Tell us about your latest creation:
A Wrong Turn at the Office of Unmade Lists: it won the Most Underrated Book Award for 2013 and was shortlisted for the Aurealis sci-fi prize.
It is 1997 in San Francisco and Simon and Sarah have been sent on a quest to see America: they must stand at least once in every 25-foot square of the country. Decades later, in an Australian city that has fallen on hard times, Caddy is camped by the Maribyrnong River, living on small change from odd jobs, ersatz vodka and memories. She’s sick of being hot, dirty, broke and alone.
Caddy’s future changes shape when her friend, Ray, stumbles across some well-worn maps, including one of San Francisco, and their lives connect with those of teenagers Simon and Sarah in ways that are unexpected and profound.
A meditation on happiness – where and in what place and with who we can find our centre, a perceptive vision of where our world is headed, and a testament to the power of memory and imagination, this is the best of novels: both highly original and eminently readable.
I was born in and grew up in Canberra, and have lived little bits of my life in San Francisco and New Delhi. Now I live in Melbourne.
When you were a kid, what did you want to become? An author?:
When I was a kid I wanted to be tiny and have a kitten to ride on. That turned out to be unfeasible, so for a while I wanted to be a lawyer, then a music therapist, then a journalist. I’m leaning back towards the kitten idea these days.
Describe your writing environment to us – your writing room, desk, etc.; is it ordered or chaotic?:
I write all over the place. On the train, in bed, on the couch, at work (only at lunch time if you’re reading this, boss). Definitely not ordered, but most of the action goes on inside my head so the exterior world isn’t that important.
When you’re not writing, who/what do you like to read?:
Every and all books. I particularly like things with confusing endings, interesting language and puzzles that need figuring out.
What was the defining book(s) of your childhood/schooling?:
The book I read the most times was ‘Alive: the story of the Andes survivors’, by Piers Paul Read. It’s about the planeload of Rugby players who crashed in the Andes and had to eat one another. I was obsessed with it. Tragedy. Good looking young men. Difficult decisions. Heroism. Latin America.
If you were a literary character, who would you be?:
I think Misha the penguin in Andrey Kurkov’s ‘Death and the Penguin’. He’s lost and confused and people think he can solve their problems. He doesn’t know why he’s where he is, and he’s pretty sure he belongs somewhere different.
Apart from books, what do you do in your spare time (surprise us!)?:
I play the clarinet quite badly.
Crystal ball time – what is the biggest challenge for the future of books and reading?:
People have thought the same way about books for a very long time, and most of them don’t think books have much to offer. Authors and publishers can be scared of doing anything too different, but maybe books need the kind of ‘step change’ TV had with The Sopranos. I don’t know what it is, but if we play it safe we won’t find it.