Interview by Nicole Melanson ~
Erin Gough is a Sydney-based writer whose award-winning short stories have appeared in a number of journals and anthologies including Black Inc.’s Best Australian Stories, Southerly and Going Down Swinging. Her first novel, The Flywheel, published in February 2015, was the winner of Hardie Grant Egmont’s Ampersand Project.
HOW DID YOU GET STARTED?
I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. Making up stories was always my favourite school project, and I started entering short story competitions when I was about fifteen. When I got to uni I was lucky enough to meet a bunch of writer types who educated me about opportunities for aspiring writers. Ones I took advantage of included the Australian Society of Authors mentorship program and a residency at Varuna, The Writers House in the Blue Mountains.
Then in 2011 I applied for and received an Australia Council Emerging Writers grant to work on a novel for young adults. This was an important development. It bought me some time to write, and gave me the confidence to believe my book idea was a decent one. Over the next two years that book became The Flywheel. In 2013 I found out I’d won Hardie Grant Egmont’s Ampersand Project for my manuscript. Working with the editors at Hardie Grant to get the manuscript up to scratch has taught me a great deal about writing and has been an incredibly rewarding experience.
WHAT IS YOUR LATEST BOOK OR CURRENT PROJECT?
The Flywheel, published in February, is a novel for young adult readers. Danielle Binks has described it as “a tender-true story of girl meets girl, falling in love and finding your feet”. It tells the story of seventeen-year-old Delilah, who’s been struggling to run the family’s café —The Flywheel — since her father took off overseas, as well as survive high school. But after a misjudged crush on one of the cool girls, she’s become the school punchline as well. With all that’s on her plate she barely has time for her favourite distraction — spying on the beautiful Rosa, who dances flamenco at the tapas bar across the road.
WHAT IS YOUR WORK ENVIRONMENT LIKE?
I work from my study at home, which is a quiet room away from the rest of the living area in our flat. It’s full of my favourite books, which I’m constantly plucking off the shelves for inspiration.
WHEN DO YOU WORK? WHAT DOES A TYPICAL DAY LOOK LIKE?
For the last decade I’ve basically worked full time and have had to fit my writing around that. The Australia Council grant gave me a bit more time for a while, but generally my schedule has been to write two nights a week after work and one day on the weekend. I use a fair bit of my annual leave to write as well. Having so little time means I have to be pretty disciplined.
WHAT IS YOUR WRITING PROCESS?
For short stories I’ll have an idea, which I’ll write down in a file on my laptop. When I’m going about my life something else related to that idea will occur to me, so I’ll make a note of it and add it to the first idea. The notes that I know will eventually become a story are those where the initial idea attracts more ideas. When I have a solid word count I’ll put a structure around them and that will be the story.
When it comes to writing novels I’ve learnt the hard way that I have to build the structure first. The first novel I tried to write I approached like I approach my short stories. The result was a very long, very prettily worded, completely aimless piece of writing. Plotting everything out first doesn’t work for everybody, but it’s the key for me.
WHY DO YOU DO WHAT YOU DO?
I love creating worlds. There is nothing more empowering or satisfying. Most of all I love sharing those worlds with a readership.
WHO OR WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
My main inspiration comes from other works of fiction. I’ll read a great book and be filled with a compulsion to write something just as great. But other forms of art — theatre, television, music, visual art — also give me ideas about ways the world can be interpreted and all those ideas feed into my writing.
WHAT IS THE HARDEST PART OF WHAT YOU DO?
Finding the time to write is definitely the biggest challenge.
WHAT IS YOUR ARTISTIC VISION?
I’d love to see more diversity in young adult fiction. For example, it seems crazy to me that there aren’t more queer Australian young adult books when a significant proportion of school-aged people in this country identify as something other than straight.
WHO ARE YOUR FAVORITE FEMALE AUTHORS?
I have so many! Ali Smith, Melina Marchetta, Fiona MacFarlane, Melissa Kiel, Elena Ferrante, Robin Klein, Lorrie Moore, AS Byatt, Virginia Woolf, Zadie Smith, Donna Tartt — the list goes on.
WHICH FEMALE AUTHORS WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE INTERVIEWED ON WORDMOTHERS NEXT?
Thank you, Erin Gough!
— Nicole Melanson
And thank you, Marisa Pintado, for recommending Erin! Read Marisa Pintado’s WordMothers interview here
* Author photo by Emma Kersey
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