Tag Archives: Richard Rossiter

2, 2 and 2: Richard Rossiter talks about Refuge

Richard Rossiter
(UWA Publishing)
Literary fiction—novel

DSC_6973[1]Richard Rossiter is a highly respected and much loved member of the Western Australian writing and publishing community—writer, editor, mentor and occasional judge of literary awards (including the T.A.G. Hungerford Award and the WA Premier’s Book Awards). He has been the fiction editor for Westerly and Indigo, has supervised many postgraduate creative writing students, and is an editorial board member with Margaret River Press and an Honorary Associate Professor at Edith Cowan University.

Richard was the academic supervisor of my Honours and PhD theses—and without his encouragement, they might never have happened. He continues to be a trusted and generous mentor and friend.

His new release, Refuge, follows on from his acclaimed novella Thicker Than Water (2014) and short story collection Arrhythmia (2009). Refuge has just been launched in Margaret River, and I’m thrilled to have been given the honour of launching it in Perth on 24 July.

Here is the blurb…

Quentin ‘Tinny’ Thompson and his German neighbour, Greta, have at least one thing in common.  In their tin sheds close to the coast, they are attempting to live out of the firing line of modern society. Tinny’s sons are growing up and one of them, Rock, wants to head to the city and live with his mother, who is sometimes Prue and sometimes Peaches.  Greta’s dream of life in Australia began with a school project on the explorer Ludwig Leichhardt. Heedless of his fate, she decides to follow in his footsteps. However, isolation does not guarantee safety. Violenceso visible in a disintegrating Europe—is not contained. It arrives at her shed in the bush in the figure of the disturbed Clive.

Lives do not remain static, even for those who resist change.

Refuge is a tender exploration of love and friendship, families, race relations, the consolations of the natural world and, above all, what it means to belong.

Over to Richard…

Refuge cover-2

2 inspirations for the book

1 Place is integral to this novel. Here it is informed by many years of roaming a narrow strip of coast accessed along Juniper Road in the south-west of Western Australia. The cover image (by Caroline Juniper) is indicative of the mix of coastal vegetation, granite rocks, reef and ocean typical of this part of the world. The view south leads to Gracetown, Cowaramup Bay.

2 The story is driven (I suppose) by my own ambivalence about either engaging with a world that seems increasingly unstable at all levels—socially, politically, environmentally—or attempting to withdraw from it and live in a more self-contained manner, where the land itself is your nearest neighbour.

2 places connected with the book

As suggested above, the story is anchored in a particular south-west location. For me it represents more general characteristics of the natural world: contrary strains of mutability and constancy, flux and permanence, chaos and the ‘still point of the turning world’, to quote Eliot. Survival against the odds. ‘At the still point, there the dance is’ (Eliot). 

2 Harder to name, there is also a psychological space, no doubt evolved from life experiences of serious surgery that compel acknowledgement of your own mortality. Time’s winged chariot is a powerful motivator to bring on the philosophic years, to force into the open the big questions concerning our existence.

2 favourite quotes

1 After Tinny returns from hospital, he no longer has a secure sense of self; he is no longer clear about the boundaries—social and physical—that define him. In the passage below, he is walking towards the coast in the late morning.

He came to the top of a small rise and innthe distance could see the ocean, mad with whitecaps. He moved slowly, stretching out his arms like the wings of a bird, and then his legs in giant strides. His long hair flicked into his eyes and he moved his head so it blew backwards. He could feel it streaming behind him. Then he bent low to the wind and started to run down the slope: at any moment he could take off and fly over the treetops to the sea. His eyes watered in the wind, he spun around and around, his arms the limbs of a tree, his bare feet digging into the soft, damp sand; he swayed with the gusts, his thoughts deserted him; the leaves of the marri brushed his face and he could feel the coarsening bark of his skin, the red blood sap moving through him. He stretched out, shooting upwards with purple tips of the new leaves, his trunk thickening, feet rooting below the ground, around rocks, through sticky clay and into the stream below.

2 I was first introduced to the work of Gerard Manley Hopkins as a school student. These lines from ‘Heaven–Haven’ (subtitled ‘A nun takes the veil’) have remained with me all my adult life. At various points in the development of the novel, it was titled ‘Where no storms come’ and ‘The swing of the sea’.

And I have asked to be
Where no storms come,
Where the green swell is in the havens dumb,
And out of the swing of the sea.


Refuge is available in bookstores now
Find out more at UWA Publishing


Filed under 2 2 and 2 (writers + new books)

2, 2 and 2: Richard Rossiter talks about Thicker Than Water

rr-1Richard Rossiter was once my lecturer, became my academic supervisor, and continues to be my mentor and friend—and for all these things I often wonder whatever it was I did to be so fortunate. Whenever I’m asked to name the most significant influences on my writing career, I always think of Richard, and in Edith Cowan University’s Celebration of the Book exhibition catalogue five other writers (Robyn Mundy, Danielle Wood, Annabel Smith, Julia Lawrinson and Terry Whitebeach) similarly acknowledge the importance of his contribution.

Following on from his career as an academic and supervisor, Richard has worked as an editor, writer, board member of a small publisher, and frequent judge of writing competitions. He says that in these latter roles, he is enormously impressed by the standard of writing that is submitted and realises it is a privilege to be published in a very competitive market.

Richard lives, for most of the time, in North Fremantle, Western Australia, at the narrowest point between ocean and river. Otherwise he is ‘down south’ in a cottage surrounded by trees within hearing distance of the ocean, north of Gracetown.

His short fiction has been published widely, and a collection, Arrhythmia: Stories of Desire (UWA Publishing), was published in 2009. His new book, Thicker Than Water (UWA Publishing), is a novella, and I’m delighted to be featuring it in the 2, 2 and 2 series.

Here is the book blurb:

When Marie D’Anger saw that look in Edy Baudin’s eye, she knew it was time to go home.

Marie D’Anger returns to the family home in south-west Australia after years of living in England, to a father whose destructive impulses have been curbed by a stroke, and a mother whose passivity she never understood.

Behind her is Edy Baudin and the deep love they shared before he left, suddenly and without explanation. Further back still is her father and his fraught relationships with his mother, brother and step-father. But when Edy follows Marie to Australia, her father’s shocking revelation brings hidden things to the surface.

This is quintessential Rossiter: an intense, poetic, family drama and psychological tragedy.

Over now to Richard…


2 things that inspired the book

At a micro level, one prompt for the book was a photograph sent by a friend from England. It was a selfie in black and white: two faces close up with remarkably similar eyes and nose and mouth and I began to wonder (yet again) about attraction between couples.

More removed and abstract is an ongoing interest in how identities are formed: what shapes our lives in terms of immediate circumstances, but also the larger forces at work—social, cultural, political, historical—and the fact that these (often tangential) forces are represented by the stories that we tell, and those that we hear, those told to us in myth and fiction and contemporary media.

2 places connected with the book

Integral to the story is the southwest coast of Western Australia, specifically between Gracetown and Margaret River. It is important not just in a physical sense, but also in terms of the stories that embody and surround it. So it’s the trees, the granite, the limestone, the coastal heath, the ever changing ocean and the people who have carved out a life there—especially at Ellensbrook and the mouth of the Margaret River.


There is a place that exists in my mind (and of course does exist in various known and unknown places) that is encapsulated in a sentence that has stuck with me for a number of years, in a letter from Fanny Bussell to her cousin Capel Carter. She is describing the house at the property ‘Cattle Chosen’ (built 1832) and its surrounds. She writes: ‘The windows command on one side a pleasant view of the river, with the country in its unredeemed state…This side of the prospect is full of beauty, and yet I dwell with more interest and delight on the opposite scene…It is more essentially English and bears the marks of our daily improvements.’ She talks of the ‘improving hand of the European’ and clearly sees the need for nature to be redeemed from its natural state, from wilderness.

There is a brief reference to such a garden on page 52 of Thicker Than Water. For me, it works as an image of all sorts of divisions within our society; it reflects our uncertainty about identity and our history.

2 favourite passages in the book

There are two rather different passages in the book that I have some special affection for, probably because they are, very loosely, based on my own experience. The first describes the character Kenneth as a young boy on his way home from boarding school for a long weekend. He is on a train and has been furtively glancing at a girl nearby and adjusting his clothing, loosening his tie and removing his cap, so he looks more casual—like her. She gets off at the station before his, but he is still thinking about her when he hops off, hoping his mother will be there to meet him.

As the train slowed down, he stood up, looking out of the window at the lights and the few people standing around. There she was. He opened the door and stepped out before the train had stopped. He’d seen older men do this; they took a neat step forward and walked swiftly away from the carriage. It seemed grown up and sophisticated. He stepped out and lost his balance because the train was going too fast and his bag made him clumsy. He staggered and fell forward, grazing his arms. Then his mother was at his side, helping him up like a child. His eyes smarted with the sting. Sweetheart, are you alright? Why did you do that? He couldn’t answer her. He picked up his bag and walked towards the exit, his mother following and still asking him questions. He was glad Andrew was not with her. Then he thought of the girl, and kicked at the gravel on the path. (41)

The second passage concerns a description of the house that Marie, a key character in the novel (daughter of Kenneth), moves into. She is unused to the sound and feel of it, especially during storms at night. Hetty, who has died, was her grandmother.

On most mornings she was organised with a little pile of wood in a box beside the stove, so she didn’t have to venture outside to the woodheap. But not this one. Last night she was home late; it was dark and wet and cold, so now she didn’t have any kindling and it was still raining. She knew it had started up about 3am because she’d been woken by the sound of the rain, at first an insistent pattering on the tin roof. And then the wind came in massive gusts that shook the whole house. Somewhere there was a gap in the cladding, or the lining, and she could feel a thin draft of cold wind on her face as she lay in bed, in her grandmother’s bed. Hetty must have felt this draught, she thought, and she too must have lain awake on nights like this. Every so often there would be a roar that you could hear starting down the valley and she would lie there, her whole body tense and listening and waiting for it to strike the house. Everything rattled and shook. She could hear objects flying off the veranda, and imagined the roof lifted a little before settling back down. On edge for the next gust, she wondered whether the whole structure, the corrugated iron and timber beams, would rise up like a giant prehistoric bird and fly off into the darkness. (78–79)


Thicker Than Water is in bookshops now, and you can find out more at:
UWA Publishing


Filed under 2 2 and 2 (writers + new books)

In fine company…

Image-for-ECU-SW-student-news-Aug-2013The Mt Lawley campus of Edith Cowan University, in Perth, is currently holding an exhibition called ‘Celebration of the Book’, which showcases the published creative work of graduates of the university’s higher degree program in writing (PhD, Masters and Honours), as well as some of the academic staff involved in the program.

Candidates graduating from these programs undertake a major creative work plus an accompanying exegesis; my PhD thesis, for example, consisted of a novel (submitted under the title ‘Ellipsis’ and subsequently published as The Sinkings) and an exegesis comprising two substantial essays, one on the subject of ambiguous genre and the other on ambiguous gender.

Many of the graduates of ECU’s higher degree writing program have gone on to achieve publication; outstanding novels that spring to mind—products of that program—include The Alphabet of Light and Dark (Danielle Wood), A New Map of the Universe (Annabel Smith), The Nature of Ice (Robyn Mundy), Finding Jasper (Lynne Leonhardt) and The Albanian (Donna Mazza). Even that abbreviated list includes one Vogel Award winner and one T.A.G. Hungerford Award winner, as well as four short- or long-listings for other major awards. To quote from the exhibition catalogue:

From 1999 to the start of 2013, twenty-one writing students have graduated with a Higher Degree from Edith Cowan University. More than half of their projects have resulted in significant publications. Many of our alumni have carved careers as professional authors and academics, mentoring a new generation of writing students. From a small base comes an impressive collection of printed works. As part of our 2013 Celebration of the Book Exhibition, Edith Cowan University is proud to showcase a selection of creative writing publications, with supporting comments from the authors.

I feel proud to be included among the writers featured in the catalogue (you can download a copy via the link here)—writers whose work I admire, many of them friends, and/or colleagues in various capacities.

So congratulations to ECU, to exhibition curator Robyn Mundy, to all the writers exhibited (full list below), and to one supervisor, in particular, who has been thanked so often that there is talk of a fan club (he would hate that!)—Dr Richard Rossiter.

And what fine company it is!
Dr Suzanne Covich
Dr Fran Cusworth
Dr Maureen Helen
Dr Simone Lazaroo
Dr Julia Lawrinson
Dr Lynne Leonhardt
Dr Donna Mazza
Dr Vahri McKenzie
Dr Anne Morgan
Dr Robyn Mundy
Dr Ffion Murphy
Professor Glen Phillips
Dr Marcella Polain
Associate Professor Richard Rossiter
Dr John Charles Ryan
Dr Annabel Smith
Professor Andrew Taylor
Dr Terry Whitebeach
Dr Danielle Wood


Filed under Writing