Tell us about your latest creation:
‘The Heart Radical’ is, at its heart (ahem), an exploration of the truth of the Jesuit saying about giving them a child for 7 years and they will deliver the man. (I wonder if they are still saying that!) It takes place during the Malayan Emergency in 1951, interwoven with the experiences of two of its main characters who meet again in London later in life and try to make sense of their childhood before making a go of a possible relationship.
Born and raised in Sydney’s inner west and, after spending a lifetime in other neighbourhoods and countries, now back watering my roots by the harbour in the inner west.
When you were a kid, what did you want to become? An author?:
When I was a kid I wanted to become an adult. I was pretty sure I would work it out then. As it happened, it took a lot longer. A lot longer!
What do you consider to be your best work? Why?:
Surely it is not for a writer to say what is their ‘best’. I can only nominate a personal favourite. And that is my second book, ‘Ludo’, because it is more personal than any of the others.
Obviously, I would like to think my ‘best’ is yet to come!
Describe your writing environment to us – your writing room, desk, etc.; is it ordered or chaotic?:
Like yin and yang, a bit of both. Everything in balance. Chaos on the fringe, order in the middle. When it gets out of balance, I stack.
When you’re not writing, who/what do you like to read?:
Of course, I read a lot for research, so a great deal of non–fiction. But a writer is always researching, so when I read for pleasure I try to ferret out writers I may have missed along the way. Currently I am catching up on Ken Kesey.
What was the defining book(s) of your childhood/schooling?:
I can date my epiphany to ‘Wuthering Heights’. After that I was never again interested in ‘books for boys’. What was adventure compared to raw emotion? Next stop before Damascus was ‘Catch 22’. I read that three times in a row before putting it aside. And picked it up again a year later, and a few times since. On the other hand, I read ‘Catcher in the Rye’ when I was 16 and couldn’t work out what all the fuss was about? That Holden Caulfield — so what?
If you were a literary character, who would you be?:
Ulysses, perhaps. Always enjoyed a good odyssey. Or maybe that schoolmaster that Holden Caulfield pays a visit to early in Catcher. It would give me a chance to say what I think of him. You have to be cruel to be kind to dumb animals sometimes.
Apart from books, what do you do in your spare time (surprise us!)?:
Not so surprising: old movies are an eternal fascination. Coming across a film noir I’ve not seen before is my eureka moment. Other than that, I’m always happy with an odyssey along lonely roads in the western states of the US. That’s a character I could be: Tod or Buz in that ancient ‘Route 66’ TV series. Not literature, perhaps, but interesting stories. And that Corvette!!
What is your favourite food and favourite drink?:
My favourite is the Peranakan food we eat in Penang. Sharp, hot, sour, exciting, exquisite. Nowhere else in Southeast Asia, not even Thailand or Vietnam, can match Penang. I drink
mostly water, but when not so prosaic, I would choose ketla, a fresh lime and sour plum drink in Penang.
Who is your hero? Why?:
Ummmmm … Haven’t really had one since I was a kid and my father used to sing the praises of Keith Miller. ‘Do you know how he set a cricket field, son?’ ‘No, Dad.’ ‘Scatter, was all he’d say.’ Bloody hell! There was a man who understood leadership. Other than him – John Curtin, Gough Whitlam, Paul Keating. You might see a pattern developing there.
Crystal ball time – what is the biggest challenge for the future of books and reading?:
Keeping narrative alive. By that I mean stories that are longer than 144 characters, or a blog post. Stories – more than laws or achievements or history – are what have always defined the world’s various cultures: Shakespeare, Balzac, Goethe, Mark Twain. Henry Lawson! However they are delivered – printed, digital or around the campfire – we risk
losing long form narrative. What’s left to tell us about Czarist Russia? Plenty of Tolstoy.