What to charge & James Bradley on climate change, criticism & fixing broken books.

Katherine received an invite to appear at a regional library. She didn’t know what to charge (and Kate didn’t answer her emails). How do you charge for events? Different rates for different things? Freebies? They discuss using the ASA rates of pay as a guideline. Then there are book clubs. Kate’s only done one for her folks, Katherine doesn’t like getting caught between cheese platters and dinner. And the moral dilemma of the episode: Should Katherine have signed a library book?

Then Kate speaks with Sydney writer, James Bradley.

James Bradley is novelist and critic based in Sydney. Born in Adelaide, he trained as a lawyer before becoming a writer. Bradley’s novels, including Wrack, The Resurrectionist and Clade have been published internationally and have won or been shortlisted for a number of major Australian literary awards, including The Age Fiction Book of the Year, the Miles Franklin Literary Award, the New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards, the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best First Book (SE Asia and Pacific Region), the Courier-Mail Book of the Year Award, the Aurealis Best Novel Award (Science Fiction category). Bradley has also published poetry and essays, edited anthologies and is widely published as a critic, with reviews and articles appearing regularly in Australian newspapers and magazines. Bradley’s most recent novel is The Buried Ark, the second in his dystopian YA trilogy which began with The Silent Invasion and will finish in 2019 with the publication of The Vastness of Stars. 

Bradley’s first published words were poems, with Southerly Journal and then ultimately in his own collection Paper Nautilus, published by Five Islands Press. He says when he looks back at those poems now, he often thinks they are the best thing he has ever done – defined by the ‘innocence’, ‘purity’ and ‘carelessness’ of being some of his first words out in the world.

Reading Michael Oondatje’s In the Skin of a Lion was a defining moment for the young James Bradley, who had ‘a moment of recognition’ – reading a writer who saw the world in the way he saw it.

Bradley’s first novel Wrack, earned him Sydney Morning Herald Young Novelist of the Year award. They discuss what early success meant to him and Bradley reveals ‘When I came to write the third, that got in my head in a really bad way.’

He has written about his ‘broken book’ which went on to be published to great international acclaim as The Resurrectionist. ‘The book came unravelled and stayed unravelled,’ he says, and it took a long time to make it work.

Discussing his career as a whole, Bradley says ‘creative careers are odd things’ and goes on to talk about the difference between paid work and the ‘work of the heart.’

The thing that matters is that you care about the work.

On the writing process, Bradley believes ‘you’ve got to care about the process over the product’ and says ‘I don’t think the process gets any easier over time, but I do think you understand the pitfalls over time.’

Bradley is widely recognised as an essayist, particularly writing about climate change and its impacts, and he was nominated for a Walkley Award for his 2018 essay The End of the Oceans  in The Monthly. His most recent article for The Monthly is the impeccably timed How Australia’s Coal Madness led to Adani. 

Bradley talks about what compels him to write in this area, about ‘translating your sense of despair into action’, and the difference in writing climate change in fiction and in essay form.

It’s better to do something than to do nothing.

Bradley has said ‘We’re almost incapable of receiving criticism,‘ and Kate asks about his work as a literary critic. He says he gets ‘frustrated by the recurrent conversation about how we need more negative reviewing’ (although points out the excellence of some biting reviewing of Bret Easton Ellis).

His advice for writers:

  • Write the thing you want to write, believe in the thing you want to write, don’t let other people get in your head about it.
  • Just keep on going. You write the next chapter. And you take satisfaction from the process of writing

And (because Kate failed to give him a heads up on recommending a debut!), we let James recommend a number of his current fave reads.

You can read more by James on his writing life and process on his blog city of tongues ,  in his writing for The Monthly and the Sydney Review of Books and on twitter.

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