Posted by: Lisa Hill | April 2, 2012

Meet an Aussie Author: Candice Bruce

The LongingA little while ago I had the pleasure of reading The Longing which is the debut novel of Candice Bruce, a former art historian and academic.  (You can see my review here).  It is the kind of book that really makes the case for Australian writing because it is not a story that could have its genesis anywhere else, and it speaks to the heart of the moral dilemma that underlies the settlement of our country.  I really enjoyed reading it.

And now it is my pleasure to introduce the author herself, because Candice has kindly agreed to participate in Meet an Aussie Author.

Candice has had a fascinating career in the art world.  She studied at the Power Institute at the University of Sydney and then went to work for Thirty Victoria Street, a specialist gallery dealing with 19th and early 20th century art – which gave her the opportunity to do detailed research and writing.

In 1979/80 she curated the Eugene von Guerard Exhibition for the National Gallery of Australia and wrote two books about him.   She also began to write fiction during this time but found it difficult to get published and so returned to art history, though she kept writing fiction and put it all in a drawer.

For the next six years she was the Senior Research Assistant for the Dictionary of Australian Artists (Oxford University Press) and Heritage (Craftsman Press), both edited by Professor Joan Kerr.   This was a wonderful experience, she says, because it gave her the chance to see a lot of art kept locked away in libraries and museums all over Australia.  (Alas, there is never enough room for everything to be on show even in the largest of galleries!)  From there she moved into more curatorial work at the Australian National Maritime Museum and after that, the Queensland Art Gallery as Curator of Australian Art.

After moving back to Sydney, she became a specialist consultant for Sotheby’s Australia from 1997 to 2009, during which time she returned to writing fiction.  She did various writing courses part-time which she says were really helpful and began writing occasional feature articles for Vogue Living.

In 2011 she was one of the principal contributors to the Eugene von Guerard catalogue for an exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria to mark the bicentenary of his birth.   At the same time, she was finishing The Longing which draws on much of that same material and which was published in February 2012. For both things to happen simultaneously was, she says, very satisfying and felt like coming full circle.  (The von Guerard exhibition is currently touring, and is at the National Gallery of Australia from April 27th – July 15th, 2012.)

Here are Candice’s answers to my questions:

1. I was born in Sydney. When I was about nine my parents built their “dream home” on the north shore backing onto bush.  I used to love going to a solitary point that looked out over the whole of Middle Harbour.

2. When I was a child I wrote bad poems & things I now remember as embarrassing – I was a rather melodramatic child who loved acting classes.

3. The person who inspired my writing was my English teacher Dr Stewart when I was about 13. She was Welsh and could recite the Canterbury Tales by heart. She made us all keep a list of our reading and introduced me to many contemporary writers such as Iris Murdoch, Brian Moore and Muriel Spark who were not part of the school syllabus.

4. I write in a timber cottage perched on the edge of a cliff overlooking the sea on the south coast of NSW. You feel really a part of the weather – we get a lot of storms and dramatic cloud formations  – and there are lots of birds, sea eagles and parakeets, particularly.

5. I write whenever I can grab some time. I tend to go at it hard and then might not do anything for a few days.

6. Research is glorious but also seductive and I always do far more than I can possibly use.

7. I keep my published work/s in a bookshelf in chronological order. I am a bookaholic.

8. On the day The Longing (my first fiction work) was published, I went around to all the bookstores near my home in Sydney and took photos of my book on their shelves. My local bookshop put it in their window which gave me a special buzz.

9. At the moment, I’m writing two things – one non-fiction (that still may end up as a piece of fiction) and a novel that I had started but put to one side as I didn’t really know where it was going.

10.When I’m stuck for an idea/word/phrase, I usually work it through. It’s deeply satisfying to puzzle out a word and to finally get it right and find something fresh and new. Sometimes though some phrases or metaphors simply cannot be bettered and that can be really irritating.

How nice to meet a fellow bookaholic, eh?  And I bet Dr Stewart would be proud to see her successful student now!

You can visit the author’s website here.

Author: Candice Bruce
Title: The Longing
Publisher: Vintage 2012
ISBN: 9781864712704
Source: Review copy courtesy of Random House.

Fishpond:  The Longing
Or direct from Random House (including as an eBook).


  1. It’s nice to get a perspective on some one whose writing you’ve enjoyed & also for those that haven’t read the work just an angle on the writing process or what makes a writer tick. Thanks


    • I agree, and I am always so grateful when an author finds the time to contribute!


  2. “a timber cottage perched on the edge of a cliff overlooking the sea ” sounds like a pretty inspiring writing space.


  3. Can I persuade you to feature in this series too, Annabel?


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