Eleanor Limprecht, author of Long Bay, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

by |July 31, 2015

long-bay

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Eleanor Limprecht

author of Long Bay

Ten Terrifying Questions
____________

1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born in Washington DC in the United States. My dad worked as a Foreign Service Officer in the State Department so we lived overseas (in Germany and Pakistan) and in Virginia – never anywhere for more than four years at a time. I went to university at Virginia Tech while my parents were posted to Uzbekistan. I moved to Australia when I was 24 after falling in love with an Australian I met in Italy. Later I returned to university in Australia to get my Masters and recently my Doctorate of Creative Arts in writing from UTS.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

When I was 12 I wanted to be a veterinarian. I loved animals so much that I stopped eating meat at the age of twelve (after a few years of nagging my parents). I couldn’t imagine a better job than one in which I’d get to interact with animals constantly. Of course I didn’t think about the fact that I would have to deal with blood, disease, and pet owners as well.

When I was 18 I wanted to be a park ranger. I was studying Wildlife Sciences at university. I transferred to English Literature after a few months – it only took one semester for me to realise that I would have to be proficient in science in order to major in Wildlife Science….

When I was 30 I wanted to be an author. I had been a journalist and I wanted to write fiction, because it is what I have always loved to read. I had been working on my first novel manuscript for a few years (while freelancing and giving birth to my first child). I worked on it for a few more years and it is still in a drawer. Luckily my second novel was published – What Was Left. It is the story of a woman who, after giving birth, struggles with postnatal depression and leaves her family in a search for her own father, who left when she was a child.

June-2014-26-13. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

I believed that good and evil are easily defined – easily delineated. I believed you could avoid causing suffering in the world – this was why I was a vegetarian and an animal rights activist. Now I think that there are so many grey areas, no one is immune from causing suffering, and I am far less judgmental. I think that this is something literature taught me – for every person who does some terrible thing – delve enough into their past and into their world and you can come to understand why they have done it.

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?

Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. This book to me was about the power of paying attention – noticing the world around us – and how much darkness and death are as intrinsic as life and light. This book taught me there is as much beauty in death as there is in life. She writes: “…the world is actual and fringed, pierced here and there, and through and through, with the toothed conditions of time and the mysterious, coiled spring of death.” It’s a stunning book.

Joseph Cornell’s boxes. I love these assemblages and the miniature worlds they evoke, the sense of nostalgia and fragmentation that you get by juxtaposing strange things.

Charley Pride singing “Is Anybody going to San Antone” – my dad loved old country music and had this on a record compilation. I listened to it non-stop when I was about seven. I knew all of the words by heart. I was an unusual kid. What it taught me is the way just a few words can tell a heartbreaking story – and the way an image can evoke emotion. Here are the first two stanzas:

Rain dripping off the brim of my hat
It sure is cold today
Here I am walking down 66
Wish she hadn’t done me that way.

Sleeping under a table in a roadside park
A man could wake up dead
But it sure seems warmer than it did
Sleeping in our king sized bed.

5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel? 

Because I express myself best through writing. I become tongue-tied and self-conscious when trying to speak. I love music but I am not musically trained, and visual arts inspire me, but literature is the language I speak. I find fiction to be the natural home of truth. George Eliot said “Art is the nearest thing to life” and to me that art is the art of the novel. I love nothing more than to lose myself in a novel. I love the way it makes me look at my own life in a new light.

long-bay6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

Set in Sydney in the first decade of the 1900s, Long Bay is based on the true case of a young female abortionist who was convicted of manslaughter and served out her sentence in the newly opened Long Bay Women’s Reformatory – the first of its kind in Australia. The woman, Rebecca Sinclair, was pregnant when she went to prison.

Long Bay looks at how Rebecca became involved in the burgeoning illegal abortion racket in Edwardian-era Sydney and how she was drawn into this underworld. In unadorned prose, it examines the limiting effects of poverty, the mistakes we make for love, and the bond between mother and child.

Grab a copy of Eleanor’s new book Long Bay here

7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?

I hope they are able to imagine a little more clearly what it was like to live in Edwardian Sydney as a woman of the working class, and why you might make choices which now we judge harshly. I hope people reflect on the novel in relation to contemporary life as well. I also want my readers to come away as well with a sense of hope – of possibility. I like dark subjects but I am still an optimist. I have a particular weakness for love stories.

the-poisonwood-bible8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?

Barbara Kingsolver. She manages to be a supremely skilled writer but also someone who is concerned about the planet and food sources and social justice. Somehow she does this without preaching. She just shows it in her writing, through her intensely identifiable characters and her believable plots. But there are so many other writers I admire as well: Anne Enright, Kate Grenville, Hilary Mantel, Hannah Kent, Curtis Sittenfield, Emma O’Donoghue, Toni Morrison, William Faulkner. I could go on…

9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

Mine are not so ambitious. Balance is important to me: having time to spend with my family, time to give back to my community and keep myself sane (running). So my goal is just to write the next book, I cannot see beyond that (I’ve never been very good at planning for the future).

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Not everyone is going to like your writing. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to improve – you should always be trying to improve – but you will never make everyone happy, so never let your own sense of success depend on that. Write because you love to write, not because you want to be published. But also, be persistent. Carve out uninterrupted time to write.

Eleanor, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of Eleanor’s new book Long Bay here

——————————————————–

long-bayLong Bay

by Eleanor Limprecht

Set in Sydney in the first decade of the 1900s, Long Bay is based on the true case of a young female abortionist who was convicted of manslaughter and served out her sentence in the newly opened Long Bay Women’s Reformatory – the first of its kind in Australia. The woman, Rebecca Sinclair, was pregnant when she went to prison.

Long Bay looks at how Rebecca became involved in the burgeoning illegal abortion racket in Edwardian-era Sydney and how she was drawn into Donald Sinclair’s underworld.

In unadorned prose, it examines the limiting effects of poverty, the mistakes we make for love, and the bond between mother and child.

Grab a copy of Eleanor’s new book Long Bay here

1 Comment Share:
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestmail

About the Contributor

Andrew Cattanach is a regular contributor to The Booktopia Blog. He has been shortlisted for The Age Short Story Prize and was named a finalist for the 2015 Young Bookseller of the Year Award. He enjoys reading, writing and sleeping, though finds it difficult to do them all at once.

Follow Andrew: Twitter

Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *