Meet the Author: Amanda Curtin

AMANDA’S TOP WRITING TIP: Be a reader as well as a writer, and read widely. Much of what we know about storytelling—structure, pace, characterisation—and about the way words are used and sentences are put together is absorbed almost unconsciously through reading. I think that’s why often when I used to read books about writing, books that break down and analyse the elements of prose, I would have aha! moments, where I’d realise that someone had just articulated something I instinctively knew. Reading also keeps you learning as a writer, keeps you humble, keeps you striving.

ElAmanda Curtin is the author of two novels, Elemental (2013) and The Sinkings (2008), and a short story collection, Inherited (2011), all published by UWA Publishing. She has also worked as a freelance book editor for most of her adult life, and occasionally lectures and presents master classes and workshops for writers. She has a PhD in Writing, is an Accredited Editor (AE) with the Institute of Professional Editors, and is an Adjunct Lecturer at Edith Cowan University.

She has been awarded writing residencies at OMI International Arts Center’s Ledig House in New York State; the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, Ireland; Hawthornden International Retreat for Writers at Lasswade, Scotland; and the Tasmanian Writers Centre, Hobart. She has won the University of Canberra National Short Story Award, the Patricia Hackett Prize for best contribution to Westerly, the Katharine Susannah Prichard Short Fiction Award, and the Golden Key Honour Society Award for Excellence in Fiction (Asia-Pacific).

Amanda lives in an old house in an old suburb of Perth, Western Australia, and is currently working on a novella project. Visit her website at http://www.amandacurtin.com

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? It’s a great question, an intriguing one for any writer to ask themselves. I feel it’s what I’m meant to be doing, who I am at this point in my life. I don’t write because there are things I want to say but because there are things I want to explore, try to understand. It’s the grey areas I am interested in. That’s the short version! I wrote a longish post on this last year: http://amandacurtin.com/2013/09/25/writers-ask-writers-why-i-write/

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I’ve been a freelance book editor for close to 30 years, and still work as an editor, though far less frequently. But if writing (and editing, and occasional teaching) didn’t occupy most of my time, I think I would study photography.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Lack of confidence. Three things helped me there. First, the encouragement of writers in my writing groups (initially, Annabel Smith, Donna Mazza, Danielle Wood, Carmel Macdonald Grahame; later, Robyn Mundy and Annabel Smith) and my academic supervisor, Richard Rossiter. Second, being fortunate enough to win a couple of awards. Third, being accepted into a PhD writing program.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? I feel privileged, and lucky, to be able to do what I’m doing generally. And even more so when my work takes me to other worlds—either literally, through travel, or virtually, through desktop research. Beyond that, it’s immensely rewarding when readers go out of their way to make contact to tell me what they loved and why, or that they were immersed in the world I created, or that it connected with something in their own lives.

—the worst? Self-doubt is always the dark to the light, and I suspect it’s the same in any area of the arts.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I don’t have an agent. Having now observed what a good agent can do—working with a publisher, helping with marketing and promotion, etc.—I might have persisted in searching for one willing to take me on. However, it has to be acknowledged that it can be as hard, if not harder, to find an agent than it is to find a publisher. And I’ve also observed that there seems little benefit in having an agent who is not wholly enthusiastic and active on your behalf.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? I didn’t realise how necessary, and how time-consuming, the marketing side would be. I’m not complaining, just acknowledging that I wasn’t prepared for it!

What’s the best advice you were ever given? A wonderful piece of advice that I try to put into practice is this: leave something unfinished at the end of a writing day, so that when you return to it you’re plunged immediately into the writing itself, rather than the thinking process that precedes it.

BOOK BYTE

Elemental by Amanda Curtin

elemental_COVER v low resIt has taken a lifetime for me to see that the more afraid people are of the darkness, the further into it they will flee.

Nearing the end of her life, Meggie Tulloch takes up her pen to write a story for her granddaughter. It begins in the first years of the twentieth century, in a place where howling winds spin salt and sleet sucked up from icefloes. A place where lives are ruled by men, and men by the witchy sea. A place where the only thing lower than a girl in the order of things is a clever girl with accursed red hair. A place schooled in keeping secrets.

Moving from the north-east of Scotland to the Shetland Isles to Fremantle, Australia, Elemental is a novel about the life you make from the life you are given.

Available from: http://uwap.uwa.edu.au/books-and-authors/book/elemental/

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10 thoughts on “Meet the Author: Amanda Curtin

  1. Hi Amanda! I really enjoyed reading your interview. You have a wonderful way of putting things. Your residencies in New York, Ireland, Scotland and Tasmania must have been fabulous experiences. I’d love to hear a little bit about them. Is there somewhere I can read about them? Thanks again to you and Teena.

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  2. I think there are two kinds of writing. Entertainment and genre fiction requires skill in storytelling above all alse, and I don’t think it engages the author in personal issues or grey areas of her psyche. The other kind of writing seems to emerge from unanswered questions, personal puzzles, memories that need clarifying in words. Those books and stories get written in their own time, when they are ready, and may cause the author painful delay as she waits to wrap up her work with the insight needed. Most writers have probably experienced both approaches. Genre leaves an exciting feeling that a story has been captured; personal fiction satisfies by answering an elusive idea.

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  3. Hi Margaret. Thanks for reading 🙂 I think there are many kinds of writing—two seems a bit reductive!—and storytelling is at the heart of them all. But that doesn’t preclude us from exploring questions, the spaces between black and white, what it is to be human. That’s pretty exciting too 🙂

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  4. Teena, thanks for inviting me to contribute to your series. It’s a great idea to gather advice and tips from different writers, and it’s been a pleasure to share some of my experiences.

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    1. You’re welcome, Amanda. I so enjoy hearing other authors’ stories and feel privileged to have this opportunity to share them. We are all writers and while some of our experiences will be similar, other aspects of our creative journey are bound to be quite different. That’s what makes this so interesting for me and I hope for visitors to the site.

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