Another of the talented novelists short-listed for the 2016 Miles Franklin Literary Award is Lucy Treloar, author of Salt Creek.
We were able to find out a little more about here in the lead up to the winner’s announcement.
Hi Lucy, welcome to Beauty and Lace and thanks for talking to us.
What made you want to be a novelist?
I grew up in a book-loving family. Some of my earliest memories are of being desperate to read, and once I was able to, I read all the time. The walls of our living room and playroom and bedrooms were lined with books. Every two weeks there’d be a family visit to the library, which I hung out for. I wanted to be part of that world of creation, but it took a while for me to take it seriously.
Can you tell us a little about your journey to publication?
My first, unpublished, book was lucky enough to win an unpublished manuscript prize, which helped me get an agent and the attention of publishers. Although this book was rejected as uncommercial, Alex Craig of Picador asked if I was working on something else and signed Salt Creek on a 5,000-word sample. In retrospect the process was something of a whirlwind. I wrote the book over the following twelve months – a tight timeframe for a big book. I think it was the combination of panic, fear of failure, and engagement in the story that helped me submit on time, and seven months later the book was published.
Your debut novel is Salt Creek, can you tell us about it?
Salt Creek is an historical novel set in South Australia’s wild and remote coastal region, the Coorong. Told by Hester Finch, fifteen at the book’s beginning, it’s about the large, educated and idealistic Finch family falling on hard times and being forced to move to untried country to try to restore their fortunes. I was fascinated by the ways people might be driven to behave in isolation, when under great pressure and stress.
It explores many things: the possibilities for women at the time, what it means to be civilized, and relations between European and the indigenous Ngarrindjeri people. But it’s also about love and its many forms: romantic, passionate, transgressive, paternal, familial and dutiful.
Where did the inspiration come from?
The Coorong, where Salt Creek is set, has always had an almost mythical status in my family. Several times a year, when I was a child, we would make the pilgrimage from Melbourne to the family beach house in South Australia, each time passing the Coorong’s inland margins. My mother would tell almost fantastical stories of one of our ancestors and his large family who moved to these wilds in an attempt to restore the family fortunes.
Those fragmentary tales were the foundation stones of Salt Creek. But the real catalyst for me was a research trip I went on to this region, kayaking up the lagoon and across to the windswept peninsula overlooking the Southern Ocean to the site of the old family homestead. After that the book demanded to be written. I was desperate to explore that world, and terrified that someone else would have the idea first.
Can you tell us a little about the research involved and how you undertook it?
Many of my impressions from my research trips to the Coorong found their way into Salt Creek. In writing the book fact and fiction worked together throughout. I continued reading around the subject throughout the writing (books, court records, settler diaries, newspaper articles…) often discovering information that suggested intriguing directions for the fiction, or that would add unexpected texture. I had a little bowl of flints and polished beach pebbles (both of which appear in the book) that I kept on my desk and I would feel them and listen to them moving against each other. They had a way of bringing the past closer, and were important to me in the writing.
Salt Creek was shortlisted for The Miles Franklin Literary Award, do you remember what you were doing and how you felt when you found out?
It was a little surreal. I was doing some very dull editing job when an email popped up with the subject line Miles Franklin Literary Award. I presumed it was an administrative matter related to the longlist, but then read ‘I have some rather wonderful news’. It took me awhile to get my head around what the news was.
Will you be at the Melbourne Writers Festival in August when the winner is announced?
I wouldn’t miss it! I’ll be cheering on whoever wins.
Are you working on anything new you can tell us about?
The book I’m working on is too embryonic. I’d kill it if I talked about it. But I can say that it’s contemporary rather than historical this time.
What do you love to read?
I’m an eclectic reader, but generally read more fiction than non-fiction, and also love to reread. It’s hard to go past Marilynne Robinson, Cormac McCarthy, Hilary Mantel, Charlotte Brontë and Herman Melville. I’ve really enjoyed reading my way through the Miles Franklin shortlist lately too!
Am I allowed to ask who you think is the hot favourite to take home the award?
I think just about everyone would say that the hot favourite is Charlotte Wood, but I’ve loved the other shortlisted books I’ve read, and any one would be a worthy winner.
Good luck and thanks for chatting with us!
Thanks for having me!