Paddy O’Reilly is one of my favourite Aussie authors, and *blush* I still can’t believe that I only discovered her writing in 2012!
My first discovery was The Factory, (2005) and it went straight into my Top Reads for 2012. I am on a mission to get this fabulous book reprinted because I might never have found it if I hadn’t stumbled across it at the library. It was included in best books of the year in Australian Book Review and The Sydney Morning Herald, and Highly Commended in the FAW Christina Stead Award for Fiction, and no wonder, read my review and then scour all the bookshops you know to source a copy for yourself. It is worth the hunt.
My next find was The Fine Colour of Rust (2012). Written under the name P.A. O’Reilly to signal a departure in style to ‘crossover literary-commercial’, this affectionate homage to the female battlers in small country towns is in the wryly comic tradition of great Aussie authors such as Ruth Park and Eleanor Dark, but has contemporary setting and characterisation. Read my review here and see why I loved it too.
There is a highly regarded short story collection as well, called The End of the World (2007), but I haven’t read that yet.
The first time I met Paddy was when she launched Las Vegas for Vegans by A.S. Patric at Readings in St Kilda. This was a great evening because I got to meet him and his publisher Barry from one of my favourite publishing houses, Transit Lounge, and I also got a great piece of advice from Paddy, which I put into practice when I did my first-ever book launch: ‘A good launch speech is a short launch speech!’ On that occasion I think I just gushed a bit about how much I loved The Factory …
But when Paddy turned up at an ASA (Australian Authors Association) event, I was able to
share in eavesdrop on a conversation amongst Paddy and two other authors whose work is reviewed here on the blog: Cate Kennedy and Toni Jordan. Dorothy Johnston was there too – I read her One for the Master years ago when it was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award. In such company I listened awestruck as they talked about the respective merits of short story, poetry and novels and just gushed every now and again about how much I loved their writing.
By the time Paddy and I bumped into each other again at a book launch at the Embiggen Bookstore (the one conveniently just across the road from the Wheeler Centre so that you can buy a book to read over coffee before an author event), I had read The Fine Colour of Rust and so it was obviously destined that I should ask Paddy to participate in Meet an Aussie Author!
So, without further ado, here are Paddy’s answers to my impertinent questions:
1. I was born some years after my siblings in a family planning mishap.
2. When I was a child I wrote secret notes with instructions for finding hidden treasure (which I had hidden), reaching the end of the rainbow, making yourself invisible and so on. Then, because the notes were so secret, I ate them. It takes a while but eventually they turn into a kind of claggy substance you can swallow.
3. The person who encouraged me to write was a teacher in high school, Wendy Dick. Although I didn’t listen to her, in my late twenties the urge came, and I wonder if it was the seed she had planted finally fruiting. Or perhaps it was the inspiration of my father. He died when I was young, but apparently his correspondences, including letters to manufacturers either praising or critiquing their products, were masterpieces of wit and élan. He was also a fine storyteller.
5. I write when no one is looking.
6. Research is a labyrinth from which I emerge weary, elated and laden with facts and ideas I will probably never use in their original form but which will be the bedrock of what I write.
7. I keep my published work in mind when I despair of writing anything decent ever again.
8. On the day my first book was published, I visited about ten bookshops to see if it was there.
9. At the moment, I’m writing notes for new work. (I’m superstitious about discussing unwritten work.)
10. When I’m stuck for an idea/word/phrase, I go and poke around in the garden or make tea and read. I do a lot of poking around in the garden, drinking tea and reading.
Wendy Dick, wherever you are, Australian readers owe you a debt of gratitude!
You can find out more about Paddy at her website.
Click this link to buy The Fine Colour of Rust . (It’s on a different search page because of the name change.)