Interviewed by Kathryn Linge
Martin Livings is a Perth-based writer and his first novel, Carnies was published in 2006 by Lothian Books. His blog is http://martinlivings.livejournal.com and his website is http://www.martinlivings.com
1. A year from the launch of your first novel, Carnies, what did you learn from the process? What, if anything, would you do anything differently?
I think the main thing I’d do differently is not leave the country of publication for the entire first six months of its release! In hindsight, I think I might have been able to rustle up more publicity for the book if I’d remained in Australia in 2006. Most of the other books managed to snare mentions in their respective state newspapers, but the best I could manage from London was an article in the Eastern Reporter, the local community newspaper where I used to live. And I wrote that entirely myself! Publicity is probably the biggest mystery to me still, thanks to being absent for the launch of the book. It’ll be something I focus on more with the next book (if there is one, fingers crossed!).
The other disadvantage of distance during that period was the editing process. My editor, the completely wonderful Sarah Endacott (http://home.vicnet.net.au/~kendacot/) and I were sending urgent packages of manuscripts back and forth across half a world, which was certainly nerve-shredding, to say the least!
So, in short – next time, I’ll stick around for the process!
2. You spent the greater part of 2006 in London and writing full time. At the time it seemed that you struggled to cope with isolation – both the geographical distance of the UK from Australia and the solitary nature of writing as an activity. Now that you’re back and settling in Perth, was it worth it? Would you live overseas and/or write full time again?
It was 100% worth it. I think, if there was a mistake made, it was changing two enormous things in my life at once, moving to another country AND writing full-time. In hindsight, I probably should have split those two up; lived in the UK for a year, working some kind of menial job, and then returned home and written for a year. The inspiration of living overseas has been substantial, but it’s only starting to trickle through to my writing now, so the writing I did in the UK, while attempting to capture the spirit of being there, was still that of an Australian. With any luck, though, it’ll help with the second draft of the novel I wrote – and set – there.
Would I live overseas again? Don’t let my girlfriend hear this, but… in a heartbeat. I’d never really travelled very much, so 2006 vastly increased my horizons, and was an amazing – and hopefully profitable, from a creative point of view – experience. As for writing full-time again, I’d definitely like to give it another go one day, but I’d do it here in my comfortable homeland, surrounded by the places I know and the people I love. Preferably after a six-month stay in Tokyo or Berlin or Glasgow or somewhere. 🙂
3. What’s the Martin Living’s career plan? Will you concentrate on longer works rather than shorts now that you’ve had a novel published? Are the two forms mutually exclusive?
The career’s on hold for the moment, as I settle back into full-time real world work, plus my girlfriend and I are buying a house together, so the writing’s definitely taken a back seat until that settles a tad. As for what I write, well, I really have never had much of a choice about that. While in the UK, supposedly to write a novel, my main inspiration was for a themed collection of ghost stories, but because I’d been given a grant to write a novel, a novel was what I wrote. One of the advantages of not HAVING a “career”, per se, is that you CAN just write what you want to write, or what you’re inspired to write. At this point, I have a few novels queued up inside me, and no short stories really bubbling on the back burner, so for the time being it’ll probably be the longer works. But I write whatever I’m inspired to write, so if I have a ripper idea for a short story, I’ll write that. Not having to justify that to an arts committee makes the process a lot easier!
Of course, having said all that, I’m writing a short story every week at the moment as an exercise, giving myself ten minutes to do it and basing it on a word suggested by people on my LiveJournal. They can be seen here:
They may not be art, but they’re… uh, quick. 🙂
4. Enough about the writing, what’s the best thing you’ve read this year?
I haven’t read much this year, especially compared to last year when I ran out of books at the Camden Library to peruse. But easily the best thing I’ve had a chance to read this year has been The Arrival by Shaun Tan. It’s perfect in every way; the artwork is sublime, the story touching, the pacing brilliant. It’s the only book to actually bring me to tears in many a year. It deserves every bit of kudos it receives, and more. I’m proud to say I knew Shaun “way back when” in the days of Eidolon (and, coincidentally, my sister even taught him in high school!), and I couldn’t be more pleased for – or proud of – the prodigiously talented SOB. 😉
5. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, you’re given the opportunity to get it on with the fictional character you fancy most. Who’s it gonna be and why?
Aw jeez… years ago I’d have said Scully from the X-Files, but those days are long gone (unless you believe the rumours of a second movie!). After that, it would have been Willow from Buffy, but that sitcom Allyson’s in now has put me right off. So today, at this time… okay, let’s say Kaylee from Firefly and Serenity. She’s sweet, has a huge heart, and is gloriously and cheerfully sexual. Plus the actress is coming up in what looks like a cheesy horror movie, so it’s all good!