Player Profile: Anita Heiss, author of Tiddas

Photo Credit: Amanda James
Photo Credit: Amanda James

Anita Heiss, author of Tiddas

Tell us about your latest creation:

My new novel is called TIDDAS. Tiddas, for those who don’t know, is a generic Aboriginal term for your close female friends, those who are like sisters to you. And the tiddas in my novel comprise five women (three Koori, two non-Indigenous) who were born, raised and knocked around together in Mudgee (Wiradjuri country). Over the course of their lives they all move to Brisbane and as they approach their 40s they are each going through a particular journey that puts pressure on themselves and each other. The novel looks at the strengths and challenges of life-long friendships, and deals with a range of issues including substance abuse, identity, unplanned pregnancies and failed attempts at pregnancy.

The structure of the novel revolves around monthly book club meetings, with most titles opening up group discussion of Aboriginal arts, culture, politics and social justice. Identity in all forms is also discussed and unpacked.

For me, Tiddas is also a story that celebrates sameness – what makes us the same as women, the shared human emotions we experience, how we all value our friendships and how many of us are people who like to read.

Where are you from / where do you call home?:

Sydney is my home but my mob are from central NSW, Wiradjuri country – Tumut, Brungle, Cowra and Griffith.

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

As a kind under ten, I wanted to be a nun, then an air-hostess and at one point I wanted to be Tina Louise (Ginger from Gilligans Island). As a teenager I was a great penpal, but in my youth I never imagine that I would be an author.

What do you consider to be your best work? Why?:

I think that my latest novel TIDDAS is my best to date. I guess I hope that after a number of novels my storytelling has improved. TIDDAS is also something that is also very close to me and I think that passion and love for it comes through in the work.

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

I’m currently at a beautiful desk my late father made. And I try to make my office tidy, really I do, but I have paper and books and chocolate and notes usually all over my desk while writing. I have a gorgeous big computer screen which in recent years has made a difference, especially when I spent on average eight hours a day in front of a computer. I also have a vision board in eyesight to remind me of what my goals are for the year.

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

I read across genres – for example, this year alone I’ve read fiction, kids fiction, a couple of picture books, non-fiction and aI’m just about to delve into and anthology of Indigenous writing from a group in Canberra. The list looks like this: Home by Toni Morrison, Dear Life by Alice Munro, The Swan Book by Alexis Wright, How Successful People Lead, by John C. Maxwell, Alfie’s Search for Destiny, David Hardy, The Spotty Dotty Lady, Josie Boyle, illustrated by Fern Martins, Liar Bird, Lisa Walker, Dead Man’s Gold, by Michael Torres, illustrated by Sharyn Egan, By Close of Business: Us Mob Writing (anthology).

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

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain – because it was the only book we read at school that talked about race and race relations.

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

At 45 I took up running. Mid-life crisis? You decide. I also love to chill at the beach, a LOT!

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?:

Favourite bad food is chocolate, favourite good food is the humble banana

Who is your hero? Why?:

My Mum – she is strong, kind, always there for me, and she’s good for laugh.

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

I think competition with electronic media – hand held games etc. A lot of kids have a game in their hands constantly, rather than a book. I think nurturing that love of reading in our young people is one of the biggest challenges.

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