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2, 2 and 2: Jon Doust talks about Return Ticket

Jon Doust
Return Ticket
(Fremantle Press)
Novel

Jon_DoustIt’s impossible to be in a room with Jon Doust and not end up laughing at something—often yourself! I also credit him with teaching me a few things about the proper way to breathe while speaking to an audience, after he noticed that I wasn’t really breathing at all! Which is a roundabout way of saying he’s a generous man as well as a funny one.

Jon is a Western Australian author based in Albany, and it’s a pleasure to feature him here, with his new book, Return Ticket.

Jon’s first novel, Boy on a Wire, was longlisted for the 2010 Miles Franklin Award, and his second, To the Highlands, was released to critical acclaim. Return Ticket completes the Jack Muir trilogy. He is also the co-author of three children’s books and has had short stories published in several anthologies.

If Jon’s face looks familiar to you, it might be because his varied professional life has included comedy and acting, as well as farming, retail, banking, journalism and professional speaking. He has appeared as a scientist in ABC-TV series Itch, a priest in horror film Needle, a hard-core AC/DC fan in Thunderstruck, a badly beaten and dead dero in courtroom drama Justice, a mad environmental polluter in TV series Bush Patrol, and a one-armed gambler in the documentary The Edge of the World.

An active member of his local community and beyond, Jon has been a driving force behind various original projects and has undertaken roles in organisations such as the Wilderness Society of WA, Greenpeace and Creative Albany.

Here is the blurb for Return Ticket

Sometimes the best place to see yourself is from another place.

It’s 1972. When hot-headed, impetuous Jack Muir gets off the ship in Durban, he fails to get back on. Instead, he sails into misadventure, fleeing the stifling town of Genoralup to try to lose himself in South Africa at the height of apartheid. But the past has a way of catching up with you, and soon Jack is running again, this time to a kibbutz in Israel.

In the course of a lifetime, Jack will travel far, always caught between fleeing from and seeking those things he needs: a mother’s precious gift, a lover in a time of war, a kind and steady woman.

And, across time and across continents, old Jack Muir will remember those who helped him become a decent man, a better father and a friend.

Over now to Jon…

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2 things that inspired the book

The two things that inspired Return Ticket were the two books before it. Let me explain.

Return Ticket is the last in the Jack Muir trilogy, One Boy’s Journey to Man. I always had it in mind to write two—one based on my five years in boarding school (Boy on a Wire) and one set on a kibbutz, Israel’s unique socialist experiment (Return Ticket). The book in the middle, To the Highlands, I had no intention of writing, but it blew in my face and stayed there. Each of them was inspired by a lack.

Nothing like Boy on a Wire had been written, exposing the bullying, the religious hypocrisy, the suffering of those unable to stand up for themselves and the mothers who went along with a system they could barely cope with.

Nearly all books I had read about Papua New Guinea, apart from a book of short stories by Trevor Shearston, Something in the Blood, had been twee and sweet and with patronising threads denying the truth of Australia’s colonial occupation. And so I wrote To the Highlands.

The last of the three was inspired by the first two, completing Jack Muir’s journey to man. I had to bring him as close as I could to a whole man—all his issues revealed, some sorted; his relationships mature and healthy; and his final place, both internal and external, arrived at, all circles closed. Many of mine probably never will be, but I wanted Jack to get there, to achieve something akin to what Carl Jung might call individuation. And helping Jack get there has helped me get closer.

2 places connected with the book

There are so many places—the home town, Bridgetown, where I learned to shoot guns, climb trees, love koolbardi/magpies, drive tractors and grow fruit and vegetables; Manjimup, where I learned how to belong and thrive in a community; Kincannup, Kinjarling, Albany, where my soul lay in wait. And then there’s the other places that filled me.

Two, in particular, both much loved and loathed at the same time.

Israel, Palestine, where I learned to love, to understand, to believe, and where I found my lifelong partner.

Then there is Iran, Persia, where I learned, again, how love, compassion, understanding, generosity, high culture and tolerance can exist alongside their opposites.

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Jon on an Israeli kibbutz, 1973

2 major influences

I acknowledge the men and women who nurtured me.

First, my grandfather—storyteller, journalist, bushman, Noongar speaker, hunter, fisher, a green before it was a colour. Roy Doust once edited the Blackwood Times, then the Warren Times, both papers named after once-great rivers that flow through the South West. He was also an orchardist and he married a lady with a shop, so we grew up on a farm and in a shop.

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Roy Doust

Nothing more enjoyable in the years before radio and television than sitting in a circle around Pop and listening to him regale us with tales of days gone by. Before he died he came to me with a pile of paper in his hands and said: ‘Here are all my stories, I want you to have them.’ Then he turned, picked up his typewriter and passed it on, and I would have wept in front of him but I saved the tears for later, when I could weep the deep weep of a boy who felt honoured.

Pop had a son, my father, who had four sons. One he wrestled with most of his life but eventually learned to understand and love for who he was.

Return Ticket is dedicated to three women—my mother, the mother of my first Israeli love and a Holocaust survivor, and my wife. Without them I would not have amounted to much, and even with them, I sometimes wonder if I did.

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Return Ticket is available now
Find out more at Fremantle Press
Follow Jon on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram; see also his website

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2, 2 and 2: Marcella Polain talks about Driving into the Sun

It’s a late start to 2019 on looking up/looking down, but as I’ve had the great pleasure and privilege of travelling throughout January, my working year has only just begun.

And what a wonderful way to begin the year’s blogging, with a guest post from one of Western Australia’s most accomplished writers…

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Marcella Polain
Driving into the Sun
(Fremantle Press)
LITERARY FICTION

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I worked with Marcella for several years at Edith Cowan University, where she played a prominent role in developing the Writing program and has taught and mentored hundreds of emerging writers. Marcella is one of those enormously talented writers who can turn her creative mind to almost any genre: she is well known throughout Australia as an award-winning poet (winner of the Anne Elder Prize and shortlisted for many major awards), has a background in theatre and screen writing, and has published widely as an essayist (longlisted for the Calibre Prize). Her debut novel, The Edge of the World, was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize.

Marcella was born in Singapore and arrived in Perth as an immigrant, at the age of two, with her Armenian mother and Irish father.

Having eagerly awaited Marcella’s second novel for many years, I am thrilled to be able to feature it here.

The blurb reads:

For Orla, living in the suburbs in 1968 on the cusp of adolescence, her father is a great shining light, whose warm and powerful presence fills her world.

But in the aftermath of his sudden death, Orla, her mother and her sister are left in a no-man’s-land, a place where the rights and protections of the nuclear family suddenly and mysteriously no longer apply, and where the path between girl and woman must be navigated alone.

And here is Marcella…

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2 things that inspired Driving into the Sun

I can’t read Nabokov’s Lolita. I know you’re probably thinking that I should try harder [I would never presume to do that, Marcella!], that many writers are of the view it’s one of the best novels ever written. Well, I’ve tried several times and I just can’t. To me, reading about Humbert is unbearable. Children and women are taken in by people like him, have to shape their lives around them—living contingently, and sometimes not living at all. When I try to read it, I just keep thinking, ‘But what about the girl? What about her story?’

A fleeting conversation at a café on the Swan River (around the turn of the last century, when I was beginning my first novel, The Edge of the World). Some women writers, a little older than me, were saying how safe Perth was when they were teenagers. I was taken aback because that’s not my memory of it at all. The Perth of my youth had an underbelly, clearly visible to me. I could tell that class had something to do with this difference of view (and Australians don’t like talking about class), but it really got me thinking that there must be a lot of people like me, for whom the past is not a safer, happier place in which they could move about freely. And I thought: well, those stories—the underbelly stories—are just as legitimate as any other. I’m also not entirely convinced that wealthier suburbs were much safer and happier in the 60s. They still had men returned from war who drank too much, and women whose lives were curtailed. They had serial killer Eric Edgar Cooke, as well.

2 places that inspired Driving into the Sun

Is monstrosity a place? It’s a state of being, culturally prescribed, and, in that way, a place occupied by some. I’m interested in the way culture creates its monsters—not just by mistreating people and so shaping their behaviour into the aberrant, but also by prescribing ideas of what monsters are—how they look, where they reside, how they behave. We believe these cultural delusions, and so we run from those who fit the stereotype (maybe unkempt and dishevelled) into the arms of the well-groomed one who can appear safe but isn’t.

Childhood is a place powerfully remembered and embodied; we all carry it with us and within us. And grief is a place—we talk a lot about grief as a journey, so it can certainly be considered terrain we traverse. Think about the impact of each of these places on their own and then consider their intersection. Childhood and grief make a very special place, indeed. It’s an elite world. Only some are chosen. All go unwillingly. And it’s largely invisible. Those who live in it might look just like the rest of us but they’re not.

2 of my favourite things about Driving into the Sun

Driving into the Sun began as a story in which horses were a major focus. I love everything about horses—their smell, their sounds, their breath, their nervousness, twitchiness, drowsiness, disinterest, their power, eyelashes, warmth, their muzzles, hooves, necks, the way their hides ripple when flies land on them, the texture of the hair of their manes, their muscularity, the way they turn their ears to track sound or lay them flat when annoyed. As I write this, I wonder (again) why—of all the creatures in the world—I feel closest to horses. When I look at the list above, I think perhaps I’m a bit like a horse. Or maybe it’s just that I fell in love with Fury when I was five. (Does anyone else remember Fury?) The opening shot is still vivid in me: Fury (of the title) suddenly appearing on a rise, rearing, pawing, whinnying. Even very young, I recognised that power and agitation—that life-force. I thought it the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. I wanted to write about all this, about horses and what they mean—and I think that is still in Orla as she longs for a horse—but writing also has its own life-force, and the story became about other things, as well.

Fury was wild and the other wildness I love is the Indian Ocean, a gift largely taken for granted where I live. It draws me in the same way it draws many. My first ever home was surrounded by jungle, built right alongside the curve of sand in a protected cove. I don’t remember but I’ve seen photos. I grew up in Perth and loved visits to the beach. In Driving into the Sun, Orla wonders why her family doesn’t seem to know that before the sea breeze arrives is the best time to be at the beach, which is something I did wonder as a kid. Perhaps we have to grow up in a place to embody that kind of weather knowledge. Or perhaps it’s just that it’s hard to get three kids organised quickly enough! Or perhaps it has to matter. Writing any scenes with real or imagined ocean is always infused with the extra pleasure of re-creating a little wildness.

 

Driving into the Sun is a February 2019 release
Find out more at Fremantle Press
Marcella Polain will be talking about her new novel at Perth Writers Week

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Publication day has arrived…

…for this bright and shiny package that represents, for me, a decades-long fascination that developed, in the last few years, into an obsession. A big thank-you to Fremantle Press for making the package so beautiful (and for much else besides).

Welcome to the world again, Kate.

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For those based in Perth, there are a few events coming up over the coming two weeks:

3 November: Literary Afternoon Tea at State Buildings, Perth City, 1–3pm. Tickets (still a few left) from $60, bookings here.

6 November: In Conversation at Beaufort Street Books, Beaufort Street, Mt Lawley, 6.15pm for a 6.30 start. Tickets $10, including cheese and wine tasting, bookings here.

8 November: Author talk, A.H. Bracks Library, corner Canning Highway and Stock Road, Melville, 6–8pm. Free event but bookings essential here.

15 November: Great Big Book Club Read, Fremantle Arts Centre, 1 Finnerty Street, Fremantle, 6pm. (The winner of the T.A.G. Hungerford Award will also be announced on the same night.) Free event but RSVPs essential here.

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Kate’s Paris: Chemin du Montparnasse

During my research trip to Paris, I stumbled on Chemin du Montparnasse while looking for 21 avenue du Maine. I quickly realised that they were one and the same. The name is a modern one that Kathleen O’Connor would not have recognised, as this narrow little lane lined with artists’ studios was referred to in her time only by its street address. 

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An arts centre, Villa Vassilieff, today occupies the site of the studio of a former inhabitant of the laneway, the Russian artist Marie Vassilieff. Vassilieff ran an academy from her upstairs studio, and Kate occasionally attended her evening sketch classes with British artist Nina Hamnett. 

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It was a Sunday when I walked through Chemin du Montparnasse, peering into atelier windows and gazing up, imagining Kate at work with her charcoal and sketchbook. Although it was quiet, deserted, I fancied I could hear laughter and the clomp-clomp of feet trudging upstairs to class, the creak of easels, the patient, weary sighs of artists’ models holding a pose.

It was a delight to find this remnant of Kate’s Paris in today’s Montparnasse.

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Kathleen O’Connor of Paris will be available from 1 November

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2, 2 and 2: Alan Carter talks about Heaven Sent

Alan Carter
Heaven Sent
(Fremantle Press)
SERIES CRIME FICTION

Alan Carter 3jpgAlan Carter has had a meteoric career in crime—crime fiction, that is—since the publication of his first novel in 2011. He’s prolific, too—four novels since then, and here he is, about to release the fifth. (And I happen to know there’s another in the making, as I had the privilege of reading a draft—it’s a cracker!) 

As well as being a successful author, Alan is sometimes a television documentary director, and it’s in this capacity that I first met him: he has often worked with my husband, sound designer Ric Curtin. Clients have on occasion had their suspicions about Alan’s faraway gaze while working—deep in thought about their project or solving a knotty plot problem?

Alan’s Cato Kwong series—Prime Cut, Getting Warmer and Bad Seed—has been published in the UK, France, Germany and Spain, while his last novel, Marlborough Man, won the 2018 Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel and was shortlisted for the 2018 Ned Kelly Award for Best Crime Novel.

He was born in Sunderland, UK, emigrated to Australia in 1991, and now divides his time between Tasmania and life on a farm in New Zealand’s South Island. Such idyllic locations—such criminal preoccupations!

Here is the blurb for his new release, Heaven Sent, the latest in the Cato Kwong series:

Detective Sergeant Philip ‘Cato’ Kwong is light on sleep but high on happiness with his new wife Sharon Wang and their baby girl. But contentment is not compatible with life in the Job, and soon a series of murders of Fremantle’s homeless people gets in the way of Cato’s newfound bliss. As New WAve journalist Norman Lip flirts online with the killer, it becomes apparent that these murders are personal—every death is bringing the killer one step closer to Cato.

And now over to Alan…

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2 things that inspired the book

Mark Billingham’s Lifeless, where his hero Tom Thorne goes undercover to track down a killer targeting London’s homeless, was, for me, a great example of how crime fiction can be used to interrogate an important social issue. In that regard, it’s a direct inspiration for Heaven Sent—although I don’t have Cato going undercover for this story. But victims and victimology are an important choice a crime writer makes in every story, and the representations we use and the attitudes we portray can say a lot not only about society but about us as writers.

Another inspiration, this time for the Norman Lip journalist character, was the long line of writers/reporters stretching back to, say, Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood and forward to the amoral journalist in the first series of The Bridge who decide to ‘deal with the devil’ for their professional advancement. It’s an ongoing dilemma that storytellers face, particularly where real life, true crime, and fiction converge, and again it’s fertile and explosive territory to tiptoe through.

2 places connected with the book

The old Swan View Railway Tunnel up in the hills outside Perth is a spooky place in a beautiful setting, and the brief history outlined on the information boards provided me with metaphor and suspense galore.

The spaces occupied by the homeless in and around Perth and Fremantle constantly shift, too. Beachside carparks, shop doorways, abandoned buildings, tourist precincts, parks, fast-food joints—all find different meanings and uses, depending on whose eyes you view them through, and when.

2 favourite elements of the book

DI Hutchens, Renaissance Man. Cato’s boss continues to be one of my favourites. He’s a dinosaur, not very PC, and gets to say a whole bunch of things I’d love to say but normally wouldn’t dare. But…old dogs, new tricks. He’s now spearheading the force’s new social media hearts and minds campaign. For Cato, it’s a disturbing development.

Catching a middle-aged man mid-tweet somehow deprived him of any residual dignity, reflected Cato. This former warrior of the streets, sunk so low.

Cato holds a mirror up to society. Over lunch, he discusses with amoral journalist and wannabe deep thinker Norman Lip the changing nature of immortality and fame.

Everything now is about fleeting associations with fame. People crave it and seize it like it’s an entitlement. These days Zapruder would probably miss the president’s assassination because he’d be too busy taking a selfie.

Heaven Sent is released on 1 November 2018
Find out more at Fremantle Press
Follow Alan on Facebook and Twitter

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Kate’s Paris: Luxembourg Gardens

I love the Luxembourg Gardens, the centrepiece of Paris’s 6th arrondissement. Kathleen O’Connor’s earliest works in Paris were painted here, en plein air—oil sketches of individual figures and groups captured opportunistically. Women in long Edwardian dresses and elaborate hats, nursemaids with infants in prams, family picnics, couples conversing, women knitting, sewing, sketching…

On my last visit, I sat near the lake, the Grand Bassin, watching walkers and runners, men and women pushing strollers, people reading newspapers or scrolling on their phones, groups of friends chatting. My sister was beside me with sketchbook and pencil, absorbed, while I watched the life of the gardens through the lens of my camera.

Just as they had been in Kate’s Paris, the gardens were still a place for quiet reflection, leisurely pursuits, human connection. And the artist’s eye.

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Kathleen O’Connor of Paris coming soon from Fremantle Press

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An exhibition opens, a book enters the world…

The exhibition Being There—Kathleen O’Connor in Paris opened last night, at the Fremantle Arts Centre, on the eve of Kate’s 142nd birthday. This stunning exhibition of 56 works is drawn from her long career of six decades, and includes one of her student works from 1903 and her last (unfinished) work, dated 1965. It also features ephemera and some of her personal possessions—exhibition posters and invitations, her famous tortoiseshell bangles, a fragile 1913 Salon d’Automne catalogue, items that feature in her 1920s still lifes. The exhibition runs until 4 November, 10am – 5pm daily, and if you’re in the area, or visiting from elsewhere, I encourage you to drop in.

Alongside last night’s exhibition opening was the pre-release launch of Kathleen O’Connor of Paris. Mike Lefroy—author, historian and one of Kate’s great-nephews—gave a fabulous launch speech. I wish I’d recorded it! But here are a couple of photos.

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I’ll be giving an author talk at the gallery on Saturday 22 September, and am really looking forward to having this wonderful opportunity to talk about the works in the exhibition and put them into the context of Kate’s life. Pre-release copies of the book will be available for purchase (ahead of the release in late October), and I’ll be signing after the talk.

If you’d like to come along to this free event, here are the details.

Author talk/book signing: Kathleen O’Connor of Paris,
in conjunction with the exhibition
Being There—Kathleen O’Connor in Paris
Fremantle Arts Centre
1 Finnerty Street (corner of Finnerty and Ord streets), Fremantle
22 September 2018, 1–3pm
Free event
RSVP here

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