Carmel’s top tip for aspiring authors: Take the whole thing very seriously – it’s a vocation or a job – it isn’t a hobby. It’s also a gift and a privilege.
Winner of the Patrick White Literary Award, and three times
short-listed for the Miles Franklin Award, Carmel Bird is the
author of eleven novels and eight collections of short fiction.
Carmel grew up in Tasmania, and she has an international
reputation as a storyteller, essayist, editor and teacher.
Why do you write? Having the freedom to write is a great gift. (This next bit will sound pretentious). I feel it is a vocation, something I do that enables me to explore the meaning of life on earth through the medium of words. I always rejoice that I live in a country and at a time when it is possible to pursue a life as a writer.
What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I suppose I’d have to be dead.
What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? I had to develop confidence and self-belief. Once you have those, you are on your way.
How involved have you been in the development of your book? Did you have input into the cover? I selected the designer, the wonderful Sandy Cull, and she and Transit Lounge were with me all the way in the design of the text and the cover and the whole package. The result is a sheer delight to me.
What’s the best aspect of your writing life? The pleasure I derive from shaping words, images, ideas into narrative.
—the worst? Never having enough time to do all the research I want to do, and never having enough time to write all the things I want to write.
What’s the best advice you were ever given? My editor Meredith Rose told me I needed another story to complete one of my collections. I said I didn’t have one. She said: ‘You’re a writer. Write one.’
How important is social media to you as an author? I am not sure how effective it is in promoting fiction, but I enjoy using it (mainly Facebook) and not to use it is possibly risking some form of obscurity.
Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? I have never experienced writer’s block, but I have had it reported to me by students of writing. There is a simple exercise I have given them – and I must say it never fails – they dedicate fifteen minutes to this exercise: ‘Write down the word ‘fear’ and just keep writing freely. Write or type as quickly as you can without thinking.’ What happens is that at the end of the fifteen minutes they seem to have found their way. I know it sounds too easy.
How do you deal with rejection? In all areas of life rejection is a challenge that has to be dealt with. Writing is no different. When a story of mine is rejected I send it somewhere else. I won’t give up.
In three words, how would you describe your writing? Sharp, serious, and a bit amusing.
If you had the chance to spend an hour with any writer of your choice, living or dead, who would it be and what would you most like them to tell you about living a writing life? Well, today it would be Julian Barnes because I have just read his latest book ‘The Man in the Red Coat’. And I always love his writing. He could tell me anything about anything and I would love to hear it.
Field of Poppies
Keen to escape the pressures of city life, Marsali Swift and
her husband William are drawn to Listowel, a glorious historic
mansion in the seemingly tranquil small town of Muckleton.
There is time to read, garden, decorate, play chess and
befriend the locals.
Yet one night Listowel is robbed, and soon after a neighbour is
murdered. The violent history of the couple’s adopted Goldfields
town is revealed, and plans for a new goldmine emerge.
Subtle and sinister details unnerve: the novels that are studied
at book club echo disappearances and colonial transgressions,
a treasured copy of Monet ‘s Field of Poppies recalls loves and
dreams but also times of war.
Atmospheric and beguiling, this is a novel that seduces
the reader with mysteries and beauties but also speaks of
something much larger. The planet is in trouble, but is the
human race up to the challenge? Are Marsali and William
walking blindfold into a hostile world?
The book is available here and from leading booksellers.