|Charlotte Wood is the author of four novels, editor of the anthology Brothers and Sisters, and Love and Hunger, a mediation on the pleasures of simple food. She recently spoke to Jo Case for the Wheeler Centre.|
Do you identify as an Australian writer?
I don't especially, but I'm often told that I am a particularly Australian writer. I think it's more a result than from intent; particularly in my last couple of novels (The Children and Animal People), I've written about what I've seen around me in contemporary Australia.
I think perhaps it's something akin to having an Australian accent - something you can't help - rather than a conscious thing.
So, it's not that you're setting out to be a particular kind of Australian, or that you think of yourself as an Australian writer?
I don't even know what makes a writer Australian, apart from working here - but even that is debatable when you think about Peter Carey or Shirley Hazzard. I remember hearing a Canadian publisher at one of our writers' festivals say, 'If I'm going to publish an Australian novel, it's got to be really Australian. It's got to be identifiably Australian, otherwise why don't I just publish a Canadian novel?' And I thought, well how would you know what's 'really Australian'? And perhaps you might publish it because it's interesting.
I once had a meeting with an agent in London, who wasn't interested in my work. That part was fine, but she said, 'Look, write something really Australian and then we can talk'. I was completely bamboozled - I thought, 'I don't know what you're talking about.'
But I think what she was trying to say, basically, was 'be more like Tim Winton'. I can see why readers abroad might pick him as especially Australian, given the settings for much of his work, but it's a bit depressing if that's all they see. He writes very beautifully about a great many things other than landscape and Being Aussie. Like being a son, a lover or father or a brother, about self-destruction, about growing up, about mystery, and regret ... just about being human really, I think. Sometimes I wonder what he must feel about being so corralled into being the 'Aussie story' pin-up boy. I would find it depressing if I were him.
This agent ... I was sort of just sitting there like an idiot, and then she said, 'Oh, Scots writers are always moaning because we say, we want proper Scottish writing and they say, this is Scottish writing."