Thursday, December 30, 2010

Tasmanian Trip

Last blog for the year, and a bit of catching up to do. THE TASMANIA TRIP happened in the first week of July which I know is a long time past but you know, what’s time but a crazy human construct reflecting a need to fragment the whole, to move back and forth rather than to stay still in the now. Mmmm, my conflictual relationship with time, maybe I’ll write about this one day. And this trip was an important one for me as a writer because I had a conversation with Paige Turner at Fullers Bookshop in Hobart. I was born in Hobart and Fullers was the first bookshop I went into, probably where my first book was bought. And two school friends, Janet and Bron, flew down from Canberra for the occasion. We were best friends in high school. This is a photo of the three of us.

They still haven’t read In-human, which I find intriguing seeing’s we were friends when we were the same age as the main characters. Aren’t they curious about whether they turned up in the story? I think reading a horror novel for someone who doesn’t read horror is a hard thing to do. When I tell people I write horror often the first response is I don’t read horror. The book is dismissed straight away, and this decision’s been made without ever actually having read any horror. Robin, another school friend, asked at the Fullers’ event why I called what I wrote horror. She had read In-human, picking it up as a fifty cent bargain at a garage sale before the book’d even got into bookshops! I read an e-mail from her the day of the launch saying how much she liked it. On the night she suggested that I shouldn’t label it horror.

I think what she was getting at was that I was losing an audience because people would come at it with preconceptions, and this would stop them from even considering reading the book. And it does. Horror is not serious literature. There’s something, well, wrong with it, both writing and reading it. The dark side remains hidden for a reason…It is a good idea, always, I reckon to read a book without assumptions or prejudice, to let the story be told for the first time and, in a way, to learn how to read all over again. Some books demand this, and they make my heart sing when they do. Novel means new and I take this seriously as a writer – the task is always about doing something new. And at the same time being true to the story. The mix is heady.

So the day I flew in I checked out some bookshops and the three I went into each had a stack of In-humans, all facing out. At eye level. As a writer I’d just thought about getting published. I did not think beyond this to reviews and festival invites, shelf placement and stock levels; the path to getting read is ridiculously treacherous. Lots of little decisions being made that can mean few ever even get to be aware of the book’s existence. But there’s something about reading a story set in your own landscape. Here’s a photo of me in front of Fullers Bookshop, and if you look carefully...

I also discovered the best horror collection in any bookshop I’ve been to. Richard Sprent has done an amazing job at Ellison Hawker in Liverpool Street. I spent a fair bit of time and money there. He is passionate about horror. His wife actually wrote a review of In-human for The Mercury. He’s a horror fan and she doesn’t like it, prefers someone like Tim Winton. We shook our heads at this. Her review is one of my favourites even though the dislike came across. It was funny and strange in its style. One of the problems with In-human, according to A Forward, was that it was written in a first person style that was disconcerting, and this whole review was written in third person, as if to make a point. And reading In-human made her feel sick. Woozy.

To physically affect someone with words is something I think horror can really enable. It can push you to a point where you just can’t sit still. Horror movies do the same. Your brain is bypassed; there’s just body and emotion. This has been pretty well my whole experience with writing my current novel. I can’t sit still. I’m up and about continually, and when I am sitting writing the laptop is to my side. I don’t look at it full on; darkness can be hard to face. Imagine watching a horror movie, squirming on the couch, making a cup of tea, yelling out; that’s how I’ve been writing this year. It’s not how I wrote the last book. I’ve been told In-human is confronting, and I kinda get this even though I don't really feel it myself, but what I’m writing now is confronting for me. I’ve been meaning to post some reviews but until this happens you can read Anna Forwards’ and some other ones at Transit Lounge website.

So, the conversation was set to start at 6pm and at 6pm there was just me and Paige and Bron and Janet. We waited fifteen minutes for another friend to arrive and in the meantime maybe twenty turned up. Phew. It went well. Paige asked thoughtful questions and I got to read from my new novel, which I love doing. I love the voice of my current narrator and reading from In-human has actually been difficult to do because of this. A few people in the audience asked questions and then I did some signing. Paige hosts a radio show about books on Edge Radio, Tuesday nights, and also has a book blog. Both are worth checking out.

The next day my friends shouted me to Moorilla Estate for lunch. This was exceptionally nice eating, and the service was good too. A view of the Derwent, Chigwell. Sadly the art collection, which focuses on death and sex, is not opening till January next year. There was some major building construction going on to house it. Another trip. We stayed six hours, drank a lot of Moorilla wine. And I am not a wine drinker. Here’s a photo of me finishing off a glass.

Janet’s brother came picked us up. We got home and then it was such a beautiful night out me and Janet walked up to the milkbar, took some travellers. Ended up buying a packet of tobacco and climbing over the fence to the park opposite. Sat drinking beer and smoking like we were teenagers. Stayed up till three in the morning talking. Like time didn’t exist.

I love Tasmania. We drove down south to the Hartz mountains and then to Hastings Caves, ended up at the thermal baths just on closing time. Who would bring togs on such a cold winter’s day? So the park ranger closed up the gate and let us go skinny dipping. It was the best swim I’ve had since Apollo Bay last year. Here’s a photo of me in the pool.

And then the day before we left we went up the top of the mountain to muck round in the snow. This is a photo of me and Janet’s daughter Ellen having a good time.

Tasmania, land of extremes hey? We both ended up going on a boat later, out on the Derwent because there’d been a whale sighted. A Southern Right Whale, right up near the jetties. Sadly we didn’t get to see it but we did see a lot of other wildlife. A White-breasted Eagle that had to now be called a White-bellied Eagle, which got us talking about how Fairy Penguins had to now be called Little Penguins. It’s true, all the signs are being changed because the use of the word fairy is offensive to some. And so, apparently, is breast. This is what I was told.

And that was my holiday in Tasmania. That was my first author’s tour. Now you know all about it.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Eddie turns fifteen

My beautiful friend Eddie is fifteen today!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

How a gnostic meets a demon

I’ve been meaning to write about my trip to Hobart in June, when I talked with Paige Turner at Fullers Bookshop, but all I’ve wanted to write is my novel, and poetry. How much the human body contains is really moving ahead, into very weird territory. I’m happy spending time there. And in the last few weeks I’ve been painting - illustrating the poems I’ve written this year. So I thought I’d post a poem and painting in the meantime….

How a gnostic meets a demon.

If you meet a demon

in your dream, sing it a song

or show it a goat;

keep the company of an agave plant.

Sooner or later

the devil will reveal his face.

Nothing stays hidden forever.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

I really enjoyed the launch - I’d left open the possibility for this to happen but it came as a surprise regardless because I was, you know, pretty nervous. There were a lot of friends there but also people I didn’t know. I didn’t really expect this. Where did they come from? There was a woman who’d travelled all the way from Warburton to get a copy for her daughter. There was another mum doing the same, and a writer from Kingsville, a physics student from Seddon, a mate of Barry’s….Doing the drawing was a good plan because I got to talk with everyone while I drew. I liked the signing part very much.

Toni Jordan did a wonderful job launching – she told us about how reading In-human had inspired her to ring up her mum and ask what she was like as an adolescent. Toni wasn’t a teenage werewolf but sounds like she had some of the symptoms. It was a very funny and generous speech. Barry Scott, who published In-human, also said nice things – how important it is to publish and read Australian works because this is a way we can stand back and reflect on ourselves, always a good thing to do but especially now when boundaries are blurring.

The room was very hot and I know some had to leave because it became unbearable – I have been told by a few people since that there was a little air conditioner up the back and can now imagine a small crowd huddling around it. I tuned out of the heat straight off – the power of the mind is amazing. Thank you to all of you who came and to those who stood in the queue in this sweaty little room waiting for me to sign your copy. You helped me celebrate and enjoy a very big event in my life.

Here are a few pictures that were taken at the launch.

This is me signing.

This is Clinton Green – he made my website, is a horror writer, a musician and also my neighbour.

And this one is of me and Deb Crabtree, another friend who writes horror.

Oh, and this is a blurry picture of my wonky little drawing and signature.

PS. There were quite a few writers at the launch, some published and some not – those who haven’t yet got there I hope that one day soon I can come enjoy your book launch.

Friday, March 12, 2010

In-human is being launched on Saturday 20 March at 2pm by Toni Jordan, who wrote the very funny novel Addition, at the Sun Bookshop in Yarraville.

I'm getting pretty anxious about the big event and have had my first nightmare and sleepless night. I swing from wanting no one to turn up and then worrying no one actually will turn up. All my friends tell me it's a celebration, that it's exciting and I should enjoy but my body gets confused - translates excitement into anxiety. Oh well - I will be there and I reckon Toni will definitely be entertaining; maybe I could make an accidental joke. I'll read a bit too, and I've been practising a drawing if you want me to sign your book. It'd be nice if you could make it.

Monday, February 1, 2010

I received my first copy of In-human as a book and I did not imagine the excitement it would bring – it’s been such a long and hard time trying to get it published that there was no joy left in it for me anymore, I didn’t think so anyway. And then I got to hold this beautiful book and I fell in love again. Went home immediately and read it from start to finish in one day. I read it like it was the first time, which sounds crazy but I could not put it down. I had to keep turning the pages to find out what was going to happen next. I really did not expect this to happen because of course I’m familiar with all the events. But reading a bound book is, I found out, a very different experience from reading a stack of loose pages.

In-human is like a fairy tale for me – I have been able to read it countless times without ever losing the joy of it but by the last edit I was over the whole thing. And this made me sad because we’ve had such a long relationship. I started writing this novel twelve years ago. And the story continues. The novel I’m writing now, How much the human body contains, is Coralee’s take on events. She’s the antagonist in In-human and for me the hardest character to get to know, so I had to start writing this novel to find out about her.

At first (like for six years) I struggled not just because In-human wasn’t finished yet, which was significant, but also because Coralee’s a very dark and complicated character. Often it’s been extremely hard for me to sit with her story but in the last few weeks I had this amazing insight into what drives her and so now it’s got easier for me to let her speak. She’s remarkable and I hope she keeps talking. The excerpts in this blog are some of the things she’s said so far.

In-human is 288 pages long, the font is Fairlight and I think the story has got an excellent pace and is very funny in parts. It’s also sad. Each time I’ve read it I’ve found out something new, so it’s a simple story but there’s a lot to it. In-human is published by Transit Lounge and will be released around the start of April 2010. I’ll post the launch date when there is one.