It was a pleasure to join Wendy Tuohy and host Derek Guille on the Evening program on ABC Radio 774 Melbourne on 29 August at 8.15 pm.
In a general discussion on books coinciding with the Melbourne Writers Festival (see my other blog entries below), Wendy and Derek asked me to provide some advice to listeners on how to get their novels published. It was interesting while I waiting to go live to hear the many listeners calling in to talk abouit their reading groups and the books they were fond of reading. Unfortunately, none of these readers mentioned any books by Australian authors, and that is significant. Ian McEwan and Dave Eggers appear to have a higher public profile than any new Australian author. That means their books are more likely to be read. It doesn't mean their books are any better than those of Tara June Winch, say, or James Bradley or Shane Maloney.
Derek suggested that everyone had a novel in them, but I don't think this is true. Writing is a specialised craft. Unfortunately, it is not one that everyone can master. But as I pointed out, knowing your market -- the potential of that market -- is very important for any writer. If you are writing for a niche market, your potential for return is going to be limited by the economic size of that niche. You may be very successful in that niche, however.
As I said, only 10% of the Australian book market is made up of Australian fiction. This is a distressing statistic for anyone who seeks to be come a professional writer of fiction in Australia, living off their writing. We just don't seem to see Australian literature as a vital part of our culture. I don't mean any insult to Derek, but the Freudian slips he made (calling the Miles Franklin Award the Booker, and confusing Alexis Wright's Carpentaria with Xavier Herbert's Capricornia -- easy enough to do when you're speaking off the cuff) suggest that foreign authors are more familiar to us than our own. Doesn't anyone share my outrage that this seems to be so?
Anyway, for any members of reading groups out there, why not read the two great books Capricornia and Carpentaria together and comprehend their revealing and contrasting views of Australia.