Whose literary work has played an important or impactful role for you?
There have been two Australian writers whose work had a major influence on my own craft.
One is a historian, the late Inga Clendinnen. Inga was an exemplary scholar who abided by all the rules of the academy but made her work accessible to wide audiences through the sheer beauty of her prose and lucidity of her ideas. She never used her intelligence as a weapon, only a tool for greater understanding of our past and its consequences. Her book Dancing With Strangers is a gem.
The other is a novelist, the very much alive and kicking Kate Grenville. I studied her historical novel, The Secret River, not for its telling of frontier contact history so much as her sheer wizardry as a storyteller: the way she uses dialogue, pace, narrative tension, how she builds character so that as a reader you feel emotionally invested in what happens to people. You have skin in the game. I have tried to blend the best of both of these writers’ techniques and sensibilities into my own writing.
And special shout-out to Anne Summers and her 1975 classic, Damned Whores and God’s Police, the book that made me want to be a historian. Anne’s life as a feminist activist as well as journalist, political advisor, author and editor is an inspiration.
But the writing that excites me the most at the moment is that of our First Nations’ authors. Tara June Winch’s The Yield, Tony Birch’s The White Girl, Song Spirals by the Ga’wu Group of Women from North East Arnhem Land — these are the stories and perspectives I want to hear. The ones that change my frame. The ones that ask me to dig deeper.