Posted by: Lisa Hill | April 20, 2018

Meet an Aussie Author: Roger Averill

 

Roger Averill (author photo by Lily Averill)

Last week I had the pleasure of attending a book launch for Roger Averill’s new novel Relatively Famous (which is now waiting its turn on the TBR) and I took the opportunity to ask if Roger was willing to take part in Meet an Aussie Author.  He was – and here he is!

I must first tell you the story behind the ‘cool photo’ of Roger in his enigmatic sunnies… as you’d expect, Roger’s family was out in force at launch, and so we got to hear him publicly thank his talented daughter Lily for the photo.  Having seen his other publicity photo at Goodreads, I think she’s quite right: this is a much better photo!

Roger Averill grew up in the 1960s and 70s in what was then the outer northern Melbourne suburb of Glenroy; an unlikely place to have since become a literary landmark via the novels of Steven Carroll.  His first book, Boy He Cry: An Island Odyssey, (Transit Lounge 2009) is about the time he and his anthropologist wife lived on a tiny island off the south-eastern tip of Papua New Guinea, and he read an abridged version on  Radio National’s First Person program. That broadcast, alas, is another victim of the stupid decision to archive many of the best ABC programs in a futile attempt to make us listen to the drivel that has replaced them.  (Today en route I caught ‘Stop Everything’ on Radio National. I can’t comment on how inane it is because I couldn’t bear to listen to it for more than a minute).  But you can still listen to a Saturday Extra interview with Roger talking about Boy He Cry with James Carlton. It sounds fascinating so I’ve just reserved a copy of the audio recording from my library.

Roger’s novel, Keeping Faith, (2010) depicts a family divided by matters of faith and doubt, and his third book, Exile: The Lives and Hopes of Werner Pelz (2012), is a biography of a remarkable Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany.  (Both of these were also published by Transit Lounge).  Exile (see my review) was shortlisted for the NSW Premier’s Douglas Stewart Award for Non-fiction, and won the WA Premier’s Award for Non-fiction.

Roger’s latest book is a novel called Relatively Famous, in which Michael, the son of the eminent Australian author Gilbert Madigan, finally comes to terms with his father’s legacy of fame and neglect.  (At the launch Roger was at pains to explain that this family is nothing like his own!)

Roger teaches at Victoria University and lives in Brunswick, Melbourne with his wife and two daughters.

So, here are Roger’s answers to my questions:

1. I was born a long time ago. How does that happen, the year of your birth suddenly seeming a thing of antiquity? (I know what you mean, Roger, it was when mine became last century that I was completely taken aback!)
2. When I was a child I wrote primary school projects. I remember being quite proud of one about penguins, another on breeds of dairy cows.
3. The person who mentored my writing is Chris Eipper. Thirty years ago he generously, foolishly, offered to read my first manuscript.
4. I write in a tiny, cluttered cockpit-like study. The truth is, it could be three times bigger and I’d still manage to make it cluttered.
5. I write when I make time for it, between the cracks of family life, domestic chores and fulltime work, i.e. at night and on holidays.
6. Research is so much easier in the digital age, with most queries met with a couple of key strokes in a search engine.
7. I keep my published works in a bookcase in the dining room.
8. On the day my first book was published I felt I’d reached the end of a long journey and was relieved to have finally arrived.
9. At the moment I’ve a couple of writing projects mumbling away in the backblocks of my mind, waiting to press in on my other commitments.
10. When I’m stuck for an idea/word/phrase I try to find one that will do as a stand-in.

BTW You can see from this gallery of Roger’s books just how good the cover designs are at Transit Lounge.  I don’t know who did the others, but Peter Lo did the one for Relatively Famous.


Responses

  1. I have heard of him but not read any of his works. It won’t happen this year as I am committed to my TBR shelves but maybe later on. Will see if library has any of his works. I laughed at your comment about the ABC. I get so sick of how everything around me is being so dumbed down. Why do they do it?! Frustrating. I have written the ABC several times complaining in the past but have given up. I just get the standard pat reply of nothingness really. Enjoyed your post.

    • I am listening to Boy He Cry in the car, though because I don’t do much driving these days, it’s a rather disjointed way to listen to it and I may not get it finished before it’s due back at the library. It’s interesting about their early days in PNG – you can’t help but admire people who ‘up sticks’ with a couple of backpacks and go to live in a completely different environment, whatever their reasons though I think anthropology can be one of the best reasons to do it… Roger’s wife was studying the impact of western medical practice on traditional medicine, which would surely come up with some useful, practical findings if done respectfully (which so far – up to CD 2 – it appears to have been).
      *sigh* I am going to try not to have these little rants about the ABC but sometimes I can’t help myself, the sense of loss is so great.

  2. ‘Cool’ is exactly the word that came to mind when I sighted the pic. It’s a keeper.
    I like how, when stuck, Roger tries to find a word that will ‘do as a stand-in’.
    You know how much I enjoy ‘meeting’ these Aussie authors and this one is no exception. :)

    • I love it when I manage to twist an arm to participate!

  3. Love the answer to question 4 (as it’s me) and no. 10. I do that in my blog posts too, and hope that the inspiration for the better word will come before I post. It usually does. I’m guessing this is what he does too.

    You’re right about the covers. They are great.


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