Finally, Katherine’s launch of The Helpline! Kate remembers her own launch felt like a wedding and Katherine talks through her feels, her braids and how she ended up eating Grill’d chips at the end of the night. We promised pics, so here’s a few to show you what went down at Readings in Carlton.
Then, Kate speaks with award winning Melbourne writer, Mark Brandi.
Mark Brandi is an Australian author, originally from Marche. He was raised in Italy and now lives in Melbourne. He has a degree in criminal justice and has worked as a policy advisor and project officer in the Department of Justice. His work has appeared in The Guardian, The Age, and the Big Issue. His first novel, Wimmera, won the 2016 UK Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger and the 2018 Indie Book Award for Debut Fiction. Mark’s latest novel is The Rip, out in Australia with Hachette in February 2019.
Mark’s debut novel, Wimmera, had its genesis in a short story. Another alumni of the RMIT Professional Writing and Editing course (like guests Toni Jordan, Graeme Simsion, Emily Brewin, Danielle Binks, and us!), Mark was in a class with the legendary writer Ania Walwicz when he wrote it. He had a good response from classmates and sent it out for publication. Everyone rejected it. Not to be deterred (tenacity is obviously a personality trait of Mark’s) he sent it to an obscure Irish journal, South Circular (which no longer exists) and they published it. Finally, some success.
Buoyed, he sent the story to a competition Radio National was running, and had further success, ultimately reading his story out on radio. He describes the experience as scary and kind of ‘magical’.
I ask him if there was an aspect of the story that was unresolved for him. He says: It was still on my mind, the characters in particular… and my way of dealing with that was to write more about it and find out more about their world.
While he describes himself as ‘not much of a planner’, he reckons he developed good skills for writing (discipline, sticking at something even when it’s hard) during his successful career in policy-making, but was being pulled in the direction of writing.
His brother sent him an online form for Millionaire Hot Seat. You’ll have to listen to find out what happened next.
When his gameshow appearance was followed by a hit run accident that left Mark horrendously injured and unable to work, he had a moment of clarity. Realising writing was what he really loved, he quit his job altogether to focus on what was rapidly becoming the novel.
Like some of our other guests, Mark experienced the validation of a Varuna residency and then sent his manuscript off to literary agents Curtis Brown. They picked him up, and sent Mark’s novel off to a whole lot of publishers…who all rejected it.
But determination and stubbornness (he’s the youngest of four boys) saw him continue to work on his manuscript and send it out, and when he submitted his new draft to The Dagger Award in the UK…it won.
The phone started ringing then (all those publishers who’d rejected an earlier version) and Wimmera was published by Hachette in July 2017.
So was publication the dream he had always imagined? Yes…and no. Mark says: I wanted it for so long…and I had the rejections…and I thought, when this happens, it’s going to be magic. And it’s not that.
Kate mentions Ceridwen Dovey’s speech at the Wheeler Centre where she spoke about being rid of the book once it’s published. Mark says: You expect some kind of emancipation from these demons, and that doesn’t happen.
On success, Mark agrees with what Christos Tsolkias has written (in his interview with Charlotte Wood) about becoming greedy for more. Mark says: The goal posts move, and you’re no longer satisfied with being on a longlist, you think – I hope I’ll win. There’s a part of you that becomes hungry for it.
We talk about his writing life now, particularly what it’s like to fit in all the other bits of the business – events and festivals etc. He says: It does become tougher to guard that writing time…You tend to say yes to everything because you think no one will ever ask you again.
But when he does get back to the writing desk, he likes sensory deprivation – noise cancelling earphones and no view – ‘I just want the work’, he says.
Other than his earlier advice to all writers to take a chance on a game show (we’re not sure we can second that one) Mark says preparation is key. Preparing yourself for interviews and public appearances. Giving yourself enough space before those events to feel confident and be calm and relaxed. Trusting that the people involved in putting your book out into the world really want you to succeed.
And Mark’s debut recommendation proves prescient (we recorded this interview earlier in 2018!) when he says that Chris Hammer’s Scrublands will be huge. And so it has been.