Stephen Daisley was born in New Zealand and now lives in the South West of Western Australia. He spent five years in the New Zealand Army, and cites an interesting list of previous occupations: sheep herder, brush cutter, truck driver, road worker, bartender and construction worker.
If authors were birds, I think Stephen would be a Forest Red-Tailed Cockatoo—much admired but only occasionally seen! But I had the pleasure of meeting him at the Margaret River Readers and Writers Festival in 2013, at which time I was yet to read his debut novel, Traitor (Text Publishing, 2011). This was probably a good thing, as I am prone to becoming utterly tongue-tied in the presence of those whose books I count among my favourites.
Traitor was shortlisted for a string of major awards (NSW Premier’s Awards, Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best First Book, ABIA Literary Fiction Book of the Year, ABIA Newcomer of the Year) and won the Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Fiction in 2011. Stephen Romei (in The Australian) called it ‘one of the finest debut novels I have ever read. Indeed it’s one of the best novels I have read in recent years.’ It is an exquisitely written story of friendship and compassion and deserves every one of the many accolades it has been given.
His much-awaited second novel, Coming Rain, is about to be published, and I was delighted when Stephen agreed to talk about it here.
First, here is the blurb:
They returned to the main part of the shed and it was Lew’s turn to sharpen his cutters. The woolshed now bright and well lit. Painter walked to his stand and connected the handpiece to the down-rod. He drizzled oil over the comb and the cutter, adjusted the tension and pulled the rope to engage the running gear. The handpiece buzzed and he studied it for a moment, pulled the rope again to disengage the running gear. Repeated the process with his spare handpiece. Filled the oil can and stepped to the catching-pen door, leaned on it and looked at the sheep in the pen. Lit a cigarette, waiting for Lew.
Western Australia, the wheatbelt. Lew McLeod has been travelling and working with Painter Hayes since he was a boy. Shearing, charcoal burning—whatever comes. Painter made him his first pair of shoes. It’s a hard and uncertain life but it’s the only one he knows.
But Lew’s a grown man now. And with this latest job, shearing for John Drysdale and his daughter Clara, everything will change.
Stephen Daisley writes in lucid, rippling prose of how things work, and why; of the profound satisfaction in hard work done with care, of love and friendship and the damage that both contain.
Over now to Stephen…
2 things that inspired my book
I once watched two farmers greeting each other at a stock sale.
‘Gidday mate, how’re goin’, had any rain?’
‘Good good. No rain. You?’
‘Reckon it’s coming?’
‘Good and bad.’
The ubiquitous 1890 painting by Tom Roberts called Shearing the Rams. [You can view this, and read about it, on the National Gallery of Victoria website.]
2 personal connections with the book
Having worked on sheep and cattle stations and in shearing gangs, I continue to feel an admiration and deep compassion for people on the land. The dry humour and endurance of that existence and how this formed such an enduring part of what shaped modern Australia. I believe this myth is almost as strong as what Gallipoli has come to mean.
The rural landscape of Western Australia is, for me, an almost physical expression of the belief that rain is coming. What that is. The hope and sometime despair. The acceptance of both.
2 favourite passages from the book
The sun woman’s fire spread across the sky as the moon fled and the red light came dawn and over them all. A great flock of pink and grey galahs flew above the road and Lew watched as the light rose and for as far as he could see, the earth turned pale blue and mauve in the smoky pink of early morning. The sunlight coming over the horizon and into his eyes. It blinded him as he sat up in the truck. The sun rising quickly now. Painter also woke.
Clara laughed at this most beautiful of sights, put her hand to her mouth as if to weep; she had no idea how much time had passed. A moment or two, five, fifteen minutes. A newborn standing, staggering, falling and desperate somehow to keep trying. Pearl came to her foal, some of the white shroud and afterbirth still swinging from her uterus. Made an ancient throat and belly noise of recognition. Using her nose and face, she lifted and gently urged him to stand. The foal seemed to nod and steady. He swayed and found his feet. And, after a moment, began to search for her teats beneath her front shoulder. Pearl guided him as he kept smelling along her belly until he found her milk. He somehow knew to bend his head, turn it slightly, open his mouth and begin to suckle.
Tears were streaming down Clara’s face and she was laughing.
Coming Rain will be in bookshops on 22 April 2015.
You can find out more at Text Publishing.
* Red-tailed Cockatoo photo reproduced under licence from BigStock.