Meet the Author: Angela O’Keeffe

Angela’s top tip for aspiring authors: Read.  Ponder the experience of reading.  Reading as a writer is an art in itself.

Angela O'Keeffe =

Angela O’Keeffe grew up on a farm in South East Queensland and now lives in Sydney. She completed a Master of Arts in Writing at UTS and has had short stories published in literary journals. Night Blue is her first book.

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? We can’t ever get into the head of another human but we can imagine ourselves into anyone and anything, whether fictional or real.  For me, writing is the best and most exhilarating way of doing that.  It’s my prism for experiencing the world.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? As far as having some sort of prism for experiencing the world I can’t imagine being happy with anything that wasn’t related to the arts.  I would pick acting, I think, as there is that similar aspect of inhabiting a character, of stepping beyond the boundary of the self and in some way experiencing the other.

What was the toughest obstacle to becoming published? The toughest obstacle was me.  I wrote probably three or four novels over the years, and a couple of those got initial interest from publishers that then didn’t go anywhere. I really took to heart the adages about writing “what you know” and “showing not telling” and in hindsight I think I let those adages sort of shackle me.  In 2016 I went to Varuna, The National Writers House, for a “Conversations with Writers” workshop with Peter Bishop and he talked about allowing the writing “to breathe” and something just clicked for me.  I realised I could step into a space where I didn’t know “what I knew”, a space where there was not necessarily a distinction between “showing and telling,” and things just got better from there.  I wrote the first pages of Night Blue soon after that.

How involved were you in the development of your book.  Did you have input into the cover? Barry from Transit Lounge really loved the book; from the start there was an openness, a common understanding.  He has this way in his emails of saying little but meaning much, and I just felt really supported. Yet he was ready to push back when he felt he needed to, and I really appreciated that too.  There was a small change I wanted to make in the final edit that he didn’t agree with.  In hindsight he was probably right.  There comes a point where the writer just has to let go of the work.  Barry sent me five or six cover designs by Peter Lo, and asked me to choose my top three.  The decision was never going to be mine alone – it wasn’t my department – but it was wonderful to be invited into that process.  I love the cover that Peter designed for Night Blue; for me it speaks its own exquisite language to what is inside the book.

What is the best aspect of your writing life? The sense of freedom and discovery.

The worst? Being deep in it and knowing I have to break to do the shopping.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? For me, this question is quite useless.  I wouldn’t know what I know now if things had been different.  And I wouldn’t know it in the way I know it.  For me, that’s impressive and I’m unwilling to walk myself back from that.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? I’m tempted to answer same as above, but I do wish I’d been told that it’s best not to write with an open packet of biscuits within reach.  But I stumbled on this pretty quickly on my own.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? In class at UTS Glenda Adams said something about when writing a first draft to let “everything in”; she said it was “like gathering flowers”, and she made these gestures of reaching left and right.  I always loved that.

How important is social media to you as a writer? Right now it plays a role in letting people know about Night Blue.  It also helps me come across writers, artists, podcasts that I find inspiring.  I’ve had lovely connections with other writers on Instagram; it was through Instagram that Favel Parrett kindly agreed to write a commendation for Night Blue.  The downside is that it can be a vacuous time waster.  A bit like sugar, use in moderation.

Do you experience “writer’s block” and if so, how do you overcome it? I don’t experience a block as such; I can always write.  It’s more a matter of whether the writing is any good.  If I’m really not happy with how it’s going I usually stop and go for a walk.  I live near the ocean and just walking by it is an expansive experience.  On the way back I might stop at the shops and buy items for a meal, and often by the time I’m cooking the onions something has shifted in the writing – in the way I see it and feel it – and I’ll know what it needs.

How do you deal with rejection? Cry.  Vow never to write again.  Go for a walk.  Realise I want to keep at it.

In three words how would you describe your writing? Poetic.  Accessible.  Arresting.

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 want them to tell you about living a writing life? Franz Kafka.  He once wrote that “a book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us.” I’d want to ask him about that.

BOOK BYTE

Night BluePotent, haunting and lyrical, Night Blue is a narrative largely told in the voice of the painting Blue Poles. It is an original and absorbing approach to revisiting Jackson Pollock and his wife Lee Krasner as artists and people, as well as a realigning our ideas around the cultural legacy of Whitlam’s purchase of Blue Poles in 1973.
It is also the story of Alyssa, and a contemporary relationship, in which O’Keeffe immerses us in the essential power of art to change our personal lives and, by turns, a nation.
Moving between New York and Australia with fluid ease, Night Blue is intimate and tender, yet surprisingly dramatic. It is a glorious exploration of how art must never be undervalued.

Buy the book here.

Meet the Author: Sandi Scaunich

Sandi ScaunichSandi Scaunich’s career spans the fields of medical anthropology, women’s health, and diversity and inclusion. Her writing has appeared in various blogs, academic reports and The Age. She lives in Melbourne with her husband, three children and a very energetic Kelpie x named Pesca. Chasing the McCubbin is her first novel.

To find out more about Sandi, visit her website at www.sandiscaunich.com.au

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? I’m not a big planner, so for me writing is an exciting and mysterious process of discovery that takes me out of my head and into the minds and bodies of my characters.

 What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I (temporarily) stopped working in my career during the second lockdown. Until then, writing had been a side passion that I squeezed in around working and family. The kids are back at school now, which means I’ve been typing away freely, doing Q&As (ha!) – and gosh, it’s been lovely!

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? My career is outside the publishing industry, and therefore I had no comprehension of how it operated. Unsolicited or agent? Bulk submissions or one at a time? These questions, and many more, were complete unknowns to me. So I enrolled in several courses, but the publishing industry still seemed like an exclusive grand palace with guards and huge gates where only a selected few gained access. Eventually I broke through!

How involved have you been in the development of your book? Did you have input into the cover? When it came to editing and cover design, Transit Lounge were incredibly collaborative. Actually, I loved the first cover proof, so there was little back and forth!

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? The joy of creating a new story filled with unique characters that, in my mind, live and breathe.

 —the worst? Spending long hours at a keyboard isn’t great for the body! At the end of a writing session, I sometimes feel like I’ve aged ten years. And back and neck aches lead to headaches – so not great. I’ve integrated regular exercise and stretching into my weekly routine to counteract this. A must!

 What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? Hmm … Would I have the wisdom and knowledge I have now? If so, I’d ditch the expectation of a publisher responding almost instantly with a big, enthusiastic, accepting YES.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? That the publishing industry moves at glacial speed, and to expect rejections, often in the form of silence. Plus, I’d recommend attending as many pitch sessions as possible.

 What’s the best advice you were ever given? Graeme Simsion told me recently to keep my expectations realistic. This really resonated with me, as it’s about celebrating the wins and avoiding disappointment. An extreme example, but I see it like this: if an author is disappointed their book ‘only’ hit number 2 on the New York Best Sellers list, then said author (the J K Rowlings aside, of course) needs a reality check! It’s made it to the New York Times Best Sellers list! (On a side note, that’s not something I expect to be dealing with!)

What’s your top tip for aspiring authors? I am definitely in the debut writers’ camp of ‘write what you know’. Stick to a subject you’re passionate about and know intimately. And listen to your gut instincts. For instance, there was a moment in the early stages of writing Chasing the McCubbin when I toyed with the idea of changing Ron’s character. By way of background, Ron is meant to represent a modern reincarnation of the man in Frederick McCubbin’s famous painting ‘Down On His Luck’. In the 1800s, impressionist painters, such as McCubbin, were promoting the white male narrative through their works – the white man as explorer, worker, prospector, farmer, etc. In light of contemporary values, I was tempted to carve up this traditional narrative. But Ron was simply too clear in my mind to disregard. I could hear him speak, visualise his walk and see him pottering in the shed. So despite my brain urging me to sever the continuation of the white male narrative, my gut told me to stick with Ron. Likeable or not, progressive or not, he evolved authentically as I saw him. Authentic characters engage readers; if they’re not, they risk feeling more like vehicles. Trust your instincts, I reckon.

How important is social media to you as an author? I’m a bit of a technophobe, really. In fact, I’d avoid social media completely if I could! But, hey, it’s no longer 1991, the year Chasing the McCubbin is set. My most significant tech-related achievement of late was connecting my Instagram to Facebook and Twitter! As much as I’d ideally be happy to avoid social media, I do want to connect with readers, and therefore I’m making an effort to post regularly on Instagram (I rarely check Facebook and Twitter). I’ve even posted a few vids of me chatting to the camera – talk about progress!

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? I don’t really believe in ‘writer’s block’. I think it might be more a crisis of confidence, although, luckily, I haven’t experienced it yet. Until recently, my biggest obstacle was finding the time to write – that was my personal block!

How do you deal with rejection? A Spritz Aperol and a blockbuster-action-type-movie. Like anything Marvel, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars

In three words, how would you describe your writing? Atmospheric. Sensitive. Honest.

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? Having a chat over coffee with Helen Garner would be a dream. I’d pick her brains about all-things-writers-life … I’m not fussed about what exactly. In fact, she could tell me her preferred breakfast cereal and I’d be interested. (Is that, um, creepy?!)

BOOK BYTE

Chasing the McCubbin

The Pines, an outer Melbourne suburb down on its luck. A country in the grip of recession.

Experienced collector Ron senses new possibilities: swift evictions provide hard-rubbish to scour and garage-sales have doubled. There’s only one problem: since losing his wife, Ron has struggled to navigate the suburbs alone. Plus, his deteriorating health slows him down.

This all changes through a chance meeting with Joseph, a troubled, withdrawn and unemployed 19-year old who knows nothing about antiques. As Joseph comes to understand and appreciate Ron’s world of eccentric bargain hunters, and hopefulness, his ability to navigate a history of family violence and to see a future for himself grows. Both come to share the wild dream of finding a rare bargain such as an original Frederick McCubbin painting and making their fortune. So begins an exhilarating adventure and an unlikely and beautiful friendship.

Set against the background of the early 1990s, Chasing the McCubbin is funny and sad in equal measure. A story of loneliness and the ageless desire for belonging, it will be the most heartbreaking yet feel-good novel you will read this year.

‘Truly fine writing with a great sense of characters and place, sympathetic and heartfelt without being sentimental, Scaunich pulls us into a fascinating world of low stakes and petty rivalries.’ GRAEME SIMSION, author of The Rosie Project

 ‘Authentic, subtle, evocative and alive.’ KATE RYAN

Buy the book here.

Meet the Author: Tobias MCorkell

Tobias’s top tip for aspiring authors: Don’t look for ‘tips’ or advice; cultivate your own practice.

Tobias McCorkell is a writer and academic whose fiction and non-fiction interrogate the class, gender and generational divides of Australian culture. He also writes light non-fiction, humour and gift books under the name Tobias Anthony.

The manuscript for Tobias’s first novel, Barely Anything, was awarded the University of Melbourne/Affirm Press Prize for Creative Writing in 2015. In 2018, Tobias appeared at the Melbourne Emerging Writer’s Festival. In 2019, he was accepted into residency programs both domestically and internationally, including a Varuna Residency Fellowship and a Leighton Artists Studios Residency at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity in Canada.

Tobias has been teaching creative writing at the University of Melbourne since 2012.

Find out more about Tobias at https://www.tobiasmccorkell.com/

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? To tell the truth and connect with people. I’m mostly dissatisfied with how people interact with one another, there’s always a barrier, but writing strips that barrier away and the possibilities for connection and intimacy – even with strangers, with people who you’ve never met – are suddenly limitless.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I’d like to open a florist, or at least work in one. Probably, though, I’d be a schoolteacher like everyone else in my family.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Time. There’s just no way around it but getting to the required skill/competency level takes about ten years or more, and years of persistent effort. Except for a few freaks or ‘young’ authors being exploited by publishers keen to trade in on youth or some novelty aspect of their identity, the vast majority of people aren’t publishing in their twenties.  

How involved have you been in the development of your book? Did you have input into the cover? Really involved! I’m lucky being published by Transit Lounge, because they were keen to see me publish the book I wanted to publish, and so I felt supported during the editing process and like I was in control of the situation. This doesn’t always happen, so I’ve had a dream run with this book, though I’d say it comes down to how professionally you behave and how well you understand your novel as well as the industry. And yes, I helped design the cover – it was almost exactly as I imagined – so I’m to blame if you dislike it.  

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? Getting to write. It’s all I want to do, really, apart from watch horror movies and read. If I could find a way to make money off the other two, I’d be set.

—the worst? The administrative tasks: emails, applying for grants/funding/residencies, submitting your work, doing Q+As (just kidding!), etc. It takes more time than it ought to, and mostly your applications are rejected anyway, so it can really feel like a waste, plus it eats into your concentration and focus on the ‘real’ stuff – the writing itself. 

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I would’ve spent less time writing and more time reading and trusted that Time would take care of the rest. I wasted precious years stressing about the quality of my work and wondering if/when I’d be published. If I’d been less career-driven I would’ve had space for other things, too, like prioritising my own happiness, which means I would likely have left my relationship a long time before it ended … Too dark?

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? I’m really not sure about this one … I can’t stress the importance of becoming a good editor enough and learning the ropes on the technical side of things. But I was always told this and just never listened. But then, my focus was elsewhere, and I got a handle on that part eventually.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? I was once asked ‘What’s a voice that isn’t being voiced?’ and it’s always stuck with me as a way towards conceptualising what I want to do next. My writing isn’t especially original, I’m a fairly traditional writer in some respects, but I can aim to be good and to write something I’d like to read that perhaps isn’t readily available.

How important is social media to you as an author? Not very, though I do tweet relevant information if I have anything to promote and have, only this month, created a Facebook account to do likewise. But I don’t have a big following and doubt it’s of much use. I can’t get past the long-held belief that social media is a disease for the mind, adopted by depressives and the undertalented in a bid for underserved attention. 

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? Not really, I think it’s a bit of a myth, a bit like that one about how everybody has a book in them. I think most people don’t have a book in them, and these are probably the same people walking around convinced they’re suffering from writer’s block. Regardless, planning helps – writers should spend about as much time simply thinking about their project and planning as they do writing.

How do you deal with rejection? Booze and good conversation; so, hitting a bar with a mate or date. Sex, too, if I can get it.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? Oh. My. God …

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? Jean Rhys. And only on the condition that we wouldn’t waste a single second talking about writing.  

BOOK BYTE

Everything in its Right Place

Tobias McCorkell

Coburg, Melbourne. Ford McCullen is growing up with hismother Deidre and his Pop and Noonie in ‘The Compound’, a pair of units in the shadow of Pentridge prison. His father, Robert, has left them to live in the bush with his new male partner. Nobody is coping.
When Ford’s paternal grandmother Queenie’s good fortune allows him to attend a prestigious Catholic private school on the other side of the river and to learn the violin, Ford finds himself balancing separate identities. At school he sees himself being moulded into an image that is not his own, something at odds with the rough and tumble of his beloved north.
Crumbling under the weight of his family’s expectations and realising that he just might be the only adult amongst them, Ford embarks on a quest for meaning while navigating the uncomfortable realities of his father’s life, his mother’s ongoing crisis, and the pillars of football and religion, delving
ever deeper into a fraught search for the source of the ‘McCullen curse’.
Everything in its Right Place tackles themes of class, love and sexuality with humour, truth and grit. It is a story of the legacies and dilemmas that families bring, of how we all must find our own way.

Buy the book: https://transitlounge.com.au/shop/everything-right-place/

Meet the Author: JD Murphy

John’s top tip for aspiring authors: Read Steven King’s excellent memoir/coaching guide called ‘On writing.’

John D Murphy is an Australian author based in Queensland, He has had a lifelong attraction to storytelling; from stories ranging across family entertainment skits as a child, to turning his life into story as an art of understanding his adult purpose. This first of his novels is, above all, designed to entertain readers and he hopes they will be open to the tale he has crafted within.

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write?  For the pleasure which writing affords me.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer?  Teaching and travelling – preferably together.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published?  Finding ‘that’ publisher who operates between the big end of town and the self-publishing domains.

How involved have you been in the development of your book? Did you have input into the cover? With respect to the development, I have had full engagement. With respect to the cover, I suggested some themes which I considered important; then a creative interpreted those ideas with required commercial focus. I was very pleased with the results.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? Taking a fleeting dream sequence and turning it into a kind of reality which will appeal to a reader.

—the worst? 1. Constant interruptions by cats whose dominant thoughts are that I should be focused on them rather than writing. 2. Covid 19 chaos for grounding the launch of my first novel in April 2020.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? Dream less and read more.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? To read Steven King’s excellent memoir/coaching guide called ‘On writing.’

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Writers write; Authors publish.

How important is social media to you as an author? I am a shy, retiring, outgoing, loquacious type who really has to have something of substance to say before engaging with SM.

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? Never been a problem. Nor talking incessantly, as my dear wife and close friends would earnestly confirm.

How do you deal with rejection (of a manuscript)? Just the same as any other bump I have had on my life’s paths. Identify the issues and address them. Only happened once, because I had far too many typographical errors in the manuscript to be considered seriously. Having fixed said typographical errors with some stiff editing, I submitted to a Melbourne publishing house and the rest is going to be history.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? Engaging. Relevant. Reflective.

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? David H Richter. Falling into Theory (1994). I would be pleased for this author to expand on those of his words which told me that I was going to walk on a writing path.

‘If in my life I have developed any ability to understand those who are other than me, other in race or gender or culture or sexual practice, a good deal of my training in empathy must have come from the practice fiction and poetry have given me in taking on other selves, other lives.’

BOOK BYTE

The Arbor girls are a force to be reckoned with

Maeve Fossard, a nurse during the bombings of Bristol in WW1 wants to escape the pain and suffering around her. A trip to a pub and a chance meeting with a stranger named Colin, changes her life. The shadow world of spies and politics becomes a reality.

Through two World Wars, the Cold War and into the Sixties; from England to Australia, she encounters ultimate highs and soul sapping lows.

Every action has consequences. Her companions, Margaret and Allison, their fates entwined, join a rich tapestry of characters, in her endeavours to create an invisible dynasty of social reform which will continue through to the future and span the globe…

“A fantastic read from a new Australian Author who has a flair for the period of such a wonderful storyline…authentic and moving with beautiful nuances and themes…5 Stars…”  Gail, IndieBooks Reviewer.

 

 

 

 

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.