Here are a few occasional comments on the twists and turns of Pat's writing life, and on the world of words which absorbs us all.
Family history, I am learning, is full of surprises, not least that one branch of ours stretches back to Ireland – news to us all. Aiming to tackle my total ignorance about the Irish in Australia, I picked up a battered book called just that by Patrick O’Farrell. By the time I finished the second paragraph of the introduction, I had to collect my breath: what an intellect! Here are a few of the excerpts that had my head spinning:
… ‘Precisely who, and what, shall be called up from the ranks of the dead? Those Irish and that Irishness that came to Australia? that Irish Australia they found and made there? their descendants?’ … ‘an elusive complexity rules …’
… ‘The Ireland of 1900 was a whole creation away from that of 1800’ … ‘these were ambivalent, ambiguous people, thinking Irish, talking English; hating the tyranny, serving the tyrant’ … ‘each arriving Irish generation brought a new phase of Irish experience, its Ireland frozen for it at the moment of departure’ …’within Australia a procession of Irish histories, Irish comprehensions, proceed at once’ …
Rich reads are not always easy reads, and Professor O’Farrell’s history is no exception. This is a book to be savoured, certainly not skimmed.
Like many others, I have been battling a debilitating respiratory bug for weeks. But one event I just didn’t want to miss was that author talk at Carindale library. So armed with my doctor’s assurance that I was no longer infectious, plus cough suppressant, lozenges and water at the ready, I had the great pleasure of meeting a group of about thirty people interested in reading and writing.
Like all groups I meet in libraries, there are some familiar faces and some new faces; there are readers, and there are always writers at various stages of their career – tackling the first draft of the first novel; poised to publish their first book; seasoned hands who have been writing and publishing as long as I have. What they share is enthusiasm, determination and, of course, a passion for books.
I decided to talk about what the right brain (the creative juices) and the left brain (the organiser) contribute to the fiction writing process, a topic that continues to fascinates me. It seemed to strike a chord that led to a lively discussion. I always enjoy meeting readers – as I have said many times before, where would we writers be without you?
The holiday has been and gone (but more of that some other time) … and here I am back home, getting my head around what happens next. On THURSDAY 17 AUGUST at 10am I’ll be speaking at CARINDALE LIBRARY in Brisbane, about my recently published book ‘On the Edge’ which is currently finding its way into libraries around Queensland: not crime this time, this Townsville-based story explores how two women respond very differently to crises in their lives. You can find out more on the ‘Other Books’ page of this website. As well, I’d like to share some of the strange twists and turns I (and my brain, of course!) have taken on my journey into writing fiction. Live and learn!
I do hope some of you will be able to come along – with a friend, if you like. This is a free event, but the Library does require bookings; please phone 3407 1490.
Why do we do it? With bombs exploding randomly around the world and cars ramming into innocent pedestrians, why do we persist in leaving the safety and comfort of home to breathe different air, meet different people and see different sights? Despite the interminable flights to get from here to anywhere, Australians are just unstoppable. With the advent of the northern summer it’s on for young and old Down Under – the backpackers, the car renters, the train travellers, the bus tourists, the passengers on cruise ships – we’re off!
Not all nations share this enthusiasm for travel. The southern Europeans have always seemed to prefer to stay home. Over the years I have watched the changing tourist scene with great interest – the rise and fall of American and Japanese tourism (is that about money?), now replaced by a surge of Chinese and Indian travellers along with growing numbers of Korean groups.
So what drives us? Adventure? Curiosity? Escape from routine? Wanting personal insights? The wish to be gobsmacked? Whatever it may be, the itch is still with me and once again I am packing my bags … and my camera …
My website has been down for nearly a fortnight. My longstanding and (up until now) very reliable website host reported that one of its servers had collapsed. They were working on it, they said; it was their problem, so there was nothing I could do. This drove home to me how very interdependent we are in these days of connectivity. As an author who sells work on-line, I rely on a team – some are known and visible to me, but most are neither. These are the people who provide the expertise behind the website platforms, behind the amazing infrastructure of e-books, behind the internet payment systems; they convert my books from Word into mobi files which load onto Amazon and Smashwords. Most of them work for services which operate for twenty-four hours a day, so most would have their share of unsociable hours. All of them are highly skilled.
Whether I know you or not, whether we’ve ever communicated or not, you’re all vital to my world of interdependency.
National Theatre Live is such a gift – the best of the best of live theatre brought to us from Southbank, London, on cinema screens around Australia (and the rest of the world of course). Their new production of Peter Shaffer’s ‘Amadeus’ is simply stunning – breathtaking – and indescribably powerful. What towering imaginations and talents were involved here: in the concept, the writing, the production, the casting, the acting, the divine music … and the rest.
I’m simply lost for words.
What is kitsch? My photography group didn’t know the answer to that one, when we were dreaming up our next topic of the month. Well, back in 1980 Barry Humphries wrote a book on it. He ought to know – his early manifestation of Dame Edna Everidge was one hundred percent kitsch, before he started taking her (and himself) so seriously.
The most common, if somewhat laboured, definition is something like: ‘art, objects and design considered to be in poor taste because of excessive garishness or sentimentality, but sometimes appreciated in an ironic or knowing way’. That doesn’t mention that it can be just a bit of fun.
Humphries did include a few learned quotes on the topic, including a lengthy one in French(!). D.H. Lawrence had the last word: ‘All creative art must rise out of a specific soil, and flicker with a sense of place.’ That brings me straight to the photograph above of the Big Pelican on the Noosa River foreshore, perfectly placed to mirror its surroundings with tongue in cheek and eye on the flocks of pelicans following the fishing boats and hanging around the jetty.
I believe the same goes for writing: an authentic sense of place defines the characters, their actions and reactions, their options and choices. It is part of who they, and we, are.
It’s all too easy for authors to focus on getting that story in their head on to the screen, or getting that new book out and about. You don’t actually give much thought to what’s happening with your books that are already out in the wider world of readers.
This was brought home to me by a tentative request which turned up recently from a private library, which operates solely on donations. Apparently a few years ago someone donated the full set of my five ‘Annie Bryce mysteries’. A couple of those books, they told me, had been read to death and were now so bedraggled they were having to withdraw them from circulation. Would I consider donating replacement copies?
Read to death? Does that mean loved to death? Let’s hope so! – what more could an author want? Of course I will replace the books. It’s a salutary reminder that readers are making their choices out there, and talking to each other, and sometimes my books are part of those conversations. As I have said before, it’s the readers who are the lifeblood of writing.
The print copies of my new novel ‘On the Edge’ have finally arrived – it’s been a long journey to get this particular manuscript between the covers. The novel is set in the tropical coastal city of Townsville in North Queensland, which to me is dominated by the ever-changing spectacle of Magnetic Island out in Cleveland Bay. Somehow that island creates illusions … it seems to change its colour, shape and density by the hour; sometimes it looks close enough to the mainland to swim there (a very bad idea in waters infested by sharks and stingers!), sometimes it looms in the far distance like a foreign continent. And sometimes it disappears entirely in misty clouds.
Magnetic Island fascinated my protagonist Ruth as much as it does me, so naturally I had to visit the island to get the feel of it. For her, of course. When she ended up living there for six months she saw it through a different prism entirely. Here we see the old jetty at Picnic Point with the mainland in the background, looking a lot further away than it actually is. The tropical colours are as vibrant as always. Or is that another illusion?
Well perhaps you should read ‘On the Edge’ and find out for yourself!