Interview by Nicole Melanson ~
Honey Brown lives in country Victoria, Australia. She is the bestselling author of the critically acclaimed novels Red Queen (winner of the Aurealis Award), The Good Daughter (longlisted for the 2011 Miles Franklin Award), After the Darkness, Dark Horse (winner of the 2014 Davitt Award) and Through the Cracks (shortlisted for the 2015 Davitt Award).
Honey began writing novels in 2000. Before settling down she worked and lived in various remote places throughout Australia. She spent her childhood in Tasmania, growing up in a convict-built house. In her late-twenties she was involved in a farm accident, and now lives with the challenges of a spinal injury. Her most recent release, Six Degrees, a collection of erotic short stories, is available in bookstores now. She is currently working on her sixth psychological thriller.
HOW DID YOU GET STARTED?
As far back as I can remember I’ve always had stories turning over in my mind. I imagined being someone else, doing different things, I pictured scenes and could see the characters and hear their dialogue. In my early teens I asked my sister what story she had playing in her head, assuming everyone had their own private movie screening in their mind. She had no idea what I was talking about. I wondered then if perhaps I was creative, and I started writing.
My break was in 2005, when I submitted Red Queen to the ABC Unpublished Manuscript Competition. I won runner-up. At the awards night I approached literary agent Fiona Inglis and introduced myself. My thanks will always be to my partner, who talked me into doing that, and literally (in my wheelchair) pushed me towards the huddle of important people.
WHAT IS YOUR LATEST BOOK OR CURRENT PROJECT?
My latest release is Six Degrees, a book of interconnected short stories focusing on sex and sexuality. It’s a departure from my usual dark psychological thrillers, although, at its heart, it’s still delving into my interest in human behavior and the intricacies of relationships. I wanted to write about positive sexual experiences and the redemptive nature of good sex. I was also keen to cover the diversity of female desire and sexual response, even down to the orgasms women have – I thought it was time to strip the mystery from the female climax, drop all talk of flowers and petals blooming, and have some relatable sex on the page.
WHAT IS YOUR WORK ENVIRONMENT LIKE?
I work from home, either in my home office or at the kitchen bench, depending on the time of year – in winter, I gravitate to the warmth and natural light of the kitchen table; in summer, I seek out the quiet and cool of my office. Both spaces are neat and tidy. I need order and routine if I’m to write well. All the chaos is happening inside my head, so I straighten those things I can, like papers and pens and books, and I keep to a daily regiment of early writing, lots of coffee, and moderate amounts of dark chocolate.
WHEN DO YOU WORK? WHAT DOES A TYPICAL DAY LOOK LIKE?
If I’m really on a roll, I’ll get up at 4am to write, stop briefly to get the kids off to school, and then return to writing until school pick-up time at 3pm. But, most days, I start writing at 9:30am and stop at about 2pm. That gives me time to do housework and function as a normal interactive and socially engaged person!
WHAT IS YOUR WRITING PROCESS?
I let the story build first in my mind. I DO NOT speak a word of it. I only write the smallest snippets down. I imagine scenes; I jump forward and back, thinking out character arcs and possible climatic moments. If the story sticks and the premise feels strong I wait for that dramatic first line to hit me, and then I quickly write it down (in my phone if I’m out doing something) and I go from there. I don’t plot or plan; it takes the excitement and heat from the work for me. It’s a difficult way to write a novel though. There’s a lot of backtracking when the story isn’t working out. I have to do it this way though, because if I don’t the writing becomes stiff, the enjoyment factor drops away, and I don’t feel that wonderful creative buzz.
WHY DO YOU DO WHAT YOU DO?
I write as a way to understand the world and as a way to try and understand humanity. The dark side of humanity worries me, fascinates me, and confuses me, so I try and work it out by putting my characters in harsh and distorted situations and seeing what they do and finding out how they react. When I write about sex, it’s more about trying to take the shame from it, exploring it because it should be explored in fiction, including it because it should be included; it feels like a chance to allow sex to be carnal and erotic and diverse, without all the moralizing.
WHO OR WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
My inspiration comes from everywhere. If I get low on ideas, I just have to go for a drive, travel somewhere new, or watch a movie, or read a book. Conversations also inspire me. Reading newspaper articles inspires me a lot. Nature, the outdoors in general, never fails to stir up new stories within me. Pretty much everything inspires me.
WHAT IS THE HARDEST PART OF WHAT YOU DO?
I’m dyslexic, so my biggest stumbling block is the unusual wiring in my mind. I get stuck spelling common words, I forget names and places and facts and figures, I don’t know the correct terms for things, I have moments of intense uncertainty, where I don’t feel intellectually capable at all. BUT, I also know my dyslexia is the very reason I write the way I do. I don’t want to “fix” the way I think; I just wish I could get a Stephen Fry intelligence enhancement. How good would that be!
WHAT DO YOU WISH YOU HAD KNOWN WHEN YOU STARTED?
In the beginning, I thought it was wrong to turn down motivational speaking events, believing them to be good for my wellbeing and good for my writing career. I ignored the discomfort I felt speaking about my spinal injury. It was a great relief the day I stopped going down that path, realizing how unsuited I am to that style of speaking at those sorts of events.
WHAT IS YOUR ARTISTIC OR PROFESSIONAL VISION?
I simply want to write a really good book, one that stands the test of time. Although I’m proud of my work, I’m never satisfied; I always feel I can do better.
I’d also love to see my work adapted to stage and/or screen. To see another creative person’s take on it, how they would change or enhance the story.
WHO ARE YOUR FAVORITE FEMALE AUTHORS?
I’m in awe of Joyce Carol Oats. That supersized mind I mentioned before – dyslexic wiring with Stephen Fry’s academia injected, well, that’s Joyce Carol Oats to me. I know she’s far from dyslexic, but she is creative plus academic. …How I wish.
I’ve also recently discovered Krissy Kneen. The boldness and fearlessness of her novels is so exciting. Her writing throws open doors and beckons me to be more daring.
WHICH FEMALE AUTHOR WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE INTERVIEWED ON WORDMOTHERS NEXT?
Krissy Kneen. But baton down the hatches and hold on tight.
Thank you, Honey Brown!
— Nicole Melanson
And thank you, Angela Savage and Ellie Marney, for recommending Honey!
* Author photo by Kat Izabela Cagney
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