Player Profile: Walter Mason, author of Destination Cambodia

NSWWC_Kosal and WalterWalter Mason, author of Destination Cambodia

Tell us about your latest creation:

“Destination Cambodia” An affectionate journey through one of Asia’s most fascinating destinations.

Destination CambodiaWhere are you from / where do you call home?:

I grew up in a country town in North Queensland, but these days I live in Cabramatta in Sydney’s Southwest.

When you were a kid, what did you want to become?  An author?:

I remember when I was 8 my mother was reading through my Composition Book (remember them?) and she said, “You know what? You write really well. I think you might become a writer.” My grandfather (whose name I inherited) was a keen self-publisher, writing local histories that actually sold quite well. I recently had a sweet email from a man asking me if I was the Walter Mason who wrote books and who he went to school with in 1932. I had to let him down.

Describe your writing environment to us – your writing room, desk, etc.; is it ordered or chaotic?:

My office is tiny, and jammed full of books, I have worked with books all of my life (I have been a bookseller, distributor, marketer and academic)and I have thousands of volumes to show for it. I have an enormous pile above my computer of books that are maked up and that I have to do something with urgently. The one at the bottom of the pile has been there since 2010.

When you’re not writing, who/what do you like to read?:

I love E F Benson and Nancy Mitford. I read something by them every year, over and over again. Perfectly crafted comic novels – you have to be really sharp to pull them off, and Benson and Mitford were the best. I like books about ideas and marketing. I am a Seth Godin groupie. I take copious notes. And then
ignore them.

What was the defining book(s) of your childhood/schooling?:

In order of reading:

“Mr. Galliano’s Circus” by Enid Blyton (I blame this for my love of the limelight)

“The Shark in Charlie’s Window” by Keo Felker Lazarus (a forgotten 70s classic)

“I Own the Racecourse” by Patricia Wrightson (probably the first book I read that was really morally complex)

“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” by Roald Dahl

If you were a literary character, who would you be?:

Hmmm….Father Brown from Chesterton’s mystery stories because I am portly, religious and always wondering why things happen. On a less kind day Ignatius J. Reilly from “A Confederacy of Dunces,” – that portly thing again, plus I have delusions of grandeur. I always imagine I am A J A Symons, the genius who wrote “The Quest for Corvo.” I don’t think he was portly. I wish I was Edith Sitwell or Elinor Glyn – they had style. So did Ouida.

Apart from books, what do you do in your spare time (surprise us!)?:

I meditate, I pray at my local Buddhist temple, I eat (a lot).

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?:

My all-time favourite dish is probably kimchi jigae – a hot and delicous Korean stew. I have that once a week. Drink wise I can never refuse a Long Island Iced Tea.

Who is your hero? Why?:

Oscar Wilde – style, substance and outrageousness. He lived life and made it all worthwhile. I try to ignore the tragic end. I am also a Boy George groupie – have been since I was 12. I love that man!

Crystal ball time – what is the biggest challenge for the future of books and reading?:

The lack of imagination in the industry. Publishers have been too slow to respond to changes in the market and they still operate, more or less, according to models established in the early part of the 20th century.

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Jon Page

Jon Page is a bookseller and author of the Bite the Book Blog.