Interview by Nicole Melanson ~
Dianne Touchell is a contemporary fiction writer for Young Adults. Her first book, Creepy & Maud (Fremantle Press, 2012), was Shortlisted for the Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year Award in the Older Readers category, 2013. It was also one of Australian Book Review’s “Books of the Year” for 2013. It was published in Germany by Konigskinder Verlag in November 2014. Her second book, A Small Madness, was published by Allen & Unwin in February 2015. It will be published in Germany by Konigskinder Verlag, in Canada by Groundwood Books and in the UK by Murdoch Books.
HOW DID YOU GET STARTED?
I’ve always written. Diaries, letters, stories, poems. When I was a child I’d get so frustrated when a book ended I’d pick up a pen and keep writing it after the last chapter ended. My “break” came when I sent the manuscript for Creepy & Maud into Fremantle Press and it was rescued from the slush pile. It had been seriously considered by another publisher but I ran away from them when they told me I couldn’t have the word “pubes” on the first page of a YA novel. I beg to differ. I can have pubes anywhere I like.
WHAT IS YOUR LATEST BOOK OR CURRENT PROJECT?
My latest book is A Small Madness, published by Allen & Unwin, February 2015. It’s a story about love, denial, madness and infanticide. I am fascinated by how individuals are ruled by the expectations of others and how those expectations become rules in and of themselves.
My current project is hammering out fine-tuning a second draft of my third novel, Forgetting Foster (working title), which will also be published by Allen & Unwin. “Fine” and “Tune” are the best words here, even though my fear screams “HAMMERING”. It is a book about memory loss, identity and the place between love and pathology where so many people get lost.
WHAT IS YOUR WORK ENVIRONMENT LIKE?
I have a great, big, beautiful, solid oak desk that weighs more than God. At least that’s what the courier I almost killed getting it into my house said. It’s so deep I can’t reach across it, and it has a patina you can almost smell. It is positioned up against floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook my garden. Some days I just lay my face on it. Because I love it so much. I work there. In total silence. Even a lawnmower starting up next door can make me homicidal.
WHEN DO YOU WORK? WHAT DOES A TYPICAL DAY LOOK LIKE?
I have a “real” job to pay the bills so I’m forced to retreat to evenings and weekends in order to get stuff done. I am looking to marry money in order to alleviate my time constraints: please apply through the contact form on my website. On a weekend I like to get up when it’s still deep-dark and my windows black and cold. That’s the time, you know. Good stuff happens then. In the evenings I write until alcohol starts to make my characters live out the frustrations of the working day. I delete that stuff in the morning.
WHAT IS YOUR WRITING PROCESS?
Slowly slowly catchy monkey. Sentence at a time. Word at a time. Is this sentence complete? No? – then we sit here until it is. I start with character always. Characters are pushy folk – always wanting to tell you their story. So I let them. No planning. No fancy plot plan. Let the characters nest. Let them in. Right in, until it feels like you have a baby rolling around in your guts. Then let them guide you.
WHY DO YOU DO WHAT YOU DO?
I’m currently discussing this with my therapist. Oh, wait – is this writing specific?? – I do it because it’s joyful. It’s home. It’s that place behind your eyes where regrets, possibilities, insight and desperation all gather for a party your self-esteem wasn’t invited to. I do it because stories are where I first discovered a home.
WHO OR WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
I listen a lot and read a lot.
WHAT IS THE HARDEST PART OF WHAT YOU DO?
Time. I don’t have enough time (refer request to become a kept woman). When I do have the time I second-guess myself at every juncture. The words are there, waiting to be scrutinized. And when you don’t write a lot of words those words have to be right. I come home from a day in the office with Post-Its cramming my phone cover. An idea or phrase will pop into my head. I need time…
WHAT DO YOU WISH YOU HAD KNOWN WHEN YOU STARTED?
That a contractual agreement with a publisher includes a lot of public speaking. Some of which happens before noon. So you can’t include drinking as part of your preparation.
WHAT IS YOUR ARTISTIC OR PROFESSIONAL VISION?
I don’t have a vision. I’m too busy trying to get the words on the page. That’s the thing. My vision at any given time is completely focused on the scene I’m working on. I don’t even think about breakfast. My personal goal is that the next sentence doesn’t suck.
WHO ARE YOUR FAVORITE FEMALE AUTHORS?
How much time do you have? – here’s a few, in no particular order…
WHICH FEMALE AUTHOR WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE INTERVIEWED ON WORDMOTHERS NEXT?
I’d say the only writer I’ve ever read and thought: “I wish I’d written that!” – Vikki Wakefield
Thank you, Dianne Touchell!
— Nicole Melanson
And thank you, Pip Harry, for recommending Dianne! Read Pip’s WordMothers interview here
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