the bookish types

meet some of australia’s newest fiction authors.



Have you always been into writing? I’ve kept journals on and off since I was really young.

I still have a picture book I made of The Little

Mermaid, including hand-drawn illustrati­ons of Ariel and Flounder. I studied literature and creative writing at school, because those subjects didn’t have exams! Writing has always been part of my life, but I didn’t see myself as a writer until

recently. Tell us about your debut novel. A Room Called Earth is an adventure inside the mind of a dynamic, sensual, observant young woman as she prepares for – and attends – a party in Melbourne on Christmas Eve Eve. It takes place over less than 24 hours as she encounters all different kinds of people and has all different kinds of experience­s. It’s a celebratio­n of what it means to truly connect with ourselves and each

other. How did it feel to write an autistic main character? I was diagnosed as autistic while writing the book. It took me a while to realise she was autistic too, though. I was sitting outside one day with a cup of tea and it occurred to me. I was like, well, if her story is in the first person, and if I’m using the way I process thoughts and feelings to give shape to her reality, then is her reality neurodiver­se like mine? Then I felt really special. It was as if she’d chosen me. And I find her astonishin­g, and multidimen­sional, and

courageous in so many ways. What do you want readers to take away from the story?

A sense of belonging. An understand­ing that all their thoughts, feelings, experience­s, sensations, relationsh­ips and memories are

sacred. How did your work get published? It took continuous leaps of faith and many periods of waiting. Then stars colliding, and presto, a novel! Throw in a literary agent who rejected me here, here and here, then one who saw value in the story there, and her connection­s here, and

that pretty much sums it up. What surprised

you about the publishing process? It’s hugely collaborat­ive and requires tons of communicat­ion with others. Beautiful things can only happen when many minds and hearts are involved. What

is writing a book actually like? I found it deeply nourishing and exciting. Scary, too. I didn’t know how it was going to turn out, or if I was going to be proud. I didn’t know how the book would change me or my life. I just had to trust, which is what made the process so exciting. How did

you deal with writers’ block? I don’t believe in writers’ block. Sometimes the block is the answer. The human mind is way too multidimen­sional and magical – beyond our comprehens­ion, even – for writers’ block to be a real thing.

Three books you’ve recently loved? Demons by Fyodor Dostoyevsk­y, Super Attractor by Gabrielle Bernstein, and I always have Madame Pamita’s Magical Tarot on hand.


Tell us about your debut novel. The Everlastin­g Sunday is set in England during the catastroph­ic winter of 1962 that came to be known as The Big Freeze. The story takes place in a manor house that’s been repurposed by the government as a kind of warehouse for young people ‘found by trouble’. It’s inspired by a real facility of the time and a crumbling mansion I discovered when working as a postman in rural Shropshire. The novel is about finding a way to love and survive.

You’ve written other stories in the past though,

right? I’ve written a novel every year since I was 14. I had no intention of getting any of them published; The Everlastin­g Sunday was the first I sent out into the world. I was just convinced

I was teaching myself how to write. Some were never printed, just deleted from my computer the day they were finished. Do you have any

other writing habits? I write on the train to work, in the lunchroom and on the train ride home. I’ve always had to squeeze it into the folds of the day; I can’t wait to be inspired or for all the conditions to be ‘right’. How did you get your

first book published? It was all dumb luck. I had no connection­s or track record – I just picked the publisher I wanted and the agent I wanted to represent me, printed off the book and posted it to them. I didn’t hear a word for 18 months. Then they both stumbled across my manuscript in their slush piles. What other jobs have you had?

Dishwasher, library assistant, rubbish auditor at a tip, taste-tester at a chip factory, art researcher, manager of a poetry peak body, music journalist, band manager, busker, postman. It’s impossible to have that many odd jobs and not accumulate a few story or character ideas for future use.

Is book-writing a lonely pursuit? The moments of writing are necessaril­y solitary, but publicatio­n is an inspiring and fun conversati­on with a whole cast of people: agents, publishers, editors, cover designers, bookseller­s, readers. Plus, the gang of weird and neurotic writers you inevitably find yourself part of. Who is your literary inspiratio­n?

Adrian Mole. I read Sue Townsend’s The Secret

Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4 when I was too young to realise Adrian was supposed to be a pretentiou­s prat. Any tips for emerging writers?

If you feel like you have no idea what you’re doing or how you’re supposed to go about this whole odd game, you’re not alone and you’re probably on the right track. Every writer I’ve met has, after a glass of wine, admitted to having no idea what they’re doing. Three books you’ve recently loved?

New Animal by Ella Baxter, Extraterre­strial: The First Sign of Intelligen­t Life Beyond Earth by Avi Loeb and She is Haunted by Paige Clark.


What are your books about? My first book, Rubik, is made up of interconne­cting short stories about digital afterlives, fan fiction, conspiraci­es and consumer culture. The main narrative thread is about a woman who dies in a car accident after purchasing a pie. My most

recent book, Smart Ovens for Lonely People, is a collection of short stories about mermaids, cats, things going missing in the laundry, utopias, dystopias and the things we do to console

ourselves when the world is ending. Why are short stories your preferred format? I like the way they can be suggestive – you can imply a whole world or life with a few shrewdly chosen scenes and details. Plus, short stories are a little easier to set aside and pick up again, or to work

on alongside other projects. What surprised you about the publishing process? One of the loveliest surprises was when I saw the draft of my first book’s cover – that’s when I got a fresh sense of what it was about; how it felt and breathed to someone who hadn’t been caught up in the writing and editing of it. It hit me that the book was leaving my hands, and soon other readers were going to make their own meaning of it.

Do you have any writing rituals? I mostly like to write on my laptop in bed right after I wake up, when I’m a bit sleepy and dreamy. If that’s not

working, I try to change the scenery. What’s it like seeing your books out in the world?

I feel a bit shy; I can’t quite bring myself to look directly at them. Perhaps it’s like encounteri­ng a clone of yourself, or yourself from a different timeline – you don’t want them to notice you or to disturb the fabric of the universe, so you just kind of watch your other self nervously out of the corner of your eye. Why do you write? I just really like playing with words; I like the pleasure of being able to describe something precisely. Also, making connection­s with other people and finding common ground. Do you have any other

jobs? I’m a university tutor in creative writing and profession­al writing. It can be a struggle to balance teaching and writing; I try not to glance at emails or the class discussion board during the mornings I’ve set aside for writing. What types

of books do you like reading? Books that are committed to emotional honesty, where you feel like the author has had to reckon with themself in some way in order to have written it. Even if the book is not about them, they’re writing from a position of humility and curiosity rather than smug judgment. Three books you’ve recently loved? New Animal by Ella Baxter, The End of the World Is Bigger Than Love by Davina Bell, and Echoes by Shu-ling Chua.


Have you always been interested in writing?

My mum claims she knew I was going to be a writer from age five, but it took me a bit longer to work it out. As a kid, I’d write dark, open-ended stories where all the characters were named after my friends. Later, I discovered I could use writing to make people laugh. Very little about my writing practice and motivation­s has changed.

Tell us about your debut novel. Kokomo begins in London with Mina. One day she gets a phone call from her best friend back in Australia informing her that her mother has just left the house for the first time in 12 years. So she rushes home to find out why. It’s a story about grief, desire, disconnect­ion, but most of all, it’s a love letter to friendship. Where did the idea come

from? It came to me at a karaoke party. A friend sang “Kokomo” by The Beach Boys and I started wondering where the tropical island of Kokomo is. After some googling, I discovered The Beach Boys made it up. It got me thinking about how often we readily believe the things we’re told. How did you get your work in front of the publisher? I spent two years drafting and redrafting Kokomo, then entered it into the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award (VPLA) for an Unpublishe­d Manuscript. When I found out I’d won I cried on the street. Off the back of the VPLA, I signed with my dream agent who helped me navigate the submission­s

process. What was the hardest part of writing a novel? Sitting down every day to get the work done. I have a note above my desk that says ‘do the work, you big baby’. I respond well to tough talk. I also employ a beefed-up Pomodoro Technique where I’ll set a timer and write for 50 minutes, take a break for 15, then start

again. I need routine. And the best part? I never imagined I’d make so many new friends by writing a novel. I used to think the Australian writing scene was scary and impenetrab­le, but it turns out most people are lovely and the community is

very supportive. Why do you write? I legitimate­ly have no other skills. Unless someone out there is willing to pay me to look at expensive LA real

estate? What types of books do you like reading?

I try to read a diverse mix of writers across fiction and non-fiction. Reading widely and from outside your own experience will make you a better and more informed writer (and maybe a better and

more informed person, too). Three books you’ve recently loved? Inferno (a poet’s novel) by Eileen Myles, Dropbear by Evelyn Araluen and Love and Virtue, a forthcomin­g debut novel by Sydney writer Diana Reid.


Have you always been into writing? I’ve always been fascinated by the way words work, how combinatio­ns can evoke bodily responses, and how strings of words melt together to create their own momentum. My first foray into the world of writing was transcribi­ng song lyrics. I’d tape radio shows then listen back and write

the lyrics down. What’s your book about? Song of the Crocodile follows three generation­s of a family in an outback country town. It’s a story told above, upon and below the land and focuses on the relationsh­ips the land fosters, creates

and tears apart. What do you want readers to

take away from it? I wanted to examine how people, black and white, relate to ‘place’; how the forces in its creation affect relationsh­ips, and in turn, how relationsh­ips affect the spirit of the landscape. I hope people can brush against First Nations language, relationsh­ips and worldviews and see a bit of themselves within them. How

did you get your first book published? I entered the manuscript into the black&write! Indigenous writing fellowship with the State Library of Queensland. It was mainly for feedback, but

I was lucky enough to win. That led to a year of editing with two First Nations editors, then six months with my publisher, Hachette. I feel so grateful to everyone for the support and love they showed my words. Hardest part of writing

a book? Settling on a plot I was confident in. I have a lot of things I want to say, and in the past I’ve done that through songwritin­g. Writing a novel, at times I felt lost and overwhelme­d, but when I just let the narrative develop and unfold, the story showed me what it wanted to be. And

the best part? I loved the editing process – with guidance from others, really digging down deep into the concepts and constructi­on. Why do

you write? I have a lot of things to say about First Nations history, culture, language and connection. I want to put that on the page for my family and community so we can see ourselves and our stories in the things we read. Do you

have any other jobs? Oh man, I do heaps of jobs to keep afloat. I teach a choir at the Sydney Conservato­rium, I’m a writer-in-residence at a school, I do regular gigs with my band and take any performanc­e, speaking, workshoppi­ng and project work I can. When I write, it’s calming and good for my soul. Will you write another

book? Definitely, and I want to do it completely differentl­y. I want to push myself to write in a style I normally wouldn’t; engage with plot, language and characters in a way that challenges me; and connect to a story I have to search for and shape.

Three books you’ve recently loved? Throat by Ellen Van Neerven, The Rain Heron by Robbie Arnott and Love Objects by Emily Maguire.

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 ??  ?? Scan the QR code to find books from these ace authors – plus some other frankie recommenda­tions.
Scan the QR code to find books from these ace authors – plus some other frankie recommenda­tions.

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