What type of books do you write? I’m not sure I have a type – in writing terms I’m more of a fox (an author with multiple voices, themes and styles) than a wolf (one who has a signature style, a dominant voice or theme). Whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, my work aims to capture vivid moments of human experience, to stir the reader’s emotions, and hopefully raise questions too. Besides my journalism and essays, so far I’ve written a short story collection (see below) and a novel, Black Glass (Scribe, 2011) <http://scribepublications.com.au/books-authors/title/black-glass/> – a darkly prismatic tale of hope, survival and surveillance set in a dystopian near-future. I’ve also worked as a ghostwriter and travel writer, but I don’t think of those books as truly ‘mine’.
What is your newest book about? My new collection Things I Did for Money (Scribe 2013) http://scribepublications.com.au/books-authors/title/things-i-did-for-money/ contains eight short stories, ranging from literary realism to crime, surreal tales and speculative fiction. Over the years they’d been published in top Australian journals and anthologies, and I wanted to bring them all together in one place. They’re all different, but there are common threads: characters struggling to come to grips with the past, to reconcile their dreams with reality, to navigate the tricky terrain of human relationships. Work is another common theme: you’ll meet artists, kidnappers, scuba divers and checkout chicks, charming cosmetic surgeons and failed bank robbers.
What inspired you to write it? Seasickness. Injustice and beauty. Treasure hunts. Mysterious old ruins. Lost souls and outsiders. Half-remembered childhood crimes. A newspaper headline. A torn poster on a pole. An overheard argument. An embrace glimpsed through a train window. Friendship, loss, empathy. A story my dad told me.
What is the writing process like for you? It can vary from a frustrating hard slog, to a thrilling sensation akin to flying. Even on tough days it offers small but sweet satisfactions: the pleasure of putting words in order, of creating a resonant image or moment on the page. It’s an incremental thing, writing – a bit like sculpture: you hack out a rough shape, build it up piece by piece, chop and whittle, mould and reinforce, add fine detail, then polish the final draft until it gleams.
What did you do before you became an author? I’ve always written, and always worked other jobs too: I’ve been a journalist, researcher, university lecturer, policy analyst, magazine editor, stable-hand, zucchini sizer, children’s entertainer and ventriloquist’s assistant, among other things. Right now I’m a PhD student and new mother.
How does it feel to be a published author? It feels as if I have so much more to do… Publication is a great milestone and a reward that keeps you going, but there are still endless reams of blank pages awaiting me.
Any advice for struggling writers? Read, read, read. Write regularly, and always carry a notebook. Don’t be afraid to experiment and make a mess on the page – you can always clean it up later. Try not to compare your achievements to those of other authors: disgruntlement and envy won’t help. And don’t give up.
Where do you see book publishing heading? Publishing is in a major state of flux, and it’s easy to get spooked. E-publishing and online platforms clearly hold great sway, but the industry’s future direction is not yet clear. We authors need to get our heads around the digital revolution. But let’s remember this too: if you want your local independent bookstore to survive, make sure you buy books from them!
You can follow Meg on Twitter @megmundell or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/megmundell.writer . Check out: www.megmundell.com