Sad to say our final issue of the digital magazine was published in December 2015. Thanks to all the wonderful writers who spoke to me, and the loyal readers of the interviews.
The interviews are no longer available online: stay tuned for news of publication of selected interviews in another format.
WHAT WRITERS SAID ABOUT
THE WRITER'S ROOM INTERVIEWS
"For writers, an indispensable resource; for readers, a pure pleasure.”
- Geordie Williamson, chief literary critic, The Australian
“A rich & sympathetic resource which goes straight to the heart of creativity.”
- Joan London, author The Golden Age, Gilgamesh
“These interviews have consistently provided me with the the best descriptions of a writer’s craft I could hope to find. Invaluable.“
- Sophie Cunningham, author Warning: The story of Cyclone Tracy, Melbourne, Bird, Geography
“Lets its readers eavesdrop on the best of conversations - erudite, interesting, always inspirational.”
- Ashley Hay, author The Railwayman’s Wife, Gum, The Body in the Clouds
“Interviews of grit and stamina - real talk between two adult writers about the hard yards of writing. There's never an issue that doesn't provide an insight worth bottling.“
- Ailsa Piper, author Sinning Across Spain
“Thoughtful & enlightening on craft, practice & process;
gems to return to many times over.
- Carrie Tiffany, author Mateship with Birds, Everyman's Rules for Scientific Living
“It's The Paris Review for Australians - how lucky we are to have it.“
- Tegan Bennett Daylight, literary critic; author Safety, What Falls Away
ISSUE 18: DECEMBER CHRISTOS TSIOLKAS
Christos Tsiolkas is the author of five novels and a collection of short fiction, and is one of Australia’s most accomplished and provocative writers.
His first novel, Loaded (1995), announced
Tsiolkas as a new voice with challenging things to say to and about Australian society. His second, The Jesus Man, followed in 1999, but it was Dead Europe — a bleakly disturbing novel about mythology, religion, evil, and race — that cemented Tsiolkas’s reputation as a literary risk-taker willing to go places most writers — and some readers — fear to tread. Dead Europe won the 2006 The Age Fiction Prize and the 2006 Melbourne Best Writing Award, and it seems this book is the one Tsiolkas believes really formed him as a writer. He found it almost unbearably
difficult to write because of the darkness of its terrain; after this, he says, his fourth novel,
The Slap, ‘felt effortless’ to write.
The Slap’s explosive examination of middle-class Australian anxieties about class, race, violence, sexuality and family catapulted Tsiolkas to international megastardom, with sales of 200,000 in Australia and another 1.2 million worldwide. The novel won the 2009 Commonwealth
Writers’ Prize and the Australian Literature Society Gold Medal, was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award and Britain’s Galaxy National Book Award and long listed for the Man Booker Prize. The stuff of writers’ fantasies, the success of The Slap took Tsiolkas by surprise and, predictably, brought its own complications. But unlike other writers who might be paralysed by the pressure of following up such success, Tsiolkas took it in his stride and has produced
two more books since — the novel Barracuda (2013) and the short-fiction collection Merciless Gods (2014).
Tsiolkas is a serious cinephile and has made several films of his own, as well as writing regular film reviews for The Saturday Paper and other
publications. Screen adaptations of his fiction are numerous: Loaded and Dead Europe were both made into films (the former as Head On, starring a young Alex Dimitriades), and The Slap was adapted for television separately in both Australia and the US. A new series of Barracuda will screen on ABC Television next year.
Tsiolkas lives in Melbourne with his parter of more than twenty-five years, Wayne van der Stelt. I first met Tsiolkas many years ago, during a visit I made to Melbourne with his and my publisher, Jane Palfreyman. She spoke highly of him as a friend, but I was nervous about meeting him: his fiction spoke of edgy, inner-city cool, not to mention a deal of anger towards heater, middle-class Anglo Australia, and I assumed I would represent everything he despised. I
was surprised, then, to be greeted with one of what I now know to be his customary huge enfolding hugs, and his quietly spoken, courteous demeanour. With his warmth and cheerful attentiveness he reminded me, more than anyone, of my own little brother. Like everyone I know who has met him, I was immediately charmed by his generosity and modesty.
I have always admired Tsiolkas’s courage and honesty as a writer: it seems to me his work is not only an artistic quest but a moral and intellectual one, to discover how to live well, how to treat others well, and how to be free. His personal explorations of family and sexual tensions,
of race and class divides, are also explorations of those things on a national scale, showing us what kind of society we have become in Australia. It’s neither pretty nor comfortable, but Tsiolkas’s work is always revealing, always powerful.
For this conversation, just after his return from a
research trip to Europe and the Middle East, we met at his regular Northcote cafe for coffee and a cigarette for him. Then we took the short walk to the modest studio where he has worked since earnings from The Slap afforded him a private
work space away from home. We talked for two hours; he spoke slowly and thoughtfully, sometimes pausing for long moments while he considered the question, or rephrased an answer to respond with greater clarity. Every now and then he would burst into loud laughter, but I noticed that whenever I asked him about his
successes his voice grew much quieter. It seemed symbolic of the humility and honesty which drives all his work as a writer. I’m so pleased to present this conversation as the final in three years of Writer’s Room Interviews.
— Charlotte Wood