The Booktopia Book Guru asks
author of Resurrection Bay,
Ten Terrifying Questions
I’m a Frankston girl, but without the surfer chick cool or ability to tan. Frankston was blonde brick suburbia by the time I was a teenager, but in my primary school years it was a wonderland of building sites, bushland and swamps. I attended the local schools, and then went on to study classical clarinet at the Victorian College of the Arts and the Rotterdam Conservatorium in The Netherlands.
2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
At twelve and eighteen it was an even split between being a writer and a clarinettist. Books and music have always been a way for me to make sense of this world, and escape it, but I’ve never been much of a spectator: once I could read, I wanted to write, once I could listen, I wanted to play.
Music consumed most of my time through my twenties. I played in anything from aged care homes, to the Phantom of the Opera, and concerts with Dame Kiri Te Kanawa. But by the time I was thirty, I was missing writing with quiet desperation, so I began writing a book. It was like diving into a pool after years away from the water: it wasn’t pretty, but I was finally back in my element.
3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?
That happiness is boring. (Although I still hold that it is in books.)
4. What were three works of art – book or painting or piece of music, etc. – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?
I cried the first time I heard Allegri’s Miserere, and I’ve cried every time since. It’s a sacred choral piece with a soaring soprano solo: quiet and sublime. It works because it sounds effortless, but of course it isn’t. Allegri agonised over every note and the singers have practised for hundreds of hours.
I love that same apparent effortlessness in Fred Williams’ landscapes. They’re so simple, but they transport you to the Pilbara. You can smell the eucalypts, feel the hot wind on your face. I admire Peter Temple’s writing for some of the same reasons: he captures so much with so few brushstrokes.
5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?
Writing is wonderfully all consuming. When it’s going well, I fall into the story and emerge hours later, blinking and confused, but happy. The downside is that not all days are good ones.
6. Please tell us about your novel, Resurrection Bay
Resurrection Bay features Caleb Zelic, a profoundly deaf investigator who has always lived on the outside. When a close friend is murdered, a sense of guilt and a determination to prove his own innocence sends Caleb on a hunt for the killer. But he can’t do it alone. The investigation takes him places he’s rather not go, including to his hometown and estranged family. As he delves deeper into the investigation Caleb uncovers unwelcome truths about his murdered friend – and himself.
7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?
I hope they’re excited, exhausted and moved, but mainly that they carry a piece of Caleb with them. He’s very real to me and I hope he becomes real to them.
8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?
In no particularly order: Hilary Mantel for her wry wit and keen eye, Kate Atkinson for her subtleness. As well as Peter Temple, there is a long list of Australian writers I read and reread: PM Newton and Malla Nunn for their characters and depth of ideas, Kate Grenville for her liquid prose, Shane Maloney for his humour.
9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
To make each book better than the last one.
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
Nothing you write is a waste of time. Some days you slog through a thousand soulless words and write one beautiful sentence. Don’t regret those thousand words – they led you to that sentence.
Emma, thank you for playing!
When a childhood friend is murdered, a sense of guilt and a determination to prove his own innocence sends Caleb on a hunt for the killer. But he can’t do it alone. Caleb and his troubled friend Frankie, an ex-cop, start with one clue: Scott, the last word the murder victim texted to Caleb. But Scott is always … Read more.