What’ya reading, Bren?
I'm reading The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne, which starts in post war Ireland and goes the whole lifetime of a young man from pre-birth to death. It's one of those novels where you don't really understand what you're reading when you set off but you understand that it's heartachingly honest and full of flawed people, and you slowly fall in love with many elements of it during the journey and when you finish, you feel like the character is an old friend and you just left his house for the last time.
What do you enjoy snacking on when you write?
Sesame curry peanuts. I'm addicted to them.
What risk have you taken with your writing that has paid off?
I took on environmental themes which are sometimes seen as scary for children, and I took on the challenge of telling these stories in unusual future voices. My stories are set in a very different future and I wanted them to feel like another time with a different kind of voice. The risk is that many readers have set ideas about what is appropriate for children, and how stories should be written.
Why did you choose to become an author?
It's a form of creativity that's always interested me, and I've tried other forms of creativity but always come back to writing. I just love to create stories. As a farm kid, having people sitting around telling stories after a long day of shearing etc. was one of my favourite things.
Is there a book by another author you would recommend everyone should read?
I really loved This is How We Change the Ending by Vikki Wakefield. I just love how she's captured the hopelessness of growing up in poverty, of having poor parenting, of how all encompassing poverty traps are. It's heartbreaking. I loved that novel.
In Dog Runner, did you envisage the Ella in a specific part of Australia, and if so, can I ask where?
I feel like it's somewhere between Shepparton and Wangaratta. Dookie, maybe. Shepparton is famous for canned fruit.
Were there any real-life dogs which you used for inspiration for the dogs in Dog Runner?
I went to a forest in Logan to see The Sled Dog Racing Queensland people practising running their dogs through forest trails, so that was wonderful. There was also a twitter account I followed where a girl had four malamutes, a brown, a grey, a black and a much larger one who was tall like an Alsation. So I kind of modelled the family dogs on three of her dogs. I've grown up with dogs and so I found it easy to write in the dogs.
What indigenous foods have you eaten and enjoyed which might surprise people?
Yams! I love all yams and sweet potatoes, give them all to me!
You’ve had considerable success writing about environmental themes. Was there a time, place or event that led you down this path, and do you think you will always weave these themes into whatever stories you write?
When I started out there weren't many environmental-based stories around but suddenly they're everywhere... so I think society decided it was important and that's where the success in these themes came from. I just write what I think is interesting, what I want to explore and what is on my mind. I like to focus on the future, on where we're going, like most people who write science fiction do, so I think I'll always be thinking about what comes next. Maybe it came from a childhood under the threat of the cold war and always being worried about the future. I see that same kind of worry in today's children about the environment and the need to explore what a changed future might look like.
Could you give your readers a sneaky hint at what your next book will be about?
I've teamed up with Zana Fraillon. We're each writing a character born 100 years apart. We're bringing you a novel set in a post-pandemic, post-city world, one where surviving humans have learned their lesson. But it turns out history truly won't stay buried.