Interview by Nicole Melanson ~
Eliza Henry-Jones was born in Melbourne in 1990 and lives in the Dandenong Ranges with her husband and too many animals. Her short fiction has been published widely and her debut novel, In the Quiet, is being released in July through Fourth Estate as part of a three-book deal.
She has completed a degree in Psychology and English and also has qualifications in grief, loss and trauma counseling. She is currently undertaking creative writing honours, exploring representations of bushfires in Australian fiction and working in the Drug and Alcohol sector.
HOW DID YOU GET STARTED?
I stapled my first “book” together at the age of seven. It was a hybrid of The Saddle Club and Enid Blyton. The j’s and s’s were all backwards and the drawings were highly questionable.
I have written a book (and by book, this time I mean a novel-length word document) every year since I was fourteen.
In 2011, I was picked up by Sally Bird from Calidris Literary Agency and in 2014 my manuscript, In the Quiet, received offers from five publishers, which was an indescribably surreal experience. I giggled hysterically a lot.
WHAT IS YOUR LATEST BOOK OR CURRENT PROJECT?
My debut novel, In the Quiet, is coming out in July (but can be pre-ordered here). In the Quiet is an exploration of grief and loss, narrated by a mother who has recently died, watching her family coming to terms with her death on their rural horse property.
I’m currently busy working away on my second novel, Ache, which explores a small Australian community post-disaster.
WHAT IS YOUR WORK ENVIRONMENT LIKE?
Technically, my work environment is my study, which has a wall of books, a beanbag and a view of our bushy, green garden. Often, it also has a cheeky chicken that’s snuck inside. But mostly I’ll write in the lounge room or in bed or out on the verandah. I have to be able to move around or my writing gets stuck.
WHEN DO YOU WORK? WHAT DOES A TYPICAL DAY LOOK LIKE?
My days vary a lot, depending on whether I have work, class or something else. But a typical writing day starts with letting out my ducks and chickens and collecting their eggs, which never stops being delightful. I then go and ride my horse – a Clydesdale cross called Bertie. Bertie and I do jumping and dressage, but he’s still quite “green”, so a lot of the stuff we’re working on is very basic. Back home, I rotate through study/lounge/verandah/bed for the rest of the afternoon, working on my novel, short stories or non-fiction as well as buzzing around on social media. I have always written around study and work and that’s meant writing at night. Now that I’m lucky enough to have days to dedicate to writing, I’m trying to retrain myself into being a day writer with varying results.
WHAT IS YOUR WRITING PROCESS?
My novel-writing process is very chaotic. I normally start with a very minimal idea – In the Quiet started off as an image of a girl on a verandah, being showered with jacaranda leaves – and see how I go. I listen to a lot of music. I tend to write in very big chunks and then have a few days off from the manuscript. I know many people find writing in smaller increments more regularly works better for them, but I struggle with that. I don’t make plans for anything before I write it.
WHY DO YOU DO WHAT YOU DO?
There are so many reasons, but the bottom line is that I would be utterly miserable if I didn’t write.
WHO OR WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
Reading other people’s work is incredibly inspiring. Although sometimes I read something that is just SO good, it ends up being debilitating rather than inspirational. It’s a fine balance. I think, like most people who create things, I get ideas at very weird times. Mostly in situations where I don’t have the opportunity to write anything down. I don’t think I’ve ever had a good story idea while riding my horses, which is interesting.
WHAT IS THE HARDEST PART OF WHAT YOU DO?
Second-guessing myself. About everything. All the time.
WHAT DO YOU WISH YOU HAD KNOWN WHEN YOU STARTED?
I wish I’d appreciated just how subjective the creative process is. I went and listened to lots of authors give talks about their creative writing processes when I was teenager. Rather than recognising their processes as simply being distinct from mine, I felt like I was failing; that my chaotic process was lacking. I think writing is the sort of thing that is always going to make you question, feel doubtful and uncertain, but having it drummed into me earlier that how I operate is perfectly okay would’ve been a lovely thing. I spent years trying to force myself to plot in detail, write a certain number of words each day, to have chapters of a certain length – just generally fighting the way that I naturally operate.
WHAT IS YOUR ARTISTIC VISION?
To keep writing stories that explore grief, loss and connection. I think, as a society, we really struggle to grasp what grief, loss and bereavement actually are. We’re very removed from death – bodies are taken away, coffins are closed, people don’t know how to react, either as the bereaved or towards the bereaved. People have no idea what’s “normal” and yet feel this pressure to – nonetheless – adhere. The grieving process is often thought of as a period of time that finishes, when grief, really, is a perpetual thing that we must learn to live with and adapt to. There’s so much Australian fiction that deals amazingly with the complexity of grief and I suppose I’d love to see those themes continue to grow and be explored.
I think a lot of my writing is about developing my own understanding and making my own explorations into what death and loss actually mean. And if the stories resonate with others on top of that – well, that’s pretty special.
WHO ARE YOUR FAVORITE FEMALE AUTHORS?
Jessie Cole, Gillian Mears, Carol Lefevre, Favel Parrett, Inga Simpson, Lorelei Vashti
WHICH FEMALE AUTHORS WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE INTERVIEWED ON WORDMOTHERS NEXT?
Thank you, Eliza Henry-Jones!
— Nicole Melanson
* Author photo by Rebecca Rocks
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