Masters series: Tony Birch

Tony Birch is a novelist, short story writer, poet and academic. He is the author of three novels: Ghost River, which won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Indigenous Writing; Blood, which was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award and The White Girl, winner of the 2020 NSWs Premier’s Prize for Indigenous writing and also shortlisted for the 2020 Miles Franklin Award. 

He is also the author of five short story collections, Shadowboxing, Father’s Day, The Promise, Common People and Dark as Last Night. His most recent publication is the poetry collection, Whisper Songs. In 2017 he was awarded the Patrick White Literary Award. Tony is a much loved member of the Australian lit world, a regular guest at writers’ festivals, and a climate justice campaigner. He lives in Melbourne.

We spoke to Tony back in 2020 for Apollo Bay Writers Festival, you can listen to that interview, which focusses on his novel The White Girl here.

In this new conversation for the Masters Series, Kate speaks to Tony about:

  • Early storytelling memories
  • His essay Home is not home and the homes in his life that have disappeared
  • Why he loves maps, and how he creates fictional maps for his work
  • Taking and collecting photographs as research and inspiration for writing
  • Tony’s work history including his jobs as telegram boy, firefighter and surgical barber.
  • The growth of short story collections and the influence of Cate Kennedy’s Dark Roots
  • The difference between writing novels and short stories
  • Writing routines and habits
  • The ‘big transgressive, anti-woke novel’ he’s working on, that he also discusses in this interview with Astrid Edwards on The Garret

Advice: make sure you have a work habit, have an ordered and structured writing week

Two traits of any good writer: really good observational skills and an insatiable sense of curiosity. Do some observation and document it. This is exercising your creativity. It’s like ‘limbering up’. Do that all the time.

Debut recommendations:

Jessica Au’s Cold Enough For Snow

Mandy Beaumont’s The Furies

Find more of Tony’s writing and links to his published works on his website or follow him on instagram.

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