here today. Stephanie, you’ve just spoken. How did your talk go?

 

Stephanie:
Yeah. It went really, really, well. It was a lovely conversation, roamed far and wide from academia to issues of motherhood, landscape. Yeah, it was a fun talk.

 

Rob:
What’s it like meeting your readers in person?

 

Stephanie:
It’s lovely. It’s one of the most pleasurable sides of publishing a book I think. I didn’t anticipate the satisfaction of that, of making really genuine connections with readers and hearing their stories. I think that’s what is so fascinating is that people come up and tell you their story in terms of trying to explain why this novel made a connection back to them in relation to their own lives. It’s been really enormously satisfying, very moving, to hear their stories.

 

Rob:
Specifically your second novel, The Other Side of the World, why do you think that resonates with people? What are some of the themes?

 

Stephanie:
There are two very significant themes that dominate the book. One is migration and homesickness and displacement that are connected to the experience of migration. The second is motherhood and, in particular, the experience of maternal ambivalence. I think, as a country of migrants, that theme of dislocation and hopelessness speaks to many people for many different reasons. Motherhood is an interesting theme. The book explores, I suppose, the darker aspects of motherhood and the more challenging sides of maternal experience. I that’s something that, as a culture, we tend to shy away from. We don’t talk about it in any great detail. There is a sense when I have conversations with readers that the book is opening up a conversation, or opening up a realm of emotional experience that they felt they haven’t had the opportunity to engage with deeply.

 

Rob:
Do you think that’s just something that as a society we don’t want to deal with things that aren’t always rosy?

 

Stephanie:
I think that’s part of it. I think we do romanticize motherhood. We romanticize the maternal role. In some ways that’s for good reason. You want the maternal experience to be that beautiful rosy idealized thing. Mothers themselves want that. It’s not always the case. I think we don’t talk about it because it’s a difficult thing to acknowledge in yourself that there is this ambivalence streak of feeling that runs through an experience of parenthood and motherhood. Yeah, so I think it presses open conversations that haven’t been aired in a while, I think, for many people.

 

Rob:
In the media, especially of late, there’s been a lot of focus on immigration of all sorts.
Stephanie:
Yeah.

 

Rob:
I think one of the interesting things about this book is the subtle difficulties of immigration. One of the things is how creativity can change when you move countries. Can you tell me a little bit more about that?

 

Stephanie:
Yeah. Yeah, sure. The two main characters of this book are Henry and Charlotte. They’re married. The book is set in the early ’60s. It opens in England in Cambridge. Charlotte has a new baby and is struggling with motherhood. She finds out she’s pregnant for a second time. She’s very attached to England and feels very strongly that it is her home. Her husband, Henry, is Anglo-Indian. He was born in India during the time of under British rule before partition and independence. He doesn’t like England and wants to move very much to a warmer climate. They do. They migrate at his insistence. It’s not what Charlotte wants and she’s not particularly happy here. I think migration and creativity come together in the sense that she’s an artist, trained as an artist, and finds in some ways that that experience of being geographically isolated and dislocated provokes her to act and to make decisions about her creative life that she wouldn’t have possibly had to have made had she not been forced into a situation of extreme dislocation. That sense of being pulled away from home and suffering the consequences of migration forced her to make creative decisions about her art and about her life.

 

Rob:
What prompted you to write this story?

 

Stephanie:
A number of things. Three different things really that came together at a certain point. One was my migration to England in around 2005 to do a PhD at Cambridge. When I got there I expected England to feel like home because my family was from England. It didn’t. I didn’t mind the sense that it wasn’t what I was expecting, but I was interested in that. It set me back to thinking about my grandfather’s experience when he moved as a boy from India to England. He would have been led to believe that England was his home and would feel like his home. It couldn’t possibly have felt like that coming from India at that point. I set to thinking about his history and wondering about that. The longer I was in England the more attached I became to that place. That made me cast my mind back, I suppose, to my grandmother’s experience. She migrated here with my grandfather in the ’60s at my grandfather’s insistence. That’s very much the framework of the novel. All our lives we had this idea that she was somehow something of a [inaudible 00:06:06] because she didn’t like being in Australia and didn’t feel attached to the place and missed England as her home. The longer I was in England, the more I started to realize that she was genuinely grieving a sense of a lost homeland. I ceased to think of her complaints as sort of trivial. Those two things really came together to sort of trigger the book in many ways.

 

Rob:
Okay. Your first book, The Singing, was very well received and you were acclaimed as one of Australia’s best young novelists. Did you feel pressure to write your second book?

 

Stephanie:
No. I didn’t. I think I felt a certain internal pressure. I wanted to do that. I actually had a terrible case of writer’s block after that book was published that went on for a very long time for a number of reasons. My father died shortly before that book was published. I really just couldn’t conceive of writing anything after that for many years. I went and did a PhD partly in response to the feeling that I didn’t know if I would ever write another novel and thought I would go into conventional academia, which I didn’t in the end. I wanted to write another novel fairly swiftly. There was just no way that was going to happen for many reasons. Then this book, The Other Side of the World, started to evolve once I moved away and stopped thinking about trying to write another novel. It kind of presented itself.

 

Rob:
It’s interesting you talk about you can’t force the timing of things.

 

Stephanie:
No. No.

 

Rob:
When you are writing, what’s your method, or what’s your system?

 

Stephanie:
I tend not to have too much of a system. I supposed I have a bit of a method in that I try to have some idea of what I want to write when I sit down. When I say what I want to write, it’s not particularly clear most of the time. What I mean is that I have an image in mind that I’m going to begin transcribing. Then I wait for another image to present itself and I transcribe that in a sense, or translate that. I suppose narrative for me occurs as a chain of connected images. Often, I know very little about the story or where the story is going to go. It’s a matter of acting on those images when they present themselves and making use of them and following them where they lead. They tend to connect up with one another or associate with other images. That’s how the narrative grows. That’s probably about the sum of my method.

 

Rob:
Who do you read? Who are your-

 

Stephanie:
Who do I read? Various things. It depends on what I’m teaching in any given semester. A lot of my reading is circumscribed by courses that I’m running at the university. There are a few favourites that I tend to go back to. That would be Virginia Wolfe and Marguerite Duras in particular in terms of modernist authors. Then, in a contemporary sense, I really admire Deborah Leavy’s fiction and her short stories. Rachel Cusk. I’m completely in love with Elena Ferrante’s series at the moment. That’s something that I’m really enjoying. I tend to sort of shift between modernist novels and contemporary literary fiction in some form.

 

Rob:
Okay. As you know, the Co-op book store is on every campus in the country. A lot of our listeners are university students. You’re in the envious position of both working on university and being a student. What was it like for you as a student?

 

Stephanie:

Yeah. I was terribly diligent to the point of being very dull. I did a BA at UCS and had the great fortune of studying with Martin Harrison who is a brilliant, brilliant, teacher. I wrote my first book when I was doing my Bachelor of Arts. I really just wrote a great deal. I didn’t have an exciting time. I was very diligent and wrote a book really. It was lovely. I would go back there in a flash to have that kind of solitude and peace and quiet and follow that path.

Rob:
You’re teaching creative writing at the moment. Is it something that can be taught?

 

Stephanie:
Yeah. I think you can teach about … Let me rephrase that. It’s not that you teach people how to write, but that you educate them in terms of form and experiment and the history of literature. What they’re learning, I suppose, is how to be excellent readers. In order to finish a book, you have to be able to critique that book and be your own best critic. You can’t be your own best critic if you don’t know how to read. In some ways I’m teaching them the discipline of writing but, more than anything, to be able to understand where their work might fit within the tradition of literature and within traditions of experiment. Then to be able to reflect on their practice. In some ways what they have to do is what any English literature student would do plus more, which is to be able to understand those forms and that history. Then to be able to put that into practice in their own terms, and to take that further. That’s, I suppose, where my teaching practice comes into things, my practice as a novelist com es into things.

 

Rob:
Are you writing now?

 

Stephanie:
I am. I’m working on another novel, a little too slowly for my own liking, but I am working on another novel. Yeah. I’m supposed to technically have that finished the beginning of 2017, so we’ll see how it goes. It’s loosely based on my father’s death. I’m only just realizing that I have to actually part ways with that history at some point and begin to reinvent that story in some ways. I began with the idea that it would be a novel based on a series of events, only to realize that it has to be something more than that. We’ll see how it goes.

 

Rob:
How does it feel to be putting essence of yourself into books and having people read it? Is it a difficult process?

 

Stephanie:
It is a difficult process. I suppose really what happens is that everyday when I sit down to write, I have to remind myself that I have to forget that. If I th ink too much about that then it’s slightly paralyzing. By the time a book comes to exist in the world, anything that is sort of secretive or deeply personal has become so mixed up in a fictional version of itself that it’s not really mine or my story anymore. In most early stages of a draft, yes, the material can feel quite revealing and quite raw. I think while it feels like that then you know the work isn’t ready. It’s not finished. By the time it’s finished, it doesn’t feel like your story. It’s a new story. In this case it’s the story of Henry and Charlotte. They’re not me. They feel like old friends really that I haven’t seen in a long time, even though much of my own life has gone into that in some way.

 

Rob:
I think it’s interesting how you said earlier that readers then take that on as their own.

 

Stephanie:

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. When you reflect on your own reading process and the books that have moved you, they move you because they touch upon a story that is relevant to your own life in some ways and trigger experiences in your own life that you haven’t thought about or that seem to be re-articulated or validated by that book in some sense. I do that myself as a reader with my favorite novels. It shouldn’t surprise me, but it does that that happens in the reverse scenario of people reading this book and thinking about their own lives.

Rob:
Thank you, Stephanie.

 

Stephanie:
Thank you so much.
Shirley Barrett

Shirley Barrett – Rush Oh! – Podcast

Shirley Barrett is best known for her work as a screenwriter and director. She speaks with the Co-op about her novel Rush Oh!

Rush Oh! is a celebration of an extraordinary episode in Australian history, when a family of whalers formed a fond, unique allegiance with a pod of frisky Killer whales – and in particular, a Killer whale named Tom. ‘Hugely funny and peopled with a cast of characters I came to treasure like my own friends, Rush Oh! reminded me why I love reading.’ – Hannah Kent Shirley Barrett is best known for her work as a screenwriter and director. Shirley’s first film, Love Serenade won the Camera D’Or (Best First Feature) at Cannes Film Festival in 1996. The script for her film South Solitary won the Queensland Premier’s Prize (script) 2010, the West Australian Premier’s Literary Prize (script) 2010, and the West Australian Premier’s Prize 2010. Rush Oh! is Shirley’s first novel. She lives in Sydney, Australia. http://www.coop.com.au/rush-oh/barrett-shirley/9781743535943


Rob:
You’re listening to The Co-op Book Podcast. … Glad to welcome Shirley Barrett to the co-op chat. Hello, Shirley.

 

Shirley:
Hi, Rob.

 

Rob:
Now, Shirley is a renowned film maker in cinema and TV, most notably winning the Camera d’Or for her movie Love Serenade. We’re not here to talk about that though, Shirley. We’re talking about …

 

Shirley:
No. It was a long time ago anyway.

 

Rob:
We’re talking about your first novel, Rush Oh!

 

Shirley:
That’s right. I like your exclamation mark.

 

Rob:
Well, it jumps out of you. Congratulations on that.

 

Shirley:
Thank you.

 

Rob:
What’s it about?

 

Shirley:
Well, Rush Oh! is a historical novel. It’s set in 1908, and it’s about whaling, but specifically it’s about the killer whales of Eden. If your listeners aren’t aware of who the killer whales of Eden are, it was a pod of regularly returning killer whales that used to come to Twofold Bay, which is in Eden, just the south coast of New South Wales, and cooperate with the whalers in the hunting of whales.

 

Rob:
This is the thing that amazed me when I was reading the book, so you got these killer whales helping out the whalers. What an amazing sort of …?

 

Shirley:
Symbiosis or something?

 

Rob:
I mean, we’re comfortable with dogs and helping us out. Cats don’t seem to really want to help, but … What was in it for the whales?

 

Shirley:
Killer whales, [inaudible 00:01:45].

 

Rob:
Killer whales. Sorry.

 

Shirley:
Well, because the whales of course were the spoils. The killer whales would take the tongue and lips of the whale, and the rest of the carcass they’d just leave, they weren’t interested in. The whalers would then tow the carcass home or back to their tryworks and render the blubber into whale oil, which was a valuable commodity at the time. My novel’s set in 1908, so a hundred odd years ago.

 

Rob:
The tongue and the lips, that’s very … Do you know why, do you think?

 

Shirley:
I imagine they’re a bit of a delicacy. That I don’t know.

 

Rob:
Now, set in Eden. Now, Eden’s a beautiful spot there. It most have been very different though in 1908, a bit more remote.

 

Shirley:
Yeah, a lot more remote. It also seems to have been … because I did a lot of research with the newspapers of the time in the archives at the state library here in Sydney, The Eden Observer and The South Coast Advocate. They tell a story of a very different Eden than the Eden you might know today. Eden’s still very beautiful, but it’s a slightly depressed, I would say, town. A lot of its livelihoods have been taken away from it, and there’s a fair bit of unemployment, where as at the time it seems to have been a really thriving, bustling town with a strong kind of culture sense. There were a lot of visiting theater groups, and there were regular balls, and it was quite fun to read about all of that.

 

Rob:
It’s very interesting. What sort of made you write this book? What compelled you to write this book?

 

Shirley:
I really loved the story of the killer whales. I just love that. I’m a softy for animals, and I love the idea of this relationship that grew between the whalers and the killer whales. The killer whales were known to the whalers by the distinguishing features of their dorsal fins, and they named them. There was Tom, who was the most famous killer whale of them all. His skeleton is preserved and stands in the Eden Killer Whale Museum to this very day. There was a whole bunch of other killer whales, Hooky, and Humpy, and Charlie, and Typee, and Kinscher. They really were to, and they said so at the time … They were to the whalers like the cattle dogs were to the drover. They were their companions and their assistants in their work, and it meant an awful lot to the whales. That’s what pulled me into the story. Then when I started the research, and I started reading up about what Eden was like at the time, it just seemed such a rich other world. It’s kind of fun from a writing point of view to immerse yourself in another world all together. It’s a lot of fun wasting your own time researching it all. It was just a sort of lively other world that I could dip into.

 

Rob:
The human element of the book comes from Mary. Is that right?

 

Shirley:
That’s right. Mary is my narrator. She’s my fictionalized eldest daughter of George Davidson. George Davidson was the master whaler of Eden, and he really existed and was tremendously brave, so brave that he was known as Fearless Davidson. I’ve created for George, this is a bit of creative license here, a whole new set of fictional offspring. Mary is the eldest daughter. She’s 19. She is charged with the tax of cooking for a bunch of ungrateful whale men. She falls in love, or certainly becomes infatuated, with one of itinerant whale men who’s [inaudible 00:05:30], but who’s got a kind of murky past.

 

Rob:
Look, I think it’s a very compelling read. I think our readers would be very interested in going back to 1908.

 

Shirley:
Yeah

 

Rob:
What was it like for you? How did you go back to 1908 to write?

 

Shirley:
Well, really largely from just the research. Then you have to take a bit of creative leap and hope for the best really. You try not to use words that weren’t in the common palates at the time. Sometimes you have to guess. You just try to not make too many mistakes in terms of the research, not that I’ve been pulled up on any yet, but you know I may well have done. It’s a funny book, because it’s about whaling, which is a fairly grisly topic, but it’s actually quite light in its tone. It’s quite comic a lot of the time, the book, and it’s also a bit of a romance and a family saga. I hasten to say it’s got something for everyone.

 

Rob:
Do you think the topic is …? I mean, it’s quite controversial and anti-PC I suppose at this time, of whaling. How is it sort of dealing with that?

 

Shirley:
That’s a tricky, tricky thing. It certainly was interesting to me how the sensibilities towards whales have shifted in the intervening hundred years. Back then, you know, the local townsfolk would stand on the cliff tops and cheer on the whalers. They routinely referred to the whales as monsters and leviathans. They didn’t seem to show a lot of sympathy for the whale. I also have to say that they didn’t catch that many whales. It was really subsistence whaling. A good season would have been like five to ten whales seemingly. Some seasons went by when there were no whales caught, even with the assistance of the killer whales.

 

Rob:
Now, your background’s in cinema and TV. What was it like writing a book, traditional narrative?

 

Rob:
What was it like for you? How did you go back to 1908 to write?

 

Shirley:
Well, really largely from just the research. Then you have to take a bit of creative leap and hope for the best really. You try not to use words that weren’t in the common palates at the time. Sometimes you have to guess. You just try to not make too many mistakes in terms of the research, not that I’ve been pulled up on any yet, but you know I may well have done. It’s a funny book, because it’s about whaling, which is a fairly grisly topic, but it’s actually quite light in its tone. It’s quite comic a lot of the time, the book, and it’s also a bit of a romance and a family saga. I hasten to say it’s got something for everyone.

 

Rob:
Do you think the topic is …? I mean, it’s quite controversial and anti-PC I suppose at this time, of whaling. How is it sort of dealing with that?

 

Shirley:
That’s a tricky, tricky thing. It certainly was interesting to me how the sensibilities towards whales have shifted in the intervening hundred years. Back then, you know, the local townsfolk would stand on the cliff tops and cheer on the whalers. They routinely referred to the whales as monsters and leviathans. They didn’t seem to show a lot of sympathy for the whale. I also have to say that they didn’t catch that many whales. It was really subsistence whaling. A good season would have been like five to ten whales seemingly. Some seasons went by when there were no whales caught, even with the assistance of the killer whales.

 

Rob:
Now, your background’s in cinema and TV. What was it like writing a book, traditional
narrative?

 

Shirley:
Well, I have to say I really enjoyed it once I got the hang of it. It took me awhile to get the hang of it, because I write feature scripts as well. It’s just a completely different approach. Script writing is quite sort of structured. There’s a lot of rules to it seemingly, quite boring rules, and because it’s such an expensive enterprise, film making, the scripter has to be obviously in solid shape. There’s less opportunity for play, I think, where as when I was writing my novel, I suppose because I had no real expectation of it ever being published, it was quite fun. I mean, I really just wrote it for myself. It’s the ability, I think, to jump, to get into your character’s mind that’s fantastic. There’s no real substitute for that in film. The way you can kind of deviate and go explore other things, which you can’t in the rigorously structured scripts.

 

Rob:
Yeah. You’ve got a hundred and twenty pages. You’ve got your two Brads going through the script.

 

Shirley:
That’s right, and your first plot point has to happen within the first ten pages. It’s really boring.

 

Rob:
That said, in my rating of it it’s very visually exciting and screams out to be filmed at some stage. Is that a dream?

 

Shirley:
Oh, it’d be great if it went full circle, because it was originally a feature film script, which I couldn’t get made. It would be lovely, it would be beyond my wildest dreams if someone was to know on my door and say, “Here’s the money to make it into a feature length script.” I don’t out a huge amount of hope for that, because it is a very expensive thing to do.

 

Rob:
Naturally, as you know, this is going to many university or post-university students. Have you got any advice for potential writers?

 

Shirley:
Yeah. Well, I just think you should just write to please yourself. That’s what I do. If you read a fair bit, you become reasonably discerning, I think, over the years, and you just write the book that you’d like to read, and have fun with it, I think. Work is play. It shouldn’t be boring and dreary. You should have some fun with it.

 

Rob:
Who do you read now?

 

Shirley:
Well, I read … At the moment I’m reading Kazuo Ishiguro, I don’t know if I’ve pronounced his name correctly, who I’m a big fan of. I’m actually just rereading The Unconsoled, which is one of my favorite of his novels. Who else do I read? I read a lot of the British novelists. I read Franzen, obviously. He’s got a new one out. I like Richard Ford. I have a real taste for the slightly domestic fiction of the British early thirties and forties. In particular I love Barbara Penn and the classics of course. Whenever I’m asked this question I completely blank.

 

Rob:
That’s all right.

 

Shirley:
That’s as good as it gets.

 

Rob:
What’s next, Shirley, like a novel, TV? What’s the next step?

 

Shirley:
Well, yeah, so I’ve got a fair bit of TV lined up, because that’s my day job really. I’m a TV director. I’m also actually writing a script of Offspring. Offspring’s coming again. It’s just been announced, and I’m going to do a script for that, which is fun. I’ve never written from Offspring before. I’ve directed for it. I’m writing another novel. I’m about twenty-five thousand words into it, and it’s a horror story. I’m going to try and emulate Stephen King.

 

Rob:
Well, if you get half way there, you’ll get a lot of ratings, I tell you. Shirley, thank you for your time.

 

Shirley:
Oh, it’s a pleasure. Thank you.

 

Rob:
Good luck with Rush Oh! Anyone that gets a chance, grab a copy from the Co-op.

 

Shirley:
Thank you very much.

 

Rob:
See you later.
annie-seaton

Annie Seaton – Kakadu Sunset – Podcast

Annie Seaton, and internationally bestselling author, talks about her latest novel Kakadu Sunset with the Co-op.

In the ancient lands of Kakadu, it’s not just the crocodiles you should be afraid of…Helicopter pilot Ellie Porter loves her job. Soaring above the glorious Kakadu National Park, she feels freed from the heavy losses of her beloved family farm and the questions around her father’s suicide. But when a search-and-rescue mission on the boundary of the older property reveals unusual excavation works, Ellie vows to investigate. Annie Seaton is published internationally in e-books across the romance genre and she has sold over 100 000 e-books. In 2014 she was voted Australian Author of the Year in the AusRomToday.com Readers’ Choice Awards and in 2015 she was voted Best Established Author in the AusRomToday.com Readers’


Rob:
You are listening to the co op book podcast. I’d like to welcome Annie Seaton to the Co-op chat. Hello Annie.

 

Annie:
Hello Rob. Thanks for having me.

 

Rob:
We are using the Wiz bank nature of technology to speak to you. You are in Baccaheads. Is that right?

 

Annie:
That’s correct. Sitting out, looking out the window at the beautiful Pacific ocean.

 

Rob:
Annie, you are one of the authors, the awe inspiring authors, desperate to find out about their back story. Because you’ve had many lives before you were an author. Is that right?

 

Annie:
I certainly have. Mostly in the academic and teaching field. I’ve got an arts degree in British constitutional history and English literature. I’ve got a post grad diploma in education. Post grad diploma in library information science and a masters degree in education, and my last actual going to work job was as a tutor at Southern Cross university, after I retired as a high school principal. Now just my dream job, that I dreamed about it my entire life. I am a full time author.

 

Rob:
Do you think you needed all this life experience to become an author first?

 

Annie:
Absolutely. Saying that, there are many young writers in their 20’s and 30’s who produce wonderful work. I don’t know that I could have given the depths to my novels that I do now without that life experience of work and family, career and just life experiences really help you delve deeper into your characters.

 

Rob:
Absolutely. I’m holding your … is it your first physical book. Kakadu sunset.

 

Annie:
It was my first pre book with one of the traditional publishers. About 10 or 12 of my ebooks are available on Amazon, as read on demand. Of course I have copies of those, but they are not available in malls and bookstores. Whereas Kakadu sunset is my first book that will be out there where I can go into a bookshop and say; “See that book, I wrote it.”

 

Rob:
Very exciting. Not to underplay the fact that you’ve sold over 100 000 e books. Is that right?

 

Annie:
That’s right. I only started writing … I wrote my first book when I was 11 years old. Which was a few years back. I joined a local writers club here when we moved to the North Coast about 28 years ago. But then I started to study again and started to work and writing was probably 10th on the priority list. When I retired, and I retired young, five years ago. I thought; “Okay, now is the time to give it a shot.” I wrote my first little book with about 35 000 words. A little steamed up novel for a competition. Didn’t place in the competition, but I subbed it to some US digital publishers and I got offered four contracts within the first week. Which was amazing. Since then I’ve e published with a few publishers in the States. I’ve self published a few books on Amazon and now I have the contract with a traditional publisher. I dipped my toe in a few different types of water and it’s been a wonderful experience. As you’ve said, aspiring writers have to endure and I enjoy spending time with aspiring writers and telling them how I did it. I’m happy to talk to people. I’m actually presenting a workshop next year to aspiring authors and I do a lot of talking to them individually as well.

 

Rob:
I think it is a great message, because I think we often get asked; “How do I get my book published. Do you know any publishers.” Things like that. It just seems like the growth of e books is sometimes a gateway into traditional publishing.

 

Annie:
Yes, it is. I tend to have an OCD and ADHD personality, so whatever I do gets 100% of my attention. I research it. I want to know the best way to do things and I have spent the last 4 1/2 years building up a presence on social media, in the reader world and I hope of course my book is very good to read, but I also think having such a wide social media presence also makes you more attractive to a publisher.

 

Rob:
Absolutely. Let’s talk about Kakadu sunset. My understanding, this is the first of a trilogy?

 

Annie:
Yes. It is the first of a series about the three Porter sisters. Ellie Porter in Kakadu sunset is a helicopter pilot. Emma Porter in book two, which is currently with my editor at PAN is a … She’s a doctor and she is up in the Daintry rain forest. I listen to [inaudible 00:05:24] interview with interest the other week. Because my book is also set, not up on Cook town, but it is set in a town based on the real town of Mostman. The third book is called Kimberley moonlight and it is set up in the east Kimberleys in a diamond mine. We’ve just been up there for … We had a six week trip to western Australia in our trusted canvas camper trailer. Researching the setting and finding out how the mine works and looking at the security and it was a very interesting trip. I’m writing that book at the moment and loving every minute of it.

 

Rob:
Excellent. There is a lot to be looked forward to. Readers of Kakadu sunset. Give me a head space … what is the elevated picture of Kakadu sunset for people that haven’t read your stuff.

 

Annie:
It has been tagged by a bookseller an Eco adventure romance. In it I explore the environmental issue of calcium gas mining. International park, Kakadu international park. I look at political corruption. I was very interested in following the ICAC investigation into Eddie Obeid and what happened there in the hunter valley, because that’s another area of the state that I have some ties with and I really love the Barlong valley. When I did Kakadu I got to thinking; “What would happen in a beautiful environment like this if there was a bit of political corruption.” We’ve got some corruption. We’ve got some environmental stuff. We’ve got a helicopter pilot. We’ve got some suspense and intrigue. A lot of my underlying message, I know in the world these days there is a lot of horrible things happening. There is a lot of sadness. There is a lot of grief in families. I like to talk about the enduring power of love. Whether it be romantic love between a man and a woman or a partnership or whatever or the love of family. The love of a parent for a child. The love of friends for each other. There is a lot of different aspects of love throughout the book and I suppose the over arching thing is; I’m comparing the purity of love, of a one particular instance. The chief minister of the northern territory for his wife and family, against the political corruption and the blackmail that he comes across in the Calcium gas exploration in Kakadu. It’s more than a straight romance, which is what I’ve written for the last four years. I’ve honed my craft in category romance with a big historical steaming hunk. But this is a much broader book that will appeal a broader area of the population, I hope.

 

Rob:
Maybe you haven’t been to the new category which is activism romance.

 

Annie:
Yes, well that’s true too. A new genre.

 

Rob:
Tell me about your writing method. How do write? How do you write? How do you get books out there?

 

Annie:
Diane Marcy talks about just being a pants as she called it. I went to a conference a couple of years ago and I love the term Organic Writer. I’m an organic writer. I don’t plot. I have no idea what’s going to happen to my characters. I’ve got no idea how it’s going to all pan out. They take me to places that are totally unexpected and it’s … For a reader hearing that, you think that surely the the author knows what they are going to write. I really don’t, and I find that my characters develop and turn into real people for me and they have the appropriate emotional or action response to a situation appropriate to their character. Which of course is very different to what my character or my reaction or response might be. It’s a lovely, intriguing part of writing a book and saying; “Oh, I like how that happens.”

 

Rob:
You obviously, you know your characters deeply.

 

Annie:
Sorry? Do I know my characters deeply. Yes. I was talking to another interviewer earlier in the day and I said if got a secondary character in Kakadu sunset, who is an Indigenous representative on the Aboriginal council for the protection of the environment of Grand Kakadu. I did all of my research and one thing being a past librarian, my research is meticulous. But this particular character, I really felt as if I got to know him and I really loved the character he turned into. He plays a big role in the investigation and the Black mile as well. Yes, I get to know my characters very deeply and they live in my head and I live in their lives. It’s a funny way to live your own life.

 

Rob:
Absolutely. Your influences. Who do you follow as a author?

 

Annie:
I have got the widest reading range at the moment. I read a lot of Australian authors because my goal for my writing career is to be an Australian writer, set in Australian locations for an Australian readership. I have written for the US market and you’ve got to change the spelling. You can’t call a caravan a caravan, it has to be called a trailer park and things like that. I’ve been there done that. I’m ready to write for an Australian audience. A lot of Australian authors. I read a lot of UK authors. I love Emily Robinson, Peter Robinson, Ewan Rankin, Elizabeth George, Rachel Abbot. Lots of British crime writers. Kate Fernival, again a British author, and of course Sharon Morrisey. I’ve read every one of her books that she’s written over the last 20 years. Then I also love reading the classics, because my degree is in English literature. I do regularly visit the Jane Austins and George Elliots and still have ties with my classical literature career.

 

Rob:
For anyone not sure what book to read over these summer holidays. I can highly recommend the Kakadu sunset book. It is a great holiday read and it’s got more depth than your average romance book. There is a lot to it and Annie, well done and congrats and good luck.

 

Annie:
Thank you very much. One thing I must say too, is that I am just so grateful to Pam McMillan for the absolutely magnificent cover that they’d produced for Kakadu sunset. For me it’s the book cover of the year. It’s a glorious cover, that I just hope will jump into readers hands and they can delve into the pages.

 

Rob:
It will be available online at the co op and of course in store on all the campus stores. Thanks for your time Annie.

 

Annie:
Thank you so much for having me Rob. A pleasure to talk.