Masters Series: Michelle de Kretser

Michelle de Kretser was born in Sri Lanka and emigrated to Australia when she was fourteen. Educated in Melbourne and Paris, Michelle has worked as a university tutor, an editor and a book reviewer. She is the author of seven novels and one work of non fiction. She has twice won the Miles Franklin award for her novels Questions of Travel and The Life to Come and her other novels, including The Lost Dog have been won and been nominated for many awards. De kretser wrote On Shirely Hazzard for Black Inc’s Writers on Writing series in 2019. Her latest novel is Scary Monsters.

Our conversation covers:

  • What the world looked like when Michelle was 22
  • Her famous sabbatical from Lonely Planet
  • ‘I’ve always been interested in the collision of individuals and history’ – On writing The Rose Grower
  • Writing routines including ‘accreting’ – adding to the pile of words
  • Getting an agent and getting published for the first time
  • Abandoning a novel
  • Being described by James Ley as “an ironist without peer in contemporary Australian writing.” (plus the difference between satire and irony and why Michelle is careful with defining these terms)
  • Experimenting with form and structure – asking ‘is this a novel?’
  • How Scary Monsters was an exercise in ‘finding a form that embodied the content’
  • Why ‘You have to take risks, as a writer’
  • Reading influences and favourites including – Natalia Ginzburg All Our Yesterdays, Ali Smith The Accidental. She calls Smith ‘a sort of wizard-goddess of the novel’
  • Books and writers that De Krester say make her want to write – Ali Smith, Fiona Macfarlane, Delia Falconer, Penelope Fitzgerald’s The Blue Flower, Jane Gardner’s Old Filth, Mireille Juchau’s The World Without Us, Evelyn Juers’ House of Exile, Joan London’s Gilgamesh
  • ‘Writing is a huge confidence trick, it’s a confidence trick a writer plays on herself.’
  • Why De Kretser doesn’t read reviews (and is annoyed at those who don’t believe her)

Michelle’s advice to writers:

  • Think about deleting the last sentence of every paragraph. And then go back and look at every first sentence.
  • DO NOT show anyone your first draft.

Debut Recommendation: Roanna Gonvales, The Permanent Resident

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