During October, the Fremantle Press blog will be celebrating some of our latest fiction publications. The Press receives over 600 manuscripts a year, and it is our privilege to be able to select from these some of the best writing in Western Australia today.
Surely I have one of the best jobs on the planet. I grew up as one of those kids who read and wrote for leisure and pleasure, for the sheer delightful, life-affirming joy of it. Now I work with people who love books as much as I do. I spend my days amongst manuscripts, talking with authors, book designers, printers, editors. Reading manuscripts never feels like work, and editing is always a deeply satisfying and creative experience.
I still pick up a novel at the end of the day to wind down. And I love that my kids are growing up understanding that a book has its beginning as an idea; that thought and hard work precede a manuscript; that a manuscript precedes the event that is a book; and that books are something anyone can make, with enough time, and love, and care.
The best part of my job is picking up a new manuscript and feeling the adrenalin start to flow as I realise that we have found another winner. For me, it is always very clear which novels are the ones I want to publish. The ones I choose are the ones that inspire in me a cerebral and emotional connection. However rough or raw they might be, it is easy to glimpse in them the future books they will become, the future moment when they will be united with the audience they deserve.
This year’s fiction list features What is Left Over, After, by first-time author, Natasha Lester, winner of the 2008 T.AG. Hungerford Award (yes, that’s how long it can take a manuscript to be published!). Hers is a taut and delicately tuned first novel. Lester joins an esteemed list of Hungerford winners including Gail Jones, Brenda Walker and Alice Nelson. Her career, I believe, will also be one to watch.
Then there’s Wayne Ashton’s Equator – a huge, and hugely affirming, love story that sprawls across generations and continents, and dares to answer the question what is the nature of human nature? Wayne is one of the most exciting and original prose writers writing in Australia today. He is funny and inventive and brilliant line to line, and he writes about long drunken afternoons and friendship better than anyone I know.
Ron Elliott’s manuscript made me throw all my responsibilities to the wind one weekend last year when I began to read Spinner and found I could not stop. I challenge you not to be as anxious as I was about the orphan boy, twelve year old David Donald, hauled across Australia in the custody of his dodgy Uncle Michael (a bullshit artist extraordinare), and who comes to play cricket for the Australian Test team (the boy, that is, not his shifty uncle). It’s Bodyline meets the Great Australian Novel, with irony, and a kind of nostalgic pleasure that manages to be sharp rather than sweet.
And then there’s Sand – Robert Drewe’s and John Kinsella’s reflections via memoir, poetry and fiction – on sand, the element that lies at the shifting foundations of West Australian identity. This book tells us a great deal about some of the deep influences and unexpected parallels in the lives of two of Australia’s most renowned writers. Like all good writing, this book will make you look at yourself, and the world around you, in a different way.
Treat yourself this Fiction Month. Read a book, borrow a book, give a book to someone you love.
Georgia Richter, Fremantle Press’ Fiction Publisher