Posted by: Lisa Hill | October 14, 2013

Meet a Kiwi Author: Tracy Farr

Tracy Farr, author photo by Liane McGee.

Tracy Farr, author photo by Liane McGee.

The Life and Loves of Lena GauntAs readers will know, I was completely captivated by a recent debut novel, and now it is my pleasure to introduce you to the author of The Life and Loves of Lena Gaunt, Tracy Farr from New Zealand.

(But first, read my review if you haven’t done so already because then you can hum along to the music of the theramin while you read about Tracy.)

Tracy Farr has been a scientist, a dramaturg and a researcher; she has worked in a health food store and in libraries, made short films and played (briefly, long ago) in a band. She grew up in Perth, Western Australia, but we can’t claim her as an Aussie author because since 1996 she has lived in Wellington, New Zealand.  Her short fiction has been published in anthologies, literary journals and popular magazines, and it’s been broadcast on radio.  Her writing has been commended, short-listed, and awarded runner-up in Australia and New Zealand, and I predict that The Life and Loves of Lena Gaunt will end up in the awards lists too.   She was Emerging Writer-in-Residence at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers’ Centre in 2008.

The Life and Loves of Lena Gaunt was launched in Wellington by Dame Fiona Kidman, one of New Zealand’s finest writers ever, and if you need any further convincing that this is a remarkable debut, here is part of what she had to say:

I love the sensuous ebb and flow of this work. The language is beautiful, the sense of music a powerful onward movement throughout the story. Tracy dares to go where many a writer might retreat, Lena’s story full of raw power. This is writing that is not afraid.

Fremantle Press have made a lovely production job of this book. As one would expect, for it’s a prestigious Australian publisher, that only publishes the best. Some of their writers include Joan London, Elizabeth Jolley and Tim Winton. Tracy Farr is a fine name to add to such a list.

I began by saying that this is a book I’d love to have written. What more can one writer say to another?

Despite her busy schedule, Tracy has agreed to feature in Meet a Kiwi Author and here are her answers to my questions!

1. I was born in Melbourne, where my parents lived when they were first married. We moved back to Perth when I was two.

2. When I was a child I wrote poems, song lyrics and stories, and (very long) lists of the books I read.

3. The person who inspired me to write was Brenda Walker, who tutored me at university. I first started trying to write the year her first novel, Crush, was published (1991). I was equally inspired back then by Elizabeth Jolley, Peter Carey, Helen Garner, Jeanette Winterson, Tim Winton, Beverley Farmer. I wanted to do what they did. I still do.


Tracy at the dining table where she writes, author photo by Liane McGee

4. I write in a small, cluttered room at the bottom of our house when I’m editing and rewriting. When I’m writing new work, I prefer to move around – I’ll write in cafés, the library, at the dining table, in the garden. Anywhere.

5. I write when I can, when I’m not doing my day job. I learned early not to wait for inspiration, just to get on with it.

6. Research is overrated. I worked for years as a scientist, so I’m no stranger to research, but when I write fiction, I love the liberation of moving beyond what’s ‘real’. I use research as a starting point, but I rely more on my instincts and imagination.

7. I keep my published works on a shelf in the living room, where they’re surrounded by books I love. I carry a copy of my novel with me, tucked into my bag, ready to whip out at the slightest prompt; I’m sure the novelty’ll wear off soon.

8. On the day my first book was published, I went to a bookstore and sat and drank a coffee, staring, smiling, admiring my novel on the shelf.

9. At the moment, I’m writing my next novel. Lena Gaunt is full of sound and music; the new novel is all about colour and light and vision.

10. When I’m stuck for an idea/word/phrase, I make a note – in square brackets – and move on. If I’m really stuck I’ll grab a huge piece of paper and fill it with words and shapes and arrows and drawings, until something sparks or connects.

We can see from her answer to Question 3 that it has been a long road indeed for Tracy, and I am just so glad that she has the persistence of all good writers because her determination has resulted in an unforgettable novel.   And kudos too to the wonderful Brenda Walker for inspiring this talent right from the very beginning!  (I haven’t read Crush, but when I read it back in 2006 before I started this blog, I loved The Wing of Night which was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin and almost everything else as well).

You can find out more about Tracy Farr and her fascinating book at her website.

To buy a copy of The Life and Loves of Lena Gaunt, visit

Fishpond: The Life and Loves of Lena Gaunt

Or direct from Fremantle Press (where you can also read a sample chapter and download questions for book group discussions).




  1. […] soon to the ‘Meet an Aussie (Kiwi) Author‘ feature. Coming very soon, as it turns out; here it is, posted 14 […]

  2. […] (on my TBR Tracy Farr: The Life and Loves of Lena Gaunt (Fremantle Press) see my review and Meet the Author here. Jacinta Halloran: Pilgrimage (Scribe) see my review Margo Lanagan: Sea Hearts (Allen & Unwin) […]

  3. […] coming soon to the ‘Meet an Aussie (Kiwi) Author‘ feature. Coming very soon, as it turns out; here it is, posted 14 […]

  4. […] Read the interview online: ‘Meet a kiwi author: Tracy Farr’ […]


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