For as long as I can, I want to tell Australian stories (“Australiana dramas” one of my best friends called them). I’ve finished my first adult fiction novel, and it’s inspired by …
I grew up in a country town (a full twenty-five minutes away from Target and in Tassie that’s extreme isolation) with a brother, a blue heeler (Steelo, pictured), a cricket-mad dad who drank beer and drove a Holden ute (also pictured), and a mum who was the daughter of a WWII veteran and who managed to do anything and everything all at once (she’s in there, too). I know what you’re thinking. We really should all just jump back into the VB and Weet-Bix ads that we stepped out from, shouldn’t we? I write about this sort of social environment not only because it’s what I know, but because there’s a story that needs telling. There is so much behind the “Great Australian Stereotype,” and we’ve got a lot of digging to do if we want to get on top of some major social issues. What does Australia expect of men and women when it comes to displaying our emotions? How do we grieve? What drives alcoholism? What is compromising our mental health? These are some of the questions I explore in my writing, and I use my upbringing to add my perspective (and I certainly don’t gloss over anything).
Anyone who knows me, knows that music is very special to me (I probably get a bit too defensive about my music, really). Songs are like little anchors that pin me to people and places and I can take them with me wherever I go, and I love that. The first thing that will draw me to a song is, of course, the lyrics. When you’re down at Irish Murphy’s karaoke, spitting out Khe Sanh, you’re probably not paying too much attention to the words, but you should! Australia is home to some incredibly talented lyricists and my major musical influences are Paul Kelly (I better clarify that Paul Kelly is not my dad. My dad is in the festive-ish jumper (which he definitely wore all year round)), Cold Chisel, Crowded House (yes, yes, Neil Finn is Kiwi, but surely we’ve learnt to share nicely by now?) and The Go-Betweens. For me, Australian songwriting is always a little bit blunt, but very evocative and I hope that some of this style is present in my own writing.
I love my Australian art, too. In my collage, there’s Howard Arkely’s “Suburban Exterior” (the neon house, one of my absolute favourites) and “Earth’s Creation” (top right) by Emily Kame Kngwarreye (one of Australia’s most loved Indigenous artists, who only got serious about painting when she was 80). These two pieces are so different, but I think, even though they have lovely pinks and purples, they also have a certain toughness to them. Every line or stroke looks determined. I think there’s a resourcefulness and a beautiful harshness in Australian art that comes from our landscape. So when I’m describing a setting, I don’t just think about what I see out my window, I also think about art.
The ocean and marine science
Respect the ocean. Because it’s a beast. I love going to the beach and having a swim, but I’m actually not a super confident water baby that enjoys being thrown around like a rag doll. And I get really seasick. My background is marine science and while the ocean fascinates me, it also terrifies me. But that’s okay, and it all bleeds into my fiction writing. My novel has a coastal setting and the unknowns of the ocean, and how intimidating these can be, run throughout.
My writing includes a few love stories. But not in the way you might think. Love can be pretty fickle. One day, it seems like you’ve got the world between your thighs. The next, you’re looking back on romance like it’s a long-gone hobby and saying to yourself, “well … this is something I just don’t do anymore.” So I don’t just write about love and sex, but the lack of it. Because that’s just life.
As wonderful as being in love is, it’s also so important to realise your worth outside of the romantic realm (featured in the collage are two of my wonderful best friends). So I write about friendship, including unconventional friendships. An older man can be friends with a younger woman, a younger man can be friends with an older woman. It doesn’t mean anything funny is going on and it’s important to represent these relationships in literature.
And lastly …
People in their twenties
I think we go through “a second coming of age” in our twenties. At 25, you might realise you’ve picked the wrong career. You might realise your parents are effed up. You might realise you, yourself, are effed up (maybe you’re effed up because your parents are effed up). You might want to change, but it’s hard because you’re already halfway down a path that you chose in what now seems like another life. You’re worried about time and it feels like everyone else is overtaking you and WHY DON’T I HAVE MY SHIT SORTED YET? I want to write about people in their twenties who are relatable and real and can provide some comfort (hopefully).
Phew! If you made it to the end, thank you I hope you like the sound of what I write about, and I hope I’ve inspired you to check out some Australian music, art or literature. There is some wonderful stuff out there.
Keep on having a safe and happy Easter weekend, everyone!