FWA: What attributes/qualities/talents do you think a successful novelist needs to possess?
Overwhelmingly, I think we need curiosity, stubbornness and humility. A deliberate uncertainty, along with an unwavering commitment and a willingness to learn what your novel has to teach you.
FWA: You’ve published three novels now as well as non-fiction. How do you tackle each project? Does it change from book to book? Does it get easier?
For me, the writing itself doesn’t get easier. Each book has its lessons for us, and we need to stay open and receptive to them. I never begin to write because I know something; I begin because I don’t know something. It’s always about the questions. The process is often about discovery — of what you are asking and what the answers might be. So while the writing doesn’t get easier, I’ve learned now that uncertainty is necessary, and that there will be moments of frustration and triumph and desperation and joy.
FWA: What will you be looking for when you read the applications for Writing a Novel for the first Brisbane course?
I’ll be looking for a sense of that curiosity and determination, of resilience. Not of certainty or stridency, but a solid commitment. A sense of excitement. And I’ll be looking for tentative signs of a writerly voice.
FWA: Sometimes it looks like writing is a very solitary task, but Faber student feedback frequently highlights the benefits of working in a trusted group. Is that something you’ve experienced?
For the most part, writing is solitary, but that’s the very reason we seek out like minds, others who share our excitement and trepidation and fear. As often as possible, I go on retreats with several trusted writer friends, and the encouragement, the guidance, the consolation of their presence is invaluable. Not to mention the daily reassurance that others share the same odd habits and preoccupations, a particular way of seeing the world…
FWA: Ideally, what will participants in Writing a Novel achieve at the end of the first three months in the course?
A well-developed sense of the questions they’re asking, and some confidence in their approach and in their project. Some solid writing on the page and a sense of excitement to take them to the desk every day. An understanding of the process of writing: drafting and re-drafting as their understanding grows. Optimism. And a group of peers to remind them that, while writing can be lonely, they are not alone.
Thanks to Kristina Olsson
And, Kristina is also one of the mentors available for Author to Author consultations
You could be paired with her for a series of fortnightly one-on-one consultation sessions to discuss your work, and help you negotiate the roadblocks and challenges you might be facing. The sessions provide a forum to keep you accountable for producing work to regular deadlines.