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Emerging queer female authors you need to know about...
May26

Emerging queer female authors you need to know about...

CREATED ON // Tuesday, 26 May 2015 Author // Sabine Brix

Anna Westbrook and Ellen van Neerven are two young emerging queer Australian authors who just finished engagements at the Sydney Writers’ Festival. Ellen van Neerven most recently received the SMH Best Young Australian Novelist Award for her debut novel Heat and Light while Anna Westbrook was shortlisted for the Vogel in 2006, her debut novel Dark Fires Shall Burn is forthcoming through Scribe in 2016. We spoke with both writers to discover more about their work and inspiration.

Anna Westbrook

Anna1d

What inspires you to write?

Mostly I find writing excruciating and so I procrastinate. There are fleeting moments where it's fantastic when you are so submerged in the writing time is suspended and it becomes (almost) an altered state of consciousness. But tht is maybe a 90-10 ratio. So "inspired" isn't my first choice of word, but if I could change it perhaps to "compelled", I know when I can't extricate a story from my mind and I'm turning it over and over in my imagination, I have to write it.

Which authors did you read growing up?

I loved Enid Blyton's 'The Magic Faraway Tree', and her work in general. Victor Kelleher's Young Adult books were fascinating as they always had an element of the weird, the dangerous, or the macabre - something slightly sinister and I think kids are fascinated by that in fiction. I was a bit of a tomboy and Tamora Pierce's 'Alanna' series was wonderful - it's about a girl who pretends to be a boy to train to become a knight.

Who, in your opinion, are some of our most powerful female authors? (across any genre)

There is an exciting younger generation of fiction writers emerging. I love the poetry of the late Dorothy Porter. Internationally, I admire writers like Donna Tartt, Siri Hustvedt, Sarah Waters, and Margaret Atwood: they're all pretty powerful.

Can you tell us a bit about your book?

My book is about a real life murder of a child that happened in Newtown in 1946. The World War 2 period in Sydney's history was one of immense social upheaval - American troops were stationed here and they bought new music, fashion, and culture to a city of sly grog that was still very parochial. Unsurprisingly there was a lot of illicit sex and the beginning of a gradual shift in peoples' attitudes. One of my characters is a teenage boy who has sex with other men, so I did a lot of research into the history of queer Sydney. It's called Dark Fires Shall Burn and will be published by Scribe in March 2016.

What do you hope readers take away most from your work?

I would like readers to feel like they believe in this historical world I've tried to create: that the texture is realistic and they can 'step back' 70 years, so to speak. The past shapes the present and if we are attentive to its traces it changes the way we see the world.

 

Ellen van Neerven

Ellen1c

What inspires you to write?

Country inspires me to write. I’m talking about connection to the natural world and the places that have formed me. I also am inspired by others – writers, creative types, strong people who have survived unthinkable things – their stories carry me.

Which authors did you read growing up?

My mum got me reading Famous Five books by Enid Blyton. I identified with George – the strong-minded tomboy always running around outdoors with her dog.

Who, in your opinion, are some of our most powerful female authors? (across any genre)

My favourite female Australian authors include Melissa Lucashenko, Kristina Olsson and Ali Cobby Eckermann.

Which queer female authors do you currently read/ identify with?

The late poets Lisa Bellear and Dorothy Porter, who I first read in my early twenties, still remain huge influences on me, and I return to their work regularly.  I also love San Francisco writer Michelle Tea’s work, and that of Welsh novelist Sarah Waters.

Can you tell us a bit about your book?

It is a real hot little mess: sexy (I hope), sassy, political, and sometimes surreal. If you think you’d like reading about the inner lives of black queer young women, you’ll like this book.  

What do you hope readers take away most from your work?

That we (Aboriginal people, and queer people) are a diverse mob, and the past is entwined with the future.

Heat and Light is out now through University of Queensland Press and Dark Fires Shall Burn will be released through Scribe in March 2016.

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Sabine Brix

Sabine Brix

Sabine Brix is the digital editor for Gay News Network.

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