I Dream of Magda, August 08 (Australia) Allen & Unwin, 9781741755015 (Aus, US/Kindle)
This interview was first published in the July 2008 issue of BOOKSELLER+PUBLISHER magazine (c) 2008 Thorpe-Bowker (a division of RR Bowker LLC). See also the review.
You describe it beautifully in the book, but can you tell us a little bit about why it is Magda Szubanski who is featured in the dream sequences?
Basically, I have always been a massive fan of hers. Some of her characters are lodged deep in my psyche, some of her catchphrases I will still occasionally use in everyday conversation with my friends. I can still make myself laugh out loud thinking back to D-generation skits that she was involved with. There’s something too, about the lengths she will go to, to get a laugh—she often makes herself completely vulnerable to the audience, and I guess it’s her willingness and ability to do that that makes me warm to her even more. I use her in the dream sequences because to me, she represents the perfect antidote to the depression and anxiety that Matthew is experiencing.
The main characters have difficulty letting go of the past and moving on after loss. Can you tell about your inspiration for George and Matthew and their journeys?
Well, I think I’ve always been slightly suspicious of people who seem to simply be able to ‘get over’ things instantly—I mean, if nothing affects you so deeply, do you really care about anything in the first place? I will never, for example get over my mother’s death last year. I just won’t. Having said that, I’ve known a great deal of people who have had trouble letting go of pain in their lives, who have trouble letting go of anger, or hatred or sadness. And it’s sad to watch them like that because eventually they become what they won’t let go. And there’s nothing you can do for them. I think George and Matthew are somewhere in between those extremes.
As a Vogel winner you’re obviously young, as are your characters, do you think there is a generational aspect to the book?
Not really, no. The book is more about the family as a unit, not really the difference between different generations of individuals. I don’t really look at ‘young’ and ‘old’ as being that different anyway—it’s all a bit of a myth if you ask me. I’m more interested in the similarities we share with regards to human emotion.
Do you write with a particular audience in mind?
Honestly, no—though perhaps I should. As stupid as this might sound, I tend to try and write books that people will enjoy reading. I’m not interested in creating a literary masterpiece that makes people’s eyes bleed. I’m more interested in creating an engaging story with strong emotional resonance.
Who are some writers that you admire?
I think Anson Cameron is a fantastic writer. I saw him speak at Adelaide Writers’ Week and he was very impressive and very much the real deal. I’m also a big fan of Peter Goldsworthy. I grew up reading Roald Dahl and moved on to Charles Bukowski—go figure—so they are probably kicking around somewhere in my writing subconscious. Well, Charles is probably staggering.
Coming soon – MWF Part 3 + Antony Loewenstein…