Meet the Author: Dan Kaufman

Dan’s top tip for aspiring authors: Develop a tough skin and don’t take the rejections personally.

Dan Kaufman spent most of his career at The Sydney Morning Herald, where he edited almost every section at one time or another, from Travel to MyCareer. He also wrote for almost every section, including essays and literary articles for Spectrum, and had the unofficial title of being the humiliation correspondent by writing about such topics as spending 24 hours in Star City and going to a bondage club. Since leaving the SMH he has continued to write the occasional opinion column for it. He also teaches writing workshops through his business Media Survival.

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? It’s a compulsion. Once a story or an idea comes to mind and takes over, I become obsessed with it until I’ve finished.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I have no idea. I spent most of my adult life as a journalist – and I now teach writing workshops – so it’s hard to imagine life without writing. I often think writing saved me.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Stamina and finding the right person to believe in the book. It’s not enough to get an agent – or even an editor who likes it. Often, you then need to get other people in the publishing company to get on board. However, if – like me – you write novels that don’t fit neatly into a specific genre, or that take risks (or both) then getting a publisher is almost as hard as winning the lottery. I wrote a previous book that I spent over 10 years writing and was obsessed with it. I still am, actually. I got an agent, I had interest from several publishers, I even had a judge from a literary competition email me and say that the novel deserved to get published and that he loved it – but no publisher could get the group approval amongst their editors to go ahead with it.

So with my new novel I took a different approach and sent it to a small publisher who didn’t need to get the approval of other editors – and it worked. However, it took thousands upon thousands of rejections over many, many, many years before I got a book deal.

How involved have you been in the development of your book? Did you have input into the cover? Because I spent so long working as a magazine and newspaper sections editor – and I have worked on the production of countless covers in the past – I was hands on with my book. Luckily, my publisher (the fantastic David Tenenbaum from Melbourne Books) was great about this.

The cover idea was mine, and I suggested a great illustrator I know (Michael McGurk, who I have worked with in the past on magazines and at The Sydney Morning Herald) – and Michael absolutely knocked it out of the park.  I couldn’t be happier with the cover design.

 What’s the best aspect of your writing life? Simple: it allows me to disappear into an imaginary world and make things happen – all while playing with words, which I love doing more than anything else.

—the worst? It’s unlikely that I’ll become a millionaire from it. Or even afford toilet paper on the black market.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I would spend a lot more time working on plots before just diving in. I’ve written countless unpublished books, and in retrospect they all had a common flaw: the plots were too thin. It took me a LONG time to learn how to put a plot together.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? To create better plots!

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Show, don’t tell. Rather than saying that something is happening, show it. Paint a picture in the reader’s mind with details. For example, don’t just say that John was happy. Show him thumping his steering wheel with joy while screaming out a victorious “yes!”

However, it’s a fine line – too many details can detract from the story.

How important is social media to you as an author? Social media is important – maybe even crucial now in the age of the corona virus. Having said that, I’m still working on improving my own social media presence in an authentic way. I want to make sure that whatever I do online remains true to who I am as a person.

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? No – but that doesn’t mean the ideas are always flowing. I think of writers block as when someone sits in front of a keyboard and doesn’t know what to write and gets frustrated.

That’s never happened to me, because my approach is not to force things. When the ideas come, get them out of you. When they don’t, then let it go. After a while, they’ll come back.

Thinking that you have to write is, in my mind, a bad attitude. The writing should come out of you because you have something to say. You shouldn’t even have a choice: you have to write. When you don’t have anything to say, that’s a sign you shouldn’t be writing at all. Only bad writing can come when people think they have to write and so they just force it.

How do you deal with rejection? Sometimes, quite frankly, it can be soul crushing. Having said that, I try to find any constructive criticism and make the most of it – and if it’s just a blanket rejection, then I try to use it as an excuse to think about how I can make my writing even better.

Rejection is an integral part of writing. Criticism is the best thing that can happen to us, and being forced to improve our novels and not become complacent can be a positive, not a negative, force.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? Comic, bittersweet, satirical.

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? There are many writers who I absolutely idolise – but I have learnt from my journalism days that it’s never good to meet your idols. However, if I had to pick one then I’d go with DBC Pierre (the author of Vernon God Little) – I’m sure he could give me some great tips on both writing and being a writer. Vernon was such a brilliant novel that it would be great just to talk to DBC about how he developed it.

BOOK BYTE

Drowning in the Shadows

by Dan Kaufman

 

 

David’s journalism students petrify him. Then again, so does his cat.

His girlfriend broke up with him, he writes about bars for a shrinking newspaper that’s abandoned news reporting for lifestyle articles, and he’s desperately searching for meaning amongst the backdrop of Sydney’s shallow social scene.

Then he meets a young woman who just might be the answer. The only problem is, she’s a friend of one of his students.

Drowning in the Shallows is a comedy about heartache, a satire of Sydney society, a coming-of-age tale about a man in his 30s who is only now growing up, and a love story about a man and his beloved evil cat.

Buy the book here.

Meet the Author: Kirsten Krauth

Kirsten’s top tip for aspiring authors: Find your unique style and don’t be afraid to stick with it.

Kirsten Krauth is an author and arts journalist who lives in Castlemaine, Australia. Her writing has been published in the Guardian, Saturday Paper, Monthly, Age/SMH and Overland. She’s inspired by photography, pop and punk, film, other writers and growing up in the ’80s. Almost a Mirror was shortlisted for the Penguin Literary Prize and her first novel is just_a_girl. For more on the book visit @almost.a.mirror on Instagram or search out Almost a Mirror on YouTube, Spotify and Apple Music to hear the playlist.

Find out more about Kirsten here.

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? I don’t feel like I have a choice! I have written creatively since I was four years old. When I’m working on a writing project, I feel challenged, content, curious. When researching, I learn a lot about new topics and I like to attempt to work out why people do the things they do. It also helps me deal with experiences that have lodged inside that I need to bring out to the open to contemplate.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I’ve always dreamt of being a musician which is probably why I write about music so much. A dancer. An actor. Something expressive.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? I found it hard to get an agent at first until I met the wonderful Jo Butler. Some of the agent comments along the way were pretty tough. But as this was my second novel, I knew what feedback to take on and what to discard. I was lucky this time in that it was a dream run in terms of getting a publisher. Transit Lounge sought the book out and being shortlisted for the Penguin Literary Prize gave it a boost.

How involved have you been in the development of your book? Did you have input into the cover? Yes, I felt completely involved. The designer chosen for the cover was the person I would have picked. Josh Durham. He’s also a friend in Castlemaine so that was a nice coincidence. I’m a very visual person and as the book is partly about photography I was keen to have a say. Josh and I and Transit share the same aesthetic so it worked out beautifully.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? The freedom to work from home, the collaboration, the immersion in ideas, the chance to meet other writers and artists.

—the worst? At the moment, the uncertainty of publishing a book on 1 April in this climate and the cancellation of all my launches and festival gigs.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? It took me a long time to start writing fiction as I began as an editor and arts journalist. I wish I’d started writing novels when I was in my teens – I dreamed about it for a few decades before I did it.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? To choose a handful of people more experienced than you, who you admire as writers, and take their feedback seriously (rather than a broad spectrum of opinion that can be confusing when you’re starting out).

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Richard Flanagan said not to consciously write the deep and meaningful in, the erotic, the humour, the sadness – to just observe and let the reader do this themselves. This informs every aspect of my writing now.

How important is social media to you as an author? At the moment it is a lifeline in these current strange times. I’ve set up a FB group called Writers Go Forth to help authors whose books were due to be launched in 2020. It’s got 1400 members in a week! Building that kind of community is important to me.

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? No, I don’t. My creative writing time is so precious I get on with it. I always write a first draft in fragments. I got a great tip for starting off if you’re stuck. Think of: 1. A location 2. A character 3. An emotion. Eg A concert, Nick Cave, Rage – this is in my book Almost a Mirror. I find I can start writing from that place immediately.

How do you deal with rejection? It gets easier as you go along. But then again as you keep writing novels more seems to ride on them! I tend to receive the rejection, feel upset on the day, put it aside, wake up the next day with a new idea and return to the rejection a fair way down the track. I don’t dwell on it.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? Punchy. Stylistic. Empathetic.

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? Oh wow! It would be Patti Smith. I admire her strength and resilience and the power she creates with images and words – and music. I’d like to know how she had the courage to always be herself and how she manages to have such an emotional impact on the reader and audience at gigs.

BOOK BYTE

Almost a Mirror

Kirsten Krauth

 

 

Like fireflies to the light, Mona, Benny and Jimmy are drawn
into the elegantly wasted orbit of the Crystal Ballroom
and the post-punk scene of 80s Melbourne, a world that
includes Nick Cave and Dodge, a photographer pushing
his art to the edge.
With precision and richness Kirsten Krauth hauntingly
evokes the power of music to infuse our lives, while diving
deep into loss, beauty, innocence and agency. Filled with
unforgettable characters, the novel is above all about the
shapes that love can take and the many ways we express
tenderness throughout a lifetime.
As it moves between the Blue Mountains and Melbourne,
Sydney and Castlemaine, Almost a Mirror reflects on the
healing power of creativity and the everyday sacredness of
family and friendship in the face of unexpected tragedy.

Buy the book here.

 

Meet the Author: Carmel Bird

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.

BOOK BYTE

Field of Poppies

Carmel Bird

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.

 

 

 

Meet the Author: Inez Baranay

Inez’s top tip for aspiring authors: Write however you want to write. Make your own rules, find your own voice.

Inez Baranay was born in Naples, Italy, grew up in Sydney, Australia. She has published 12 books of fiction and non-fiction, and has lived in and taught creative writing in countries including India, Indonesia and the United States. Most recently Inez taught at the university in Canakkale, Turkey, on the shore of the Dardanelles. She now lives in Sydney.
To find out more about Inez and her writing, visit www.inezbaranay.com

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? I couldn’t bear not to. I need those periods of immersion in imagination and language, to be making something, to be in that state of other-being. But why why why, it’s a mystery eventually; sometimes to need to write feels like a curse.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I can’t realistically imagine not being a writer. I’d have to be someone very different. A gardener? A painter? An outrageously wealthy heiress?

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Waiting until the right publisher at the right moment turned up – it took a while.

How involved have you been in the development of your book? Did you have input into the cover? After the publisher (Transit Lounge) accepted the book they assigned an editor (Kate Goldsworthy) who was great for tidying up the manuscript and helping me solve remaining issues.

The publisher consulted me about the cover; several covers were suggested, then this one, and I immediately said Yes. The image gives me a good feeling.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? Writing itself. The solitude, the complete freedom. You make your own rules, invent your own way of working.

—the worst? The realities of financial poverty, the times it’s going badly and my whole life seems based on stupid delusion.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? Learn a trade by which to earn a living. When I started out there was an expectation that earning a living was possible from literary, independent writing.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? Nothing anyone could have told me would have made any difference, I suspect.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? A strangely difficult question: good advice in general seems to confirm what you already feel is true, so the best advice came from myself, to trust the instinct. (No general advice suits all situations.)

How important is social media to you as an author? Not at all, except sometimes as a place to lurk and see what’s going on in the world and how people talk about it.

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? I don’t like that expression. Every creative endeavour has different phases, you can’t expect it always to be like it is when it feels like it’s flowing. Sometimes the writing doesn’t go well. Almost to the point of despair sometimes. Just keep going, try a different way, go for a walk, have a nap if you need to.

How do you deal with rejection? Pick myself up, dust myself off. Persist. Maybe feel horrible for a while then make up any interpretation of the rejection that makes me keep going.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? Experimental. Imaginative. Precise.

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? Hm, that would have to be the subject of the biography I am currently writing, Sasha Soldatow, who died in 2006; he was my first editor, and wrote brilliantly, but not enough, who had talent to burn but, by all accounts, was destroyed by alcohol and pills, or by whatever made him turn to them rather than to writing.

BOOK BYTE

Turn Left at Venus

Inez Baranay

 

 

They were two little girls on a very big boat.
In the 1930s, Ada and Leyla meet as children on a boat bringing migrants from Old Europe to the New World. They talk of seeing kangaroos yet end up living miles apart from each other in suburban Sydney. Their separations are often lengthy but their friendship endures across continents and
decades and is a thread in this haunting story of writing, relationships and ageing.
Ada (A.L. Ligeti) becomes an author, searching for a Utopian world, exploring aspects of patriarchy and gender in her groundbreaking feminist science fiction novel called Turn Left at Venus. That novel and its sequels are celebrated and much discussed by generations of fans. Memory and imagination fold seamlessly into one another as Ada keeps moving on,
from relationships and places, living in hotels and rental spaces
in Kings Cross, San Francisco, Ubud and elsewhere.
Baranay’s emotionally resonant portrait of the solitary and artistic
life, lived adventurously across space and time, triumphantly
celebrates the singularity of being, of age, of imagination, and
of the ‘getting ready’ for the ending that life demands.

The book is available from https://transitlounge.com.au/shop/tun-left-venus/

 

Meet the Author: Philip Salom

 

Philip’s top tip for aspiring authors: Read. It’s always the same advice. Be critical not sentimental. Look for individuality and value in your own work and be welcoming but be rigorous in developing it. Quality matters more than popularity.

Philip Salom‘s new novel The Returns is his fourth novel. He has also published 14 collections of poetry. His recent novel Waiting attracted wide-ranging acclaim in reviews and in 2017 was shortlisted for the prestigious Miles Franklin Literature Award, as well as the Prime Minister’s Award and the Victorian Premier’s Award. His two earlier novels are Playback, which won the WA Premier’s Prize for Fiction, and Toccata and Rain which was shortlisted for the ALS Gold Medal and the WA Premier’s Prize.

His poetry awards include winning the 1987 Commonwealth Poetry Book Prize in London for Overall Best Book of Poetry, after having won Best First Book Prize for Poetry in 1981; the Western Australian Premier’s Prize (twice for Poetry) and the prestigious Newcastle Poetry Prize. Plus numerous shortlistings in the major national book awards.

Philip was recognised with the 2003 Christopher Brennan Prize which is Australia’s most prestigious lifetime award for poets for “poetry of sustained quality and distinction”. Visit Philip’s website at www.psalom@philipsalom.com

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? I’ve always been interested in making. As a child I did very little of it but those adults who did caught in my imagination as doing something thrilling, something I desired. Any kind of making, buildings, bridges, paintings, sculptures, but essentially visual forms. Though I read books non-stop it was only in my 20s that I realised I might actually make them. Not external visualisations, but internal ones. ‘Buildings’ you could say, that work in the mind.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? Very hard to say. I have forgotten what it is not to write. And during the last 10 years I’ve had long works-in-progress happening all the time. I have already finished the novel which will follow The Returns. However, I love the idea of being a trouble-shooter, a Fix-it, a problem-solver. The challenge, the creative and imaginative thinking required, the suspense. The resolution. Especially if it has a hands-on physicality, thus the pleasure of working mentally but in three dimensions. Unlike writing, which for all its imaginative recreation of life, is actually a very inward encounter.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? I was lucky. The first manuscript was picked up immediately because I was plucked: a publisher knew what I was working on and asked to see it. But some manuscripts have been harder to place and made me sit down and look very hard – to see if there were problems, then face up to them. First is the feeling of having gone wrong with it, having worked superficially, made errors of judgement. You must be rigorous, and get over it. Re-writing, even re-imagining, can be very confronting personally and tough in terms of sheer concentration, then in the new writing, and new re-writing. Endless re-writing sometimes!

How involved have you been in the development of your books? Did you have input into the covers? Sometimes my poetry has employed unorthodox layout so for a book I did with Penguin I was asked to do the entire layout myself. Fiction is much easier so I’m not involved. I always comment on my book covers, though, as part of my on-going interest in art and design. This new cover is the most unexpected so far and I have grown to really like it.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? Being so mentally involved with the actual writing. Fiction is something I carry in my head: my characters, their dialogue, their possibilities, potential surprises in development. It suits the loner in me to spend my private time in a place and with an imagined cast no one knows exists. Until it does.

—the worst? Not knowing quite how much has been achieved in one’s work and, much worse, receiving occasional reviews that seem to exist as bloody-minded dismissals of the work. Some reviews are examples of condescension by the ignorant, some are vindictive, some are not very bright. Thank god for the rest.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I would have written more fiction from the beginning and as a poet made more of the networking that poetry (with its very much smaller base of readers) necessarily exists within. Especially in Australia, where the readership and public reception of poetry are less – and less generous – than in many other countries.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? Same as the above, really, that there is the actual writing (which is private and which I value most) and there is the profession itself, where the public profile of any writer is established and promoted (or not). Most professions are like this but like many I had assumed the writing sold itself. It can, but mostly it doesn’t. There is a huge amount of unseen promotion behind very visible writers.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? A writer I admired telling me that I was on the right track i.e. keep going.

What’s your top tip for aspiring authors? Read. It’s always the same advice. Be critical not sentimental. Look for individuality and value in your own work and be welcoming but be rigorous in developing it. Quality matters more than popularity.

How important is social media to you as an author? It doesn’t appeal to me though its power and reach can be significant.

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? I’m lucky not to have it. Something always comes if you let yourself be subsumed by the work itself, not your anxieties about it, which are you, and personal. Drop the ego-self but keep the ego-confidence. During a long work I worry about where it’s going and how to solve its problems or demands (such as, does this scene work? Is it right to end it this way? Etc). I solve the problems by writing.

How do you deal with rejection? It’s a hit to the stomach. Keep on. Again, turn back inwards to the writing and if there are lessons in the rejection, use them.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? Its own self.

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? I remember the old saying: never meet your heroes. As above, the work is the ‘self’ that matters. The desire to meet others is of course very great. I had met and become friendly with John Clarke and he was an exception. His life and work were very much the same. Human, droll, insightful, hilarious and welcoming. That voice. A beautiful person.

BOOK BYTE

The Returns

Philip Salom

Elizabeth posts a ‘room for rent’ notice in Trevor’s bookshop and is caught off-guard when Trevor answers the advertisement himself. She expected a young student not a middle-aged bookseller whose marriage has fallen apart. But Trevor is attracted to Elizabeth’s house because of the empty shed in her backyard, the perfect space for him to revive the artistic career he abandoned years earlier. The face-blind, EH Holden-driving Elizabeth is a solitary and feisty book editor, and she accepts him, on probation …

Miles Franklin finalist Philip Salom has a gift for depicting the inner states of his characters with empathy and insight. In this poignant yet upbeat novel the past keeps returning in the most unexpected ways. Elizabeth is at the beck and call of her ageing mother, and the associated memories of her childhood in a Rajneesh community. Trevor’s Polish father disappeared when Trevor was 15, and his mother died not knowing whether he was dead or alive. The authorities have declared him dead, but is he?

The Returns is a story about the eccentricities, failings and small triumphs that humans are capable of, a novel that pokes fun at literary and artistic pretensions, while celebrating the expansiveness of art, kindness and friendship.

Praise for Philip Salom’s writing

‘Philip Salom … dissects the vulnerabilities of the human condition (loneliness, fear of intimacy, powerlessness, guilt), the power of the past to haunt us, the fear of the future to mire us, and the redemptive effects of love and acceptance.’ -Miles Franklin Award Judges

The book is available here and from all good bookshops.

Meet the Author: Angela Savage

Angela’s top tip for aspiring authors: Read and write. Don’t talk about writing. Do the work. And love what you do.

Angela Savage is an award-winning Melbourne writer, who has lived and travelled extensively in Asia. Her debut novel, Behind the Night Bazaar, won the 2004 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an unpublished manuscript. All three of her Jayne Keeney PI novels were shortlisted for Ned Kelly Awards. The Dying Beach was also shortlisted for the 2014 Davitt Award. She has taught writing throughout Australia and overseas. Angela holds a PhD in Creative Writing from Monash University, and is currently Director of Writers Victoria. Visit her website at http://angelasavage.wordpress.com/

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? Because, as Franz Kafka said, ‘a non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity.’

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? Being a monster.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Maintaining momentum in the face of rejection.

How involved have you been in the development of your book? Did you have input into the cover? One of the most exciting aspects of developing a book is the dialogue between the writer and publisher, particularly during the editorial process. I aspire to be someone my publisher enjoys working with. I take advice. I meet deadlines. I welcome editorial feedback. I check in when it seems appropriate but I don’t hound them. I respect their expertise. That said, I did push back on the initial cover design until I felt we had something really striking; designer Peter Lo has done a beautiful job.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? Realising my dream of becoming a published author and having my work read. Also meeting other writers. And I get loads of free books.

—the worst? That there’s not more writing in my life.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? Planned things better so I could afford more time to write.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author?  That being known as a genre writer means some people will look down on you (I had no idea!); it will also make it harder down the track to publish non-genre fiction.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Just get the story down. The first draft is where you dump your ideas, meet your characters, sketch the arc of the story. Re-writing is where you craft that draft into a book. I used to spend hours trying to write the perfect opening paragraph. Now I believe you can’t write the perfect opening to a novel until you’ve written the ending at least once.

How important is social media to you as an author? All the evidence suggests being on social media doesn’t sell books, but it’s brilliant for connecting with readers and other writers. When it comes to productivity, though, I’m inclined to take breaks from social media in order to write more (fighting feelings of FOMO every step of the way).

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? There are certainly times when the words come harder. In her TEDx talk Creativity in the age of distraction, Kim Wilkins explains that writing takes us into unfamiliar territory and, as such, we are easily distracted by tasks that are less demanding of us (social media being a classic example). She says it’s important to be still, to sit with the discomfort. That said, I find it helpful at such times to take one of my characters for a walk and imagine the landscape through their eyes—to get moving, both literally and figuratively.

How do you deal with rejection? It makes me feel like I’m back in high school, being shunned by the cool kids. But I tell myself that rejection is a writer’s lot, and that the experience of rejection can bring us closer together through empathy and compassion. My 13-year-old also likes to help by reminding me that JK Rowling had 12 rejections before she found a publisher for Harry Potter.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? Exquisite. Moving. Powerful. (I stole that from Christos Tsiolkas’s cover blurb for Mother of Pearl).

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? I’d spend an hour in a bar in Wyoming with Annie Proulx and pick her brain for tips on dialogue and capturing regional voices in characters.

BOOK BYTE

Mother of Pearl

Angela Savage

A luminous and courageous story about the hopes and dreams we all have for our lives and relationships, and the often fraught and unexpected ways they may be realised.

Angela Savage draws us masterfully into the lives of Anna, an aid worker trying to settle back into life in Australia after more than a decade in Southeast Asia; Meg, Anna’s sister, who holds out hope for a child despite seven fruitless years of IVF; Meg’s husband Nate, and Mukda, a single mother in provincial Thailand who wants to do the right thing by her son and parents.

The women and their families’ lives become intimately intertwined in the unsettling and extraordinary process of trying to bring a child into the world across borders of class, culture and nationality. Rich in characterisation and feeling, Mother of Pearl and the timely issues it raises will generate discussion among readers everywhere.

‘This is a story of family and motherhood, and also a story of culture and exploitation that asks us to think through the costs of our insatiable desire in the West to have everything. What I find remarkable about this novel is how it refuses easy and lazy judgement, how it takes seriously questions of loss, longing, and our human need to connect with each other.’ -Christos Tsiolkas, author of The Slap

‘A beautifully crafted novel from an incredibly gifted writer. Angela Savage explores the ethical minefield of international surrogacy through the stories of three women, desperate but determined to repair the broken parts of their lives The prose is as precise as it is poetic, the characters so deftly drawn. I read this book compulsively, racing to its poignant conclusion with my heart in my throat.’ Melanie Cheng, author of Australia Day and Room for a Stranger

The book is available here.

 

Meet the Author: SL Lim

S L Lim was born in Singapore and moved to Sydney as a child. They don’t eat animals. They hate heterosexuality, the gender binary, the energy industry, other industries, racism, sexism, progressive politics as an aesthetic/lifestyle signifier as opposed to a material engagement with injustice and power, including in one’s own life; getting up in the morning, the requirement to exchange one’s labour in return for a wage, and people who casually mention they are better than you. They like stickers, food, pretty yet inexpensive stationery, mathematical approaches to vegan baking, direct action, quiet people with an ironical yet wise approach to life, noisy apparent assholes with good hearts, queerness, tendentious takes, mutual care, mutual accountability and mutual aid. They like to read blender reviews online where the reviewer obviously had totally insane expectations for the blender. Sunsets are beautiful. Borders are violence. Vaginal orgasm is a mass hysterical survival response.

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? I would like to create beautiful things of lasting value which is independent of my existence as a person.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? The pleasure of naming a phenomenon, concept or experience that went previously unarticulated.

—the worst? Oscillations between megalomania and self-abnegation.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? Start earlier, work harder.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? In terms of the writing: there is no secret. Do the work and keep doing it. In terms of getting published: treat this as its own skill quite separate from the writing itself.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Regard human systems as comprehensible and problems as solvable.

What’s your top tip for aspiring authors? Write. Read very carefully. Hang out with dead people. Keep writing. Be hard on your own work. Find persons whose judgement you trust and make use of their intelligence and kindness.

How important is social media to you as an author? I regret cruelty and loss and time and holding on to friendship and to love as it curdled into indifference but I regret NOT ONE SECOND of the time I have spent on the internet.

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? By reminding myself the obstacles that exist to prevent me from writing today will still exist tomorrow so if I don’t write today I probably won’t write tomorrow and this will go on for a while and then I’ll die.

How do you deal with rejection? Lying face down on the carpet. One aspect I struggled with during years of feeling like a waste of space, a pool of sentient mush dissolving on the bathmat, was the realisation everyone gets rejected, a lot. If I were a brilliant misunderstood genius I would probably be getting a lot of rejections. And if I were a self-deluding hack… the exact same thing would be occurring. There was no way of evaluating which particular universe I was living in.

Come to that, I still don’t know. Am I any good? Are you? Is what? Are unicorns hollow? Just because a question can be formulated grammatically doesn’t mean it has an answer. The trouble with this approach is it tends towards the conclusion literally nothing means anything. This isn’t untrue, exactly, but it doesn’t help you get out of bed, and I need all the help that I can get.

So maybe a better approach is to remember publication is not the only market of merit; there is a huge amount of structural unfairness and just randomness. But there are also ways you can improve your chances, like getting better at your craft and submitting your work to lots of publishers and agents.

My advice, if you were asking for it, is: do the thing you’ve got to do, because you do, and… well, that’s it, really. Good luck.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? It’s getting better.

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? Kim Stanley Robinson. I want to go hiking with him and either talk about Buddhism or not talk at all but simultaneously look at things like lichens and go ‘hmm’ so we understand we both appreciate this sublime phenomenon and are experiencing it in a manner both collective and solitary.

BOOK BYTE

Real Differences

by SL Lim

This is a story of a friendship so connected that without it one is not whole but lost.

Middle-class, clever and white, Nick is a child of privilege while his best friend Andie is the daughter of Indo-Chinese refugees. Despite their very different backgrounds, they share a conviction they can change the world for the better.

At the outset, Nick is pushing papers in a dead-end job while Andie is embarking on a secular crusade against world poverty. This generates conflict with her white husband Benjamin, who feels that Australians should come first. Meanwhile, Andie’s cousin, the teenage Tony is burdened by his parents’ traumatic past and impossible expectations. To their dismay, he finds solace in  radical faith.

S.L. Lim acutely captures the dreams and disaffections of a millennial generation. Real Differences is an emotionally resonant novel about idealism, ethical ambition, and love, filled with unforgettable characters. It ultimately asks us the most important question of all: What is our life for?

Sales site link

https://transitlounge.com.au/shop/real-differences/

Author website

https://twitter.com/slwritesbooks

 

 

 

 

Meet the Author: Sallie Muirden

Sally’s top tip for aspiring authors: If you haven’t already, do a creative writing course at a reputable institution. It isn’t just what you learn from a writing teacher. You will receive feedback from your peers in the workshopping setting and you will make writing buddies that will support you on your journey.

 

 

Sallie Muirden is a writer who lives in Melbourne. Her first novel, Revelations of a Spanish Infanta, won the 1996 HarperCollins Fiction Prize. Her second novel, We Too Shall Be Mothers, was published in 2001. Her collection of poetry, The Fable of Arachne, was published in 2009. Her third novel, A Woman of Seville, was published in 2009. And her new novel Wedding Puzzle is published this month. She has a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Melbourne and she taught creative writing for a long time. She has also worked for many years as a teacher of English language to migrants. She grew up in East Malvern and South Yarra but she has lived in the suburb of Northcote for more than 28 years. She loves surf beaches, zumba, swimming, reading, meditation, cats and watching Australian rules footy.

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? When I started writing at 19 and 20 it was to record my thoughts and understand my feelings in a diary. Nowadays writing is a habit and I almost exclusively write for pleasure and to relieve tension. I always feel much better after a good writing session. It is a mental exercise in make-believe, but it is better than daydreaming because you make an art object with your thoughts.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I would probably be teaching English to migrants, as this has been my main professional occupation over recent years.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? In the early days it was finding my own voice and writing fiction that didn’t sound like Virginia Woolf. With my last three novels it has been the painful realisation that it is going to take many drafts before a manuscript wins the admiration of publishers.

How involved have you been in the development of your book? Did you have input into the cover? I have been involved all the way with Transit Lounge, since I first signed the contract. I have been allowed to keep the novel I wanted. With the cover a designer created a number of possibilities and fortunately the publisher and I both liked the same cover the most.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? The best aspect is when I feel I am breaking new ground in early drafts. Redrafting is also deeply satisfying when I see my novel becoming a cohesive whole.

—the worst? The humiliation of a nasty personal review in a major newspaper can ruin your fragile confidence and stop you taking creative risks.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I would spend more time writing and less time teaching and not worry about money as much because in the end the writing is invaluable and I can live on a small income and still be okay.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? Don’t listen to the stories of authors who write a novel in six months. It can work for some but for most writers it is a long and painstaking endeavour. Taking time can only improve your novel and bring it closer to perfection and/or publication.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Listen to your editors.

How important is social media to you as an author? It’s absolutely crucial to boost interest and tell people about your work. However, I really admire writers who can get along without it.

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? I’d call it ‘writer’s time out’ rather than ‘writer’s block’. I have gone for long periods when I’m not writing because I am prioritising other things such as employment. I end the ‘writer’s time out’ by quitting work and getting up very early and sitting at my desk. When I have the house to myself and my mind is brimming with energy the writing starts to flow again.

How do you deal with rejection? I just remind myself how many attempts it took J K Rowling to get published the first time with Harry Potter.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? Musical, intelligent, nostalgic.

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? I’d like to spend time with Margaret Drabble because I met her at a book launch once and she seemed a lovely person. I’d like her to tell me how she came to write her first three amazing novels. I’d like the honest truth about her own life at that time.

BOOK BYTE

Wedding Puzzle

Sallie Muirden

 

 

On the morning of her wedding, 24-year-old Beth Shaw drives
down the peninsula to the Portsea Hotel. She is uneasy and
confused because she has just learnt something devastating about
her fiancé, Jordan, that completely changes her view of him.
As Beth’s old schoolmates and her relatives arrive for the big day
at the bayside idyll, Beth contemplates her childhood in suburbia.
She worshipped the school relay runners, one of whom was Jordan’s
high school sweetheart. Painful memories of earlier disloyalties
and betrayals resurface. Her dreams and wedding threaten to spin
out of control. Will the truth ever be known? And must she make a
fateful decision about more than just her wedding arrangements?
Award-winning author Sallie Muirden deftly evokes the
contradictions of human behaviour, and growing up in the ’70s
and ’80s. With its Austenesque feel, Wedding Puzzle is an astute,
entertaining, and often tense comedy of manners, that considers
our choice of partner and the decision to marry as the key
moment in our lives.

The book is available here.

 

 

Meet the Author: Melissa Ferguson

Melissa Ferguson is a cancer-fighting scientist who loves to explore scientific possibilities through fiction. She lives in Geelong with her husband, two children and two guinea pigs. Her short fiction has appeared in Island Magazine, Luna Station Quarterly and Postscripts to Darkness. Her debut novel The Shining Wall is available now. You can connect with her on Twitter @melissajferg or at her website melissajaneferguson.com

Melissa’s top tip for authors: Finish things and submit them.

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? Writing is a creative outlet for me. I used to love writing when I was a child, but then I gave up for many years as I pursued an education and a career as a scientist. My husband is a musician and a visual artist and I was always jealous of his creative pursuits. When I was in my early 30s I’d had my first child and some health problems that made me reassess my priorities. I took the opportunity to do something I had always wanted to do. I completed a short evening course in creative writing. At first my writing was mostly memoir and realism and was a therapeutic exercise that helped me work through the events of a difficult couple of years. Then one day I’d had enough of that and started writing fantasy and science fiction and began having a lot more fun.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I began a Masters in Human Nutrition a few years ago, but it cut into my writing time too much and I exited with a certificate. If I wasn’t writing I would probably be trying to make a go of a career in nutrition.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? There’s a lot of luck involved with getting published. The industry is so subjective. I think you just need to keep honing your craft and putting yourself out there until your work gets in the hands of the right person.

How involved have you been in the development of your book? Did you have input into the cover? Josh at Design by Committee came up with the cover for The Shining Wall. It was the first one the publisher showed me and I found it immediately visually stunning, but I wasn’t sure it fit the themes of the story completely. After a couple of tweaks I was more satisfied with the cover and we went with it.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? The best aspect of my writing life is when someone genuinely enjoys a story I’ve written. You can’t beat that feeling.

—the worst? The sore neck and shoulders from being hunched over a keyboard so often.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I would have started earlier and not waited until I was in my thirties to take up writing again.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? To go with my instincts when something doesn’t feel right.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? To finish things and submit them.

How important is social media to you as an author? Social media has been great for me for networking with other authors and publishing professionals and expanding my writing community. I can be quite shy in real life situations, so I get a lot more value out of my interactions in cyberspace.

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? For me writer’s block often means that there’s a problem with my story that I need to think about for a while. While I’m waiting for the breakthrough (which often arrives while I’m in the shower) I work on other writing related tasks, such as proofreading, researching, or critiquing for other people.

How do you deal with rejection? A few mumbled swears and then I consider any feedback (if I’m lucky enough to have been given any) and decide if I need to do some rewriting or simply keep submitting.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? Someone else once used these words to describe my writing and I quite liked them: A WILD RIDE

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? I’d would have loved to have met Octavia Butler and told her how much her work has influenced me.

BOOK BYTE

The Shining Wall

Melissa Ferguson

In a ruined world, where wealthy humans push health and longevity to extremes and surround themselves with a shining metal wall, privilege and security is predicated on the services of cloned Neandertals, and the exploitation of women in the shanty towns and wastelands beyond the fortress city.

This is the frightening yet moving story of orphaned Alida and her younger sister Graycie, and their struggle for survival in the Demi-Settlements outside the wall. When the sisters are forced to enter the City by very different means they risk being separated forever.

Cloned Neandertal officer, Shuqba is exiled to a security outpost in the Demi-Settlements when she fails to adhere to the impossible standards set for her species within the City. Will she offer a lifeline to Alida or betray her?

The Shining Wall is at once a frightening parable of our unjust world of haves and have nots, a richly imagined yet thrilling story of technological control and the fight for survival, and a paean to female friendship and power.

It is available from https://transitlounge.com.au/shop/the-shining-wall/

Meet the Author: James Cristina

My guest author this week is James Cristina whose debut novel, Antidote to a Curse, has been described as ‘an astute exploration of the nature of identity’ by the acclaimed author Janette Turner Hospital.

James Cristina was born in Malta. His parents migrated to
Australia in the late sixties and he grew up in Melbourne.
He has taught English in Australia, Malta, England, the
US, Jordan, Bahrain, Switzerland, Belgium, South Korea
and Oman. He holds a PhD in Creative Writing from the
University of East Anglia.

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? Because characters, scenes, plotlines and phrases materialise, take shape and evolve. It seems natural to want to write these down.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I’m first and foremost a teacher. I’ve enjoyed my years of teaching at home and abroad.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? There were many obstacles. Developing a book-length piece of fiction to a level that I was satisfied with was possibly the biggest obstacle.

How involved have you been in the development of your books? Do you have input into the cover/illustrations? Working with Transit Lounge has been great. I am involved. The creative and professional direction has been inspiring and productive. I certainly appreciate the sincerity of the dialogue. Yes, I’ve been given a lot of freedom and opportunity to express viewpoints.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? Seeing the characters and plotline take shape and eventually become independent of you. You essentially feel like you are making something.

—the worst? Feeling like you don’t have time to jot down ideas.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? While I think my teaching, my travels and experiences have been important, I wish I had given myself more time to write.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? I think I was fortunate. From the very beginning, I met wonderful writers and academics who were sincere and generous.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? How far you go with any given piece is up to you and your internal critic.

What’s your top tip for aspiring authors? It’s an individual journey, but if I had to give advice it would be to keep at it.

How important is social media to you as an author? The freedom to be able to use any social network is important, though till now I tend to work directly with people I have met in person over the years.

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? Not really. I don’t think I’ve had the time or freedom to pursue the number of ideas that have come to me. I’ve certainly reached an impasse or two with the novel Antidote to A Curse over the years, but there have always been other pieces, mainly poems, to pursue.

How do you deal with rejection? Try again.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? Subjective, ambitious and exploratory.

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? I’ve been making slow progress with Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa. I wonder if and what he would offer about writing this extraordinary epistolary novel. I certainly would love to know how this piece evolved. Would he meet up with me for a coffee?

BOOK BYTE

Antidote to a Curse

James Cristina

It’s the ’90s. Silvio Portelli returns to Melbourne after
time spent teaching in England and rents a room from
the charismatic octogenarian, Nancy Triganza. Nancy is
having an elaborate aviary constructed to indulge her
passion for birds. At a city sex shop, Silvio meets the
mysterious Zlatko, a Bosnian immigrant and, in a previous
life, a collector of rare birds. Silvio becomes obsessed with
Zlatko, and his own journal and dreams begin to mirror
Zlatko’s past, and in time the reality of what happened
in Bosnia. Such revelations are counterpointed by Silvio’s
own tense wait to learn the results of his tests for HIV.
Bold in design, Antidote to a Curse is a story in which
the hunter becomes the hunted, the writer the subject,
and vice versa. Cristina lovingly captures Stalactites cafe
where Zlatko and Silvio often meet, and a city enmeshed
with Europe, both physically and in spirit.
Rich with images and allusions yet grounded in the
everyday Antidote to a Curse is a startling debut. Cristina
subtly draws the reader deeper and deeper into a state of
psychological obsession where only the truth can provide
a way out.