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Interview.

I did this interview a few months back.

The interview was done by Elizabeth Lardie, who was a student of mine last year... well, as much as anyone is ever a student of mine in a creative writing course, I guess. Teaching creative writing has always struck me as more about getting people to find their own voice and get confident with that so that the whole idea of 'teaching' becomes a slippery one. Anyhow, at the end of the semester Liz handed in a set of real postcards from friends who (if I remember rightly) were traveling through America and there, inbetween talking about how she wasn't replying enough, and they had missed birthdays and so forth, they ended up in New York on September 11th. The last card manages to convey the sense of tragedy and loss with such an understated subtly that even I, cynical and wary of 9/11 stories, was moved.

I did the interview about six months after the semester finished. I had an office at this stage, and Liz and I sat round and talked for about three hours, and I jumped from topic to topic and she kept notes, which as anyone who has talked to me for more than a couple of minutes will know is a dubious prospect. Which perhaps does explain why there are a few problems with the interview, making me, according to Liz, "the victim of her first significant screw up."

It's not that bad, however. It talks about my novels Black Sheep, which'll be published by Prime next year, and my thesis/novel, A Year in the City, which is almost complete and not nearly published. The problem is that the article mashes the two together under the firsts title, which has the curious result of giving you the impression of a third book, or, in my case, the realisation that I'm following a thematic pathway with each larger project that I take on. I was aware of this before, but Liz's piece really drives that to me. I've been thinking about what to do after I finish the thesis and I have been toying with the idea of writing a crime novel, a sword and sorcery/steampunk novel, and american road novel, or with a short dark fantasy novel called Across the Seven Continents of the Underworld which takes the life of the bushranger Matt Brady as its skeleton.* I like the fact that it'll be short, something that won't take me four years like A Year in the City and which will be a bit more straight, narrative wise. It's also, in a way, the postscript to the themes of Black Sheep and A Year in the City and that appeals to me, too.

Plus, I like the title.

That said, who knows what I'll end up doing once this doctorate thing is done. Money looks good, but that requires a job, and that brings up a whole bunch of issues. It's easy to be unemployed with a doctorate.

Whatever. The article is worth checking out, however, because despite the mash and an error that with Peter Carey's name (which Liz tells me wasn't there when she handed it in) it's interesting. The way to tell the difference between the two books in the article is pretty simple: anything sounding futuristic and vaguely dystopian is Black Sheep and anything sounding realistic and the now and dealing with Sydney is A Year in the City. I'm not sure how I come across in the end, but I think this is partly because I'm not used to seeing myself referred to in the third person. At any rate, I don't sound like I plan to torch the Australian literary scene and I don't call all editors crack addicts, so that has got to be a change for me and how I'm publically viewed.

But then you can't do that shit every day of the week.




* And ninebelow made a comment yesterday about how Peter Carey's The True History of the Kelly Gang is a Western. I don't agree with that--at least, I don't think so--and now I'm having all these thoughts about Westerns and bushrangers and frontier writing. It'll likely pass.

Comments

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jack_ryder
Aug. 18th, 2005 03:28 am (UTC)
It's sobering to see what I would have thought to be one of Australia's most famous authors' name spelt consistently wrong. I'm sure it wasn't Liz's error, as it sounds like a phonetic error (a mishearing - and perhaps an interesting conflation with John Kerry.)

There was a good New Zealand western called Utu - I think it's possible to do a decent Australian one - except for the fact that our sheriffs would look like uptight prigs. Course I'm talking about films. There's been a steady market for pulp westerns in Australia for ages - the "Larry and Stretch" books and the books by Marshall Grover are all Australian.
benpeek
Aug. 18th, 2005 04:20 am (UTC)
according the liz, it got changed by someone at the place. she did warn me during the interview that, somehow, somewhere, a stupid mistake is always made by the editors with the australian things.

i've never read the pulp westerns in australia. are those the cheap things in the newsagents? i always just assumed they were american. i think the problem with a lot of westerns in aus is that they become something else, and simply stop being westerns.

or maybe i just associate too much of the western with the american plains and outback.
jack_ryder
Aug. 18th, 2005 04:52 am (UTC)
They're the cheap things in newsagents - one of the last holdouts from the post-WW2 pulp boom (the other holdout is, of course, romance.) I remember talking to "Marshall Grover" on the phone, he lives somewhere in Northern Sydney.

I wonder though if there is something intrinsically American about westerns - bring civilisation to a lawless land, the noble hero uncorrupted by greed symbolic of the entry of the New World, etc, etc.

We certainly don't appear to have characters with the mythic sweep of Wyatt Earp, or Jesse James, or Jonah Hex (okay, he's fictional, but still) unless we do some more promotion of our bushranging past and the Native Police (which is not exactly the proudest moment in Australian history.)
benpeek
Aug. 18th, 2005 05:06 am (UTC)
actually, we've got better characters that wyatt earp and jesse james. ignoring ned kelly, who was pretty unsuccessful, we've got the hall gang, which help up over two hundred coaches and once held a two for three days, while living off the help of farmers until, finally, the populace turned on them. there's bold jack donahue, who was shot in the head and, afterwards, had cups and pipes made of him to celebrate his achievements. there's matt brady, who when he was hanged, had weeping women. and that's just off the top of my head.

we've some excellent bushrangers who are fully epic. we just need to get them out beyond ned kelly.
ashamel
Aug. 18th, 2005 04:02 am (UTC)
About the Western, you better get in quick before the Nick Cave movie comes out.
benpeek
Aug. 18th, 2005 04:17 am (UTC)
why, is it called the same thing?
ashamel
Aug. 18th, 2005 04:19 am (UTC)
No, it's just a deliberate attempt to do a 'bushranger western' (as I understand it), so it came to mind.
benpeek
Aug. 18th, 2005 04:22 am (UTC)
fair enough. the seven continents bit wouldn't really be a western or bushranger book. it'd just be weird (you know, new weird ;)). i'd have to put more time into something like a bushranger western. i think i'd use the hall gang if i did it.
jack_ryder
Aug. 18th, 2005 04:57 am (UTC)
BTW - my wife's favourite bushranger (as a librarian who once worked in a public library she became an expert on the subject) was Alexander Pierce - a Tasmanian bushranger who became a cannibal, often escaping captivity with others who found themselves becoming field rations. She's impressed that he apparently harboured with an ancestor of mine - but no anthrophagy ensued.
benpeek
Aug. 18th, 2005 05:09 am (UTC)
yeah, i've heard of him. he wasn't all that impressive beyond the eating of his buddies, though.
bodhichitta0
Aug. 18th, 2005 12:07 pm (UTC)
'Black Sheep' sounds really interesting.
benpeek
Aug. 19th, 2005 02:01 am (UTC)
thanks. i hope enough people think it, too.
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