Marion von Adlerstein worked as an advertising copywriter in Melbourne, London and New York in the fifties and sixties. Between 1976 and 1998 she held several posts with Vogue Australia publications, including Travel Director. During those years Marion wrote about many subjects, including fashion, beauty and interiors. She is the author of The Passionate Shopper, The Penguin Book of Etiquette and The Freudian Slip.
1. Can you remember the first story you ever wrote and, if so, what was it?
I was in my early twenties, newly married. The story was entitled Aren’t they Sweet? and it was about the difference between how a relationship seemed and how it really was. I sent it to The Ladies Home Journal in America and I can’t remember ever having received a reply.
Only one completed manuscript. It was turned down by the publisher with the words, ‘Marion should stick to non-fiction.’ Fortunately for me, I ignored the advice.
3. What sorts of books do you love to read?
For the past several years, I’ve been stimulated by the fiction of contemporary North American writers: Deborah Eisenberg, Dave Eggers, Michael Chabon, Paula Fox, Alice Munro, Jennifer Egan, Jonathan Lethem, William H Gass (Middle C is wonderful, but I had to give up The Tunnel, his hefty, famous and grubby endurance test, after the first 500 pages.) I can’t write the kinds of books they have written which may be why I’m attracted to them.
But I also love: the mournful works of W.G. Sebald; Amanda Mackenzie Stuart’s biographies of Diana Vreeland and Consuelo and Alva Vanderbilt; Edmund de Waal’s The Hare with Amber Eyes.
I couldn’t imagine collaborating with anyone. I must be too possessive of my words. I don’t show anyone my work until I consider it finished.
5. What are you working on now and next?
A few disparate ideas are scrambling about in my head. I find that I have to lie fallow for a while after my latest novel has been published until I’m so bored with uneventfulness I have to start living in my imagination again.