It’s the end of Season One.
Wow. Katherine’s debut The Helpline has gone from manuscript to a book on the shelf (and in readers hands!) and we’ve spoken to seventeen different guests across sixteen full length episodes with 10 500 listens and counting!
So, we get emotional, and then, more seriously, we talk about the three things we’ve learned during Season One. It was tough whittling it down. One shared reflection is that we’ve learned so much about the importance and magnificence of the writing community.
Katherine remembers writer and teacher Clare Strahan saying:
I see you as writers in a community of writers.
It resonated with Katherine back then, and it does, even more so, now.
We thought it would be fitting to end the season with an interview that focuses on creativity, the artistic process, independent publishing and all that lies ahead. So here, for your listening pleasure, is Kate speaking with Melbourne writer, Jamie Marina Lau.
Jamie Marina Lau is a writer and musician from Melbourne. Her debut novel, Pink Mountain on Locust Island, was published in 2018 by Brow Books, and was shortlisted for the Readings Prize for New Australian Fiction. Her work can be found in Cordite, ROOKIE magazine, Voiceworks, the Art Hoe Collective and in Monash University’s 2016 anthology Futures. She is currently studying film and literature, producing music, and working on more fiction, most recently as a recipient of a Wheeler Centre Hot Desk Fellowship. Since our interview, Jamie has also received the Readings Residency Award – a part of the Melbourne Prize.
Jamie speaks about her very first publication in Voiceworks, a short story that was classified as speculative fiction even though she had no idea what that meant. But that wasn’t the first thing she wrote. That was a 60k word novel when she was fourteen, modelled on F. Scott Fitzgerald, and she spent the rest of high school working out how to get published. ‘I romanticised the whole world of publishing so much,’ she says.
That first publication process took something out of her. She realised the privilege of publication and started to ask questions about why she was writing: ‘Why would I take up these pages?’
Studying literature expanded the way Jamie read. She studied surrealism and André Breton, and says the beginning of her debut novel Pink Mountain was written during a class exercise. She describes those words as ‘super raw’, and they became the first chapter, almost unchanged from the published book today.
Jamie submitted her MS to Brow Books via submittable, the same way she’d done many other submissions to literary journals, and she knew who to submit to because of the Voiceworks network. She speaks about the close relationship she has with her publisher, Brow Books, and all elements of the publishing process. It’s an interesting comparison to some of the experiences of other guests who have been with bigger houses.
Jamie loves her new writing community, and the way that when stuff happens, other writers encourage each other, support each other, promote each other. She says this has been especially evident during her Hot Desk fellowship at the Wheeler Centre.
They speak about an interview Jamie did with the Feminist Writers Festival website, where she said:
Pink Mountain was probably one of the first honest pieces of writing I’d done… I literally and physically needed to force myself out of the confines of the literature I read and idolised for so long to be able to find a way to grasp and interpret Monk.
The money/art debate is discussed. Kate is still deeply into the Starving Artist podcast, and asks Jamie about this idea and how it’s explored in her novel, where she writes:
The whole truth is that as an artist you must go through the process. You make something, be happy, see it as a form of shit, be sad, make something new, and so on.
On success, Jamie asks: ‘Is it when someone messages you and says this really meant something to me..? Or is it, like, money and fame?’
She has loved receiving specific and distinct feedback from readers. Especially the messages that say her book ‘got them reading again’. This was one of her aims with the book and it’s gratifying to know she’s achieved that. Also on her list of reasons why she writes: to represent diverse types of people.
Jamie names Bret Easton Ellis and JD Salinger as influence in the ‘city novel’ genre and talks about reading a Goodreads review (eek!) where the review said ‘you never find females, and coloured females, as the protagonist – at the centre of such novels.’
‘THAT was on my to do list,’ Jamie says.
We tried not to make a big deal of it, but it’s hard not to mention that Jamie is only twenty-one years old. Ellen Kregan in her review of Pink Mountain for Readings wrote: ‘Sometimes a book comes along that doesn’t just make me very happy, but also makes me excited for the future.’ So, no pressure?! Kate asks Jamie where she wants to go with her career as an artist.
Jamie answers: ‘I try not to think about it.’
On managing expectations and the publishing experience, Sam Cooney, Jamie’s publisher at Brow Books advised: ‘Don’t think about it, move on to the next project. Quickly.’
And that’s exactly what Jamie Marina Lau is doing.
So, that’s it for Season One!
Don’t forget to check out our Patreon page where we are raising funds to help us get Season Two of the podcast recorded!
Thanks so much for sticking with us xx