Posted by: Lisa Hill | April 26, 2012

Meet an Aussie Author: Lisa Lang

Utopian ManTonight the winner of the 2012 Vogel Award for an Unpublished Writer will be announced here in Melbourne, City of Literature, so it seems opportune to feature a previous winner in Meet an Aussie Author.  Lisa Lang was co-winner  of the same award in 2009 for what became her debut novel Utopian Man, which I reviewed here when it was published by Allen and Unwin in 2010(She shared the award with Kristel Thornell, whose novel Night Street has also been reviewed here on the ANZ LitLovers blog.)

E.W. Cole: Chasing the RainbowA Melbourne writer, Lisa was selected in 2007 for the Australian Society of Authors’ mentorship  program.  She is also the author of the non-fiction title E.W. Cole: Chasing the Rainbow (2007) which was the genesis of Utopian Man – a re-imagining of the life of eccentric entrepreneur Edward Cole and a vivid portrait of 1880s Melbourne.  This is what she has to say about the world-famous book arcade which used to grace our city:

‘When I first heard about Cole’s Book Arcade I was astonished: a multi-storey book arcade full of animals and fun park antics in the heart of Melbourne. And the man behind it was just as surprising, an eccentric humanitarian with a genius for promotion called Edward Cole. I could not believe it; I had lived my whole life in Melbourne and never heard of either of them. I had grown up on stories of criminal folk heroes and sporting legends – that was history, as I knew it. The Cole story radically altered my concept of the city and its past. Suddenly I saw a history full of colour and diversity: Turkish bathhouses, Chinese immigrants, séances, opium dens, entrepreneurs, conmen and grand idealists. And I wanted to bring it all to life on the page.’

(Anyone else who wants to know more about Melbourne’s history than criminal folk heroes and sporting legends could do no better than to check out Robyn Annear’s Bearbrass: Imagining Early Melbourne, which I have enthused about here.)

Lisa has kindly agreed to tell us more about herself in Meet an Aussie Author, and here are her answers to my questions:

1. I was born the year Australia got colour TV.

2. When I was a child I wrote a novel called The Runaway Girls about two girls at boarding school in England. My best friend Rachael and I wrote alternating chapters. We had never been to boarding school. Or England.

 3. The person who encouraged me to write was my Year 10 English teacher, Mrs Leech. She published my description of an evil garden in the school newsletter. I was outraged when she asked me to confirm it was all my original work.

 4. I write in a green poncho in winter. It’s warm, and frees up my arms.

 5. I write when the sun is shining and all my friends are having picnics, or drinking negronis by the pool.

 6. Research is an honourable form of procrastination. Sometimes its necessary.

 7. I keep my published works in the house somewhere.

 8. On the day my first book was published, I should have drunk a negroni. If only I knew then what I know now.

 9. At the moment, I’m writing an existential mystery novel that involves contemporary dance, Darwin and librarians.

10.When I’m stuck for an idea/word/phrase, I walk around my neighbourhood. I take the poncho off first.

(For those not in the know, a negroni is a kind of cocktail made famous by Orson Welles and Tennesee Williams.  I had to look it up on Google).

This new novel sounds most intriguing, n’est-ce pas?

Thanks to Renee Senogles from Allen and Unwin for her help with this post.

Click the link to buy Lisa’s book from Fishpond: Utopian Man

PS The 2011 Vogel winner Rohan Wilson was featured on Meet an Aussie Author here, and I reviewed his acclaimed The Roving Party here.  There was no award in 2010, but I’ve also reviewed the 2008 winner, Document Z: A Novel by Andrew Croome.  See here.


  1. Lisa, I am so glad you caught up with Lisa Lang. Utopian Man is another good read about Melbourne, and such icons as Edward Cole. He was an eccentric man and also a forward thinking one. His creation of a book shop for people to come in and sit down and read, was well ahead of the times.



    • His influence lasted well into this century too. My own son had a Cole’s Funny Picture Book and loved it for its quirky humour.


  2. She sounds like fun … and I know exactly when she was born as I was well old enough to remember the introduction of colour TV. My father couldn’t wait to see cricket in colour (all that white and green!) so we were an early adopter!


    • I remember it because I bought one for my parents as a thank you for all the support they gave me with babysitting while I finished my teaching qualification. I bought it with my third pay-cheque, and they were speechless when they unwrapped the big box and realised what it was.


  3. […] might also like to check out Lang’s responses to Lisa Hill’s list of author questions in her ‘Meet an Aussie Author’ series at […]


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