|Born||14 October 1950 (age 66)
|Occupation||Novelist, teacher of creative writing|
|Genre||General fiction, historical fiction, short stories|
A culture produces ideas which are being explored, which of interest to that culture at that moment. And I think one of the things a writer can do is to take those ideas and go a bit further with them.
Each language has its own take on the world. That's why a translation can never be absolutely exact, and therefore, when you enter another language and speak with its speakers, you become a slightly different person; you learn a different sort of world.
One of the things I love about writing is the way you can use what you know and what you've experienced, without actually writing about yourself. I've given many of my experiences and perceptions to many of the characters in the book, but none of them is me.
I would never write a sentence that didn't have a nice rhythm, or at least I wouldn't leave it to be published like that. It seems to me that prose mustn't be prosaic.
Words are a pretty blunt instrument. There's always going to be slippage between the words and the infinite complexities of a thought. As a writer, I find that frustrating, but as a social animal, I wouldn't have it any other way.
Nothing much interested me other than playing with language and telling stories and doing something with the wonders of the world around me.
I've always had a problem with conventional punctuation of dialogue because it does seem to me to set it off too much from the narrative. I mean, in life, things don't stop while somebody says something, and then stuff starts up again; it's all happening at once.
Australia lives with a strange contradiction – our national image of ourselves is one of the Outback, and yet nearly all us live in big cities. Move outside the coastal fringe, and Australia can feel like a foreign country.
I do feel as if… Look, I think I'm a very kind of ordinary person, and it seems to me that things that are of interest to me will probably be of interest to other people. I'm not exceptional; I don't have exceptional thoughts.
When I went to university in Colorado, I was encouraged to write very innovative, experimental things, and some of the short stories in 'Bearded Ladies' are a little bit experimental.
I love to write a book out of questions; in fact, I think it's the only way my writing can operate, if there's something I don't understand.
I read a lot of poetry, and I love what it does with language. I love music, too, and I think there's probably no coincidence there, that the rhythm of the words is almost as important as the words themselves, and when you can get the two working together, which usually takes me about 20 goes, I feel a huge satisfaction.
'The Secret River' began because, at the age of 50, I suddenly realised I knew nothing about how my own family had got its foothold in Australia.
For years I've wanted to write about the Australian countryside, but, like most Australians, I've only got a tourist's knowledge of it. I thought that if I disobeyed that basic rule of writing – write about what you know – I'd write a thin and inauthentic book.
I think with all my books, language has been their subject as much as anything else. Language can elide or displace or sideline whole groups of people. You can't necessarily change the way language is used, but if it becomes something you're conscious of… that gives you a certain power over it.