Posted by: Lisa Hill | September 3, 2019

Meet an Aussie Author: Meg Mundell

Photo credit: Joanne Manariti Photography

Born and raised in New Zealand, Meg Mundell is a Melbourne-based novelist, journalist and academic.   You might have seen her journalism in The Age, The Guardian, Sydney Morning Herald, The Monthly, New Matilda, The Australian Financial Review, The Big Issue, and Eureka Street, or her essays in Meanjin, Cordite Poetry Review, Overland, and in The Weekend Australian. She is what I describe as an author of social conscience, which can be seen in the collection she edited:  We Are Here: Stories of Home, Place & Belonging (Affirm Press, due out in October 2019), a world-first collection of true stories by people who have experienced homelessness.

But Meg also has a substantial body of work in fiction. Her short fiction has been published in Best Australian Stories, New Australian Stories, Modern Australian Stories, Australian Book Review, and Eureka Street, and Things I Did for Money (2013) was her debut short story collection.  I first discovered her fiction when I read her acclaimed first novel, Black Glass (Scribe, 2011 see my review here), which was shortlisted for the Barbara Jefferis Award, the Norma K Hemming Award, and two Aurealis Awards.

And as you know if you read my recent review of her new novel The Trespassers (UQP, August 2019), it’s making a splash too.  Books+Publishing gave it a five-star review and it was Readings’ Book of the Month for August 2019.  It’s a literary murder mystery set on a migrant labour ship in the near future – and I thought it was gripping reading, unputdownable from the first chapter, and inhabited by characters impossible to forget.

A chance conversation at Twitter led me to ask Meg if she’d be willing to participate in Meet an Aussie Author, and I am very pleased to say that she agreed. Here are Meg’s answers to my questions!

1. I was born in a small backwater called Huntly, which regularly tops the infamous “Sh– Towns of New Zealand” list (although I can’t confirm: we weren’t there long).

2. When I was a child I wrote everywhere: up trees, in various secret forts, in the hay barn, under the bedsheets at night with a torch.

3. The people who encouraged me to write were my parents, whose bookshelves were always well stocked. And I loved bashing away on the manual typewriters at dad’s work.

4. I write in noisy cafes (with earplugs), or in my home office, at a big rolltop desk held together with wire and bent nails (also with earplugs).

5. I write in a disciplined way. Working in journalism, I learned not to wait for inspiration to strike: you just have to sit down and do it.

6. Research is a joy, but also my day job. It’s easy to disappear down a research rabbit hole, so I set daily word targets to keep focus.

7. I keep my published works in two sets, in case lightning strikes: one set on the bottom shelf in my office, one set at my parents’ house in NZ.

8. On the day my first book was published, I was happy, but nothing changed in any profound way. I didn’t suddenly start wearing a cravat, and the bills still had to be paid.

9. At the moment, I’m writing a research proposal, an article about “belonging” for Dumbo Feather, and emails to arrange library visits, author talks and interviews about my new book.

10. When I’m stuck for an idea/word/phrase, I open the thesaurus, search for evocative images, go for a walk, or speak lines aloud to tap into the rhythm and flow of language.

For all those of us who like a little glimpse into a writer’s world, Meg has shared a photo of some sea-themed knick-knacks that live on her desk.

Bricks-and-mortar stockists for Meg’s books include: Readings (Carlton and SLV), Sun Bookshop (Yarraville), Neighbourhood Books (Northcote), Eltham Bookshop (Eltham), Dymocks (Collins Street store), Paperback Books, Hill of Content, and Mary Martin Bookshop in Melbourne; Better Read than Dead (Newtown) and Best Little Bookshop in Town (Cronulla) in Sydney; Avid Reader in Brisbane; Fullers Bookshop in Tasmania; and the National Library of Australia bookshop.  Her books are also available at Fishpond: Black Glass: A Novel and The Trespassers

You can find out more about Meg at her website.

Thanks to Meg for her willingness to participate, especially at this very busy time!


  1. My brother had a cottage in the Scottish village of Huntly – it had its own bothy


    • LOL Simon I had to Google ‘bothy’ to discover that it’s a small shack, left unlocked for anyone to use free of charge. I think that might be analogous to the old shacks in our mountains where hikers take shelter these days, they used to be used by drovers or some such.


  2. I have heard her name but not read her works. Next time I’m in Fullers I will look for her work. Her new book on homelessness sounds i teresting. That is a subject that interests me and I will never understand why a country as rich as Australia has so many people without a suitable place to live. I won’t mention anything politically that I’m thinking.


    • Interesting that you should say that about homelessness… I have just finished reading a book set partly in Sydney in the 30s and the war years, and it was commonplace for people to rent rooms, and be secure in them (as long as they paid the landlady) for decades. You never hear of that being an option for people needing a home today.

      Liked by 1 person

      • There used to be a lot of very inexpensive rooms in boarding houses and they would get a meal. I have always loved reading books that took place in those boarding houses. I suppose they didn’t worry about all the bureaucracy and legal issues plus insurance like they do now.


        • There is that, but there are also higher expectations as well. Here in Melbourne there used to be a YWCA hostel in Richmond which had to close down because young people wouldn’t comply with the rules such as the curfew.


  3. Her novel is also available in New Editions bookshop in Fremantle, because that’s where I bought my copy 😊


    • Thanks, Kim, I’ll add it to the list above. it’s probably also available in my favourite locals, I’ll have to check and see.


  4. I just ordered a copy of The Trespassers. As in, three minutes ago online! I was shopping for books from the link on Whispering Gums to the National Library of Australia Bookshop as they are donating 5% of all sales today to the Indigenous Literacy Foundation.


  5. I’ve just read both of these books, and recommend them.


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