Posted by: Lisa Hill | June 10, 2011

Meet an Aussie Author: Ian Reid

The End of Longing

Ian Reid is a ‘new’ author on the Aussie scene, though I’m tagging him as a Kiwi as well since he was born in New Zealand.   The End of Longing is his first novel (see my review) but he’s a widely published academic historian and a poet as well.

Interestingly, while Ian definitely thinks of himself as a writer, he’s never wanted to write full-time.  Ian likes the buzz of working in other fields as well, and he’s had a varied career path, in academia, in management, in the not-for-profit sector and also the heritage field.  He’s been an editor of literary and professional journals; a teacher in schools, universities, the corporate sector and even a prison, and he’s studied various languages as well.

As he explained to me in an email:

For me there’s value in continuing to develop my word-craft alongside other work commitments. It prevents me from turning in unduly on myself. It keeps me engaged day to day with a wide range of people and ideas and experiences.  Among the literary figures I admire, several combined lifelong devotion to their writing with a demanding day job. There are well-known examples: William Carlos Williams was a doctor, T.S. Eliot a banker, Wallace Stevens an insurance officer, Anton Chekhov a doctor, and so on.

All these activities have links of one sort or another with his writing, but it is life itself, he says, which provides the self-knowledge to be able to invent fully-realised characters with emotional depth…

Thanks to the assistance of Britt Ingerson, the dynamic new publicity intern at UWA Publishing, Ian has kindly agreed to participate in my Meet an Aussie Author series.

1. I was born … in Wellington, a city perched on unstable hills, harried by restless winds and surrounded by ruthless seas. Human habitation seemed marginal. Shorelines continue to preoccupy me. I lived in various parts of NZ until my early twenties, then moved to Australia. Perth has become home, near another shipwreck coast.

2. When I was a child I wrote … like a child: imitatively, just for the pleasure of putting words on the page, with blithe borrowings from whatever I was reading at the time.

 3. The person who encouraged me to write was … first, my Great Aunt Ethel, who typed up one of my early stories, giving an adult seal of approval to a child’s pastime; and later, the teachers who awarded me a school prize for creative writing, confirming my sense that this was something I could do well.

 4. I write in … my head (when the little notebooks are out of reach), in my car (only at stoplights), in my study (when the cat leaves me alone for a while), and on planes (flights from Perth to anywhere are always long).

 5. I write when …I can seize any free moment.

 6. Research is … fundamental because I write historical fiction. There are countless things to check, so I need to spend a lot of time with books, newspapers, photos, letters and other materials – which are all, also, sources of narrative ideas.

 7. I keep my published works in … view of my writing desk, not only to encourage me when the words don’t flow (having produced a fair bit already, I must be capable of more) but also as a sobering reminder that I’m not entirely happy with some things I’ve produced, so I want to lift my game.

8. On the day my first book was published, I … basked in the admiration of my primary school classmates as the teacher read it aloud. OK, it didn’t have an ISBN or a commercial imprint, but I’d hand-written and bound it with pride. Called The Valley of the Headhunters, it bore no relation whatsoever to anything I’d experienced at first hand. But there were some very big words in it.

9. At the moment, I’m writing … a third historical novel, largely set (like the second, which will appear next year) in Western Australia.

10. When I’m stuck for an idea/word/phrase, I … go for a walk beside the Swan River, near where I live, and talk things over with my most astute reader and critic, my wife.

It’s good to know there’s another novel on the way – thanks, Ian!

The End of Longing is available at Fishpond.  Click the link.

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