Interview: A.S. Patric

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A.S. Patric (Alec) is one of the shortlisted authors for the Miles Franklin Literary Award 2016 and we were able to find out a little more about the Melbourne writer and bookseller in this interview.

He also recently taught a short story course at the SA Writers Centre.

Hi Alec, welcome to Beauty and Lace and thanks for talking to us.

What made you want to be a novelist?

I’ve always been enthralled by the intimacy of literature. You dwell within the heart/mind/soul of an artist the way you can’t in any other art form. Wanting to be a novelist comes from that desire, to be bound up in the great lives of culture and history.

Can you tell us a little about your journey to publication?

Journey is the operative word but you never know the landscape you’re travelling through. At times you’re stumbling over dessert dunes, hoping not to die of thirst before you find an oasis, other times you’re scrambling and climbing in a jungle, protecting what you love from being mauled. A novel feels impossible and precarious every step of that journey but publication makes you feel as though somehow you managed to find your way home.

Your debut novel is Black Rock White City, can you tell us about it?

I work in a bookstore so it has been fascinating having readers tell me about my novel. Black Rock White City is a thriller and crime drama for some readers and a turbulent romance to others. There’s a political dimension that many readers respond to, and there are those who resonate to a vivid representation of the modern urban Australian experience. There are great, illuminating reviews online, but I myself try to avoid defining that experience for anyone thinking of delving into Black Rock White City.

AS Patric_Black Rock White City_cover A4

Where did the inspiration come from?

Inspiration comes from what you love. It also comes from what you fear. And there’s a more basic need to make art (good or bad) that gets you through the five years usually needed to write a novel.

Black Rock White City was shortlisted for The Miles Franklin Literary Award, do you remember what you were doing and how you felt when you found out?

It’s just an email from your publisher. But it’s kind of a cruel actually, because each finalist is sworn to secrecy until the MFLA shortlist is officially announced, weeks later, so when you get that email you want to celebrate and shout it from the rooftops, yet all you can do is whisper the news to your wife over the phone. That’s what I remember doing when I found out.

Will you be at the Melbourne Writers Festival in August when the winner is announced?

I’m interested in finding out which book gets the nod, so yes, I’ll be at the announcement.

Are you working on anything new you can tell us about?

I’m almost finished another novel. Atlantic Black is set on an ocean liner crossing from the Americas to Europe. The narrative takes place over one day and night—new year’s eve, 1938. The WWII fuse has been lit, and on the horizon, the world is about to explode. The RMS Aquitania steams across the Atlantic ocean. A seventeen-year-old girl called Katerina Klova is travelling with her mother. Atlantic Black begins with the collapse of Katerina’s mother, a complete psychotic break. It leaves Katerina alone for the first time in her life.

AS Patric_Black Rock White City

What do you love to read?

I read short stories in the main, occasionally a novel. 10:04, Ben Lerner’s new novel, and I’ve been getting back into Annie Proulx’s Wyoming stories. There are months where I read a lot of poetry and then forget about poetry for a while but Charles Simic is my favourite living poet. I always enjoy long form essays and Ta-Nehisi Coates is brilliant in that respect. His Between the World and Me is a recent masterpiece. What I love to read more than anything is novellas. Noon Wine by Katherine Anne Porter shows how uniquely impeccable a novella can be with searing brilliance.

Am I allowed to ask who you think is the hot favourite to take home the award?

According to SportsBet, The Natural Way of Things is the hot favourite. It’s bizarre (and amusing) to me that SportsBet is offering actual odds for real money. They’ve got Black Rock White City as being in with a shout, but I’m not a gambler.

Good luck and thanks for chatting with us!

Thank you, Michelle. Pleasure.

A.S. Patric can be found on his website at

Black Rock White City is available now from Transit Lounge.

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