2014 Snapshot Archive: Andrew McGahan

First published at Helen Merrick’s blog.

Andrew McGahan is one of Australia’s finest writers of fiction. His first novel, Praise, won The Australian/Vogel Literary Award in 1992. In 2004, The White Earth won the Miles Franklin Literary Award, the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, The Age Book of the Year, and The Courier Mail Book of the Year Award. His most recent adult novel is Wonders of a Godless World. In 2009, Andrew was shortlisted for the Manning Clark House National Cultural Awards for his contribution to Australian Literature. The Ship Kings is his first work of fantasy. Andrew lives in Victoria. For more information visit the Ship Kings site at http://shipkings.com.au/

1. August marks the release of your most recent book, The War of the Four Isles, the third in your well received YA series the Ship Kings. Are you enjoying this foray into YA fantasy and exposure to a very different audience than your previous works?

Yes, still enjoying it vastly. To be honest, I thought when I started that I’d probably be a bit sick of it by now, and be looking forward to getting Book 4 out of the way and the series finished. But instead I seem to relish it more with each volume – and I can already tell I’m going to miss the Four Isles world when it’s all over.

2. Your past novels span an incredibly diverse range of styles and genres, including a crime novel and the wonderful Wonders of a Godless World, which won the Aurealis award for best SF novel. Do you deliberately set out to experiment with different genres?

I’ve only ever done it deliberately once. For my third book I made the conscious decision to try a crime novel – I couldn’t think of what to write at the time, and a crime novel seemed as likely a way out of the impasse as any other – and then set about making up a story. With all the other novels the tale has presented itself first, and the genre, if any, has been defined by the story.

3. The Ship Kings series is slated to finish with a fourth book,  The Ocean of the Dead. Do you see yourself continuing to write in YA and/or fantasy?

That’s a tricky one, and the decision lies at least a year off yet. At the moment though, it feels unlikely that my next book after Ship Kings would be more fantasy. That said, I’m not sure I’ll be heading directly back to the sober world of straight fiction either. I do love a good ghost story … and there’s a tale that I’ve been considering which happens to tend that way. But we’ll see.

4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

I’ve been that flat out over this last year I haven’t read much of anything at all, sad to say – and I don’t think any of it was Australian. The one book of speculative fiction that I’ve truly loved of late is in fact Irish – Flann O’Brien’s The Third Policemen, written in 1939 but currently enjoying a popular revival. Officially blew my mind. Upon finishing it, I immediately turned around and read it again, just for the sheer joy and wit of the language, and the strangeness of the tale.

5. Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?

These are wild days, undoubtedly. I’m sure it’s a cliché already to say so, but the writing world is undergoing its greatest revolution since the invention of the printing press; the signs and stresses are visible everywhere. It’s not a revolution that readers have to worry about – books will keep coming, more of them than ever, and cheaper than ever – but it’s a complicated time to be earning a living if you’re on the writer side of the equation, with the old systems collapsing and the emerging systems not quite universal or perfected yet.

So – five years from now? Who the hell knows …


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