In 5 minutes with author, Over60 asks book writers about their literary habits and preferences. Next in this series is Lucy Treloar, a writer and teacher in creative writing. Her 2015 debut novel Salt Creek won the Indie Award for Best Debut, the ABIA Matt Richell Award and the Dobbie Award. She has also published her short fiction in Sleepers, Overland, Seizure and Best Australian Stories, and her non-fiction in outlets such as The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, Meanjin, and Womankind. Her latest book Wolfe Island is out now.
Over60 talked with Treloar about Bridget Jones’s Diary, the risk of suspense, and how to start writing a book.
Over60: What is your best writing tip?
Lucy Treloar: When you’re starting a new book, the vastness of the project can feel overwhelming. It can help to narrow the focus to getting some words down, concentrating on the sentences for a while and on discovering voice, and let the daily achievement accumulate, giving you hope that one day there will be enough to make a book.
What book(s) are you reading right now?
I’m reading English filmmaker, artist and writer Derek Jarman’s wonderful memoir, Modern Nature, in part about the garden he created on barren ground not far from a nuclear power station in Kent. And I’m also reading Elizabeth Smart’s intensely poetic classic By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept.
What was the last book that made you cry or laugh?
A book I dearly love to laugh at is Bridget Jones’s Diary. As for crying, Karen Foxlee’s Lenny’s Book of Everything is lovely, but oh so sad.
Who is your favourite literary character?
Such a temptation to say Elizabeth Bennet, but I will resist. A character I often think about is Jack Broughton from Marilynne Robinson’s novel Home. He’s the black sheep of a large family, and has a tarnished glamour and elusive sadness that I’m always trying to understand. He’s as opaque to himself as he is to readers, and yet utterly believable.
Which trope grinds your gears?
I don’t mind any trope as long as it’s well done and feels fresh in an author’s hands. But plotting that relies too heavily on suspense to create narrative traction or reader investment at the expense of interesting characters is likely to lose me.
Is there any book by other writers that you wish you had written?
I discovered Denis Johnson’s writing only last year, and read his novel Train Dreams several times in quick succession, each time more slowly, trying to absorb its lightness and density as well as its remarkable voice. Marilynne Robinson’s extraordinary Housekeeping is a book I reread every few years. It’s about orphans Ruth and Lucille and their strange coming of age in the care of their Aunt Sylvie.
Do you have any writing routine? If so, what does it look like?
I wake at 6am, and over a pot of tea handwrite in my notebook, then go into my studio and write using the handwritten notes as a jumping-off point for the day’s writing. I stay there until I have at least a thousand new words, usually at around lunch. I often do a little more handwriting last thing, or fiddle around with writing on the computer in the afternoon or evening.
Which author(s) – living or deceased – would you most like to have dinner with?
A dinner with admired authors I’ve never met before sounds quite stressful, but I think I’d like to chat to English novelist Jane Gardam, whose work I love, especially The Hollow Land, my favourite comfort read. And perhaps listening in on a conversation someone else was having with Deborah Levy would be fun. She seems incapable of being boring.