I've been busy finishing first drafts and making school visits this last month, but I've still had time to file a few pieces here and there.
For The New Daily, I indulged my inner music geek and wrote a piece celebrating 20 Years of Britpop. They actually asked me to write about the anniversary of Kurt Cobain's death, but everyone else seemed to have that covered already. I also filed a short piece about Record Store Day Australia. With my film critic hat on, I waxed lyrical about George Clooney. I can't remember why.
For Screen Education, I wrote about gender in sci-fi and Gravity, a film I very much enjoyed last year. It's available to read (for free) here.
Last year, I took part in a festival event called Fight Night, in which myself and more notable authors (Libba Bray and Garth Nix) went up against some emerging authors for a fiction slam down. The theme I was given was Romance. This caused me much anguish. I spent weeks trying to think of something romantic. When I no longer had any time left to think, I quickly reworked a piece I'd written when I was 21. Actually, I rewrote most of it on the tram to the event, but I can't find my scribbled-on copy.
This version is something of a compromise, which I share to make my blog feel less neglected. Let's call it Over Our Bodies. It's a bit over-written and angsty and doom-laden and earnest, but it was written in 1998. Those were the sort of times we were having in 1998. Myself, I find it quite funny. When I read it out, there were laughs, which is all I've ever wanted from my writing.
In short, it's about the end of a romance. Which, to me, is more interesting than the start. Something that irritates me about (some) YA fiction is the assumption that teenage love is forever love. Madness. I'd love to write a book about what happens after the happy ending. Maybe later.
It’s hard to remember how the fights began. He comes to suspect she would rather fight than not. But he too is implicated in crimes of escalation. A gesture, a willing misinterpretation, a row. Some evenings everything is a symptom of something else. Bitter feuds about good and evil arise from tiny disputes over sitcoms. The trivial becomes the essential, moral lines drawn with the fervour of fundamentalists and then crossed at will. Arguments are shapeless and violent, annexing whole continents of disputed territory. The next night, the argument is reversed; the territory reclaimed.
These are the things they fought about:
A missed turn.
Whose fault it was neither could decide which film to rent.
A left turn.
Whose mother was needier.
A fucking hook turn.
Which of them was most judgmental.
Slamming a car door.
Holding a door open.
Whose turn it was to apologise.
Leaving a party.
Staying at a party.
New Year’s Eve.
Whether Morrissey could sing.
When David Bowie turned crap.
The Smiths again.
Which of them was Withnail. And which of them was I.
Which of them was most broken.
Which of them wanted to be most broken.
They fight in public for sport. Tearing themselves apart with glee. In cafés. In pubs. In supermarkets. In cinemas. In car parks. On the first night of a weekend away, in a small country town, outside a fish and chip shop. Turning boxer’s circles in the middle of the street. A crowd applauding from the kerb. Headlights ringing in the next round.
Afterwards, her watching sister says: You were enjoying that.
Now it is merely what they do, a mid-to-late evening ritual. Repeating the same scenes as if they are only rehearsing, trying to get them right. Love is never in question. Love raises the stakes. When love isn’t doubted, everything else is, and both of them are pushing. Pushing to find spaces where one of them ends and the other begins; where pain starts and the pleasure is done.
I like it when you’re angry, she says. There is sweat on her top lip.
It reminds me you’ve got guts.
I hate you.
I love you.
Love is thick, love is sticky. Hot jam in the veins.
I love you, he says. She says. I love you. I can’t stop. I want to stop. I hate it. I can’t.
I love you. These are heavy words, dropped on tight air, pulling them into each other, onto each other, forever. I love you.
The happy times are nothing. A few weeks of cautious peace, old smiles and new leaves, before an abrupt resumption of hostilities. They wear each other down to the foundations and then keep digging. Neither can remember what they’re looking for. Drilling into empty graves that only spit out dust and memories. They are ghosts now.
I’ve just remembered who you are, he says one morning, sitting up in her bed. It’s summer, not too long before Christmas. The honeyed scent of jacaranda wafts through the flywire.
I can see you. The girl from school.
She says: I think I remember you too.
He says: I’m sorry, although he can’t remember a fight.
She says: So am I.
But it is too late. Already they are fading from view. By lunchtime, they are ghosts again.
Every day, he wakes up further from her. At night, he lies sleepless in her bed and wonders what keeps him there. What leads any ghost to haunt the same house, across endless nights? Pain, he thinks. Pain and fear. Fear that everything might mean nothing if the hauntings ever stop.
Today I hosted a webchat with three young writers about their experiences writing (and living) online. I was deeply impressed by the thought and depth with which the teens responded to questions. I'd recommend watching the video (tech glitches and all) to anyone mildly interested in how teenagers are adapting to living with technology, their attitude to reading and what they expect from authors in this digital age.
Listeners and readers of my work might have worked out I had a bit of a Smiths obsession when I was younger. I think they remain a crucial rite of passage for most intelligent, sensitive teenagers of good taste. Indeed, I had a weird moment recently when revisiting Perth and I witnessed a group of 15-year-olds strutting down the street, with Boy With The Thorn In His Side blaring out from a shoulder-slung ghetto blaster. While I was glad The Smiths are still relevant to today's teens, this actually put me out a little. Even though I was five when The Smiths formed and, if I'm honest, discovered them off the back of Suede, they felt like my band. How dare these young pups try to claim them for themselves?
This week, I was fortunate enough to interview Johnny Marr (guitarist for The Smiths) for The New Daily. I mentioned my strange reaction to seeing those kids and he said:
"That’s good, man. That probably says more about you than it does about them. To be of a certain age and to still be able to feel put out by some part of culture, your idealism must still be alive somewhere. I think that’s worth fighting for."
I'd like to think he was right. I'm 36 now, but I think those teenage passions are still burning. Might explain the lure of YA fiction, I suppose.
That part didn't make it into the interview (I hate it when interviewers shove themselves too obtrusively into a tale) but you can read the full interview here:
As many of you are no doubt aware, I've been a lifelong Doctor Who fan. Surprising, really, that it's taken me this long to write anything about it. The feature below is a piece I wrote for Australian magazine Screen Education. It's a somewhat personal guide to Who, looking at the show's ability to inspire its young viewers to embark on their own creative feats. It certainly did the trick for me.
The article features interviews with Nicholas Briggs (voice of the Daleks and producer of the Doctor Who audio adventures) and John Richards (writer of sci-fi sitcom Outland and one half of current Who podcast Splendid Chaps).
I recently filmed a short interview, talking about journalism and other writings for magazine Dumbo Feather. The piece is now online as part of New Conversations, a high school writing competition that Dumbo are running. (And which I'll be helping to judge.)
At the link below, there are also interviews with the very glamorous journo Sofija Stefanovic and Dumbo deputy editor Livia Albeck-Ripka.
I'm occasionally asked about the score for the Salmon and Dusk podcasts, so thought I'd put together a quick post for easy reference. The instrumental tracks I used for Season 1 (not the original How to Disappear Completely podcast) were, with a few exceptions, taken from an album called Abandoned Soundtrack by XeMa.
Happily the album is still freely available on the web. You might find it at either of these links:
I’ve signed with Barry Goldblatt at BG Literary, New York. Barry has some amazing clients on his list, including Libba Bray and Holly Black, so I’m delighted he’s found a place for me. We’ve talked about a couple of projects I have lined up (one of them may well be Salmon & Dusk related) and I feel that Barry really understands what I’m trying to do with them. I’d love to elaborate, but I should probably wait until they're actually written.
It’s slightly unusual (I’m told) for an Australian author to find themselves an agent — especially when they already have a wonderful publisher, as I do with Text Publishing— but it’s been a long-held ambition of mine, so I’m very happy Barry has taken me on. I look forward to revealing the fruits of our collaboration in the months ahead.
The latest issue of Dumbo Feather is now on newsstands, featuring two interviews of mine. The most notable is a long chat with Monocle and Wallpaper* founder Tyler Brûlé (as seen on the cover). I also spoke to Dr Sammdu Chetri about Bhutan's Gross National Happiness scheme. You can purchase a copy of the mag here. It's a great publication, with a long history of seeking out interesting people doing incredible things. I always enjoy working for them.
You can also still purchase the issue featuring my chat with Simon Amstell, which remains my favourite interview to date. What a lovely, thoughtful and very funny bloke.
Here's a teaser from the Brûlé piece:
Tyler Brûlé makes Monocle “Having gone through what I’ve gone through, somewhere in the back of my mind, I’m always wondering: What are they going to do, shoot you?”
There’s something almost too good to be true about Tyler Brûlé. Son of a Canadian football legend and a German-born Estonian artist, Brûlé moved to Manchester in the late 80s, where he trained as a journalist. In 1994 while working as a foreign correspondent in Afghanistan, he was shot twice and nearly died. Some soul-searching from his hospital bed led him to abandon the battlefield and launch seminal style magazine Wallpaper*. Since leaving the magazine in 2002, Brûlé has founded leading ad agency Winkreative and launched Monocle, an intelligent print journal that has defied a downward trend for the magazine industry. Alongside his media successes, Brûlé is known for his love of international travel (in business class, naturally) and high living. His weekly Financial Times column paints him as something of a restless, millionaire playboy, obsessed with fine dining, exquisite clothing and ski resorts. Similarly, Monocle feels somewhat like a magazine James Bond might read when jetting out on his latest mission.