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Brisbane Writers Festival 2006 – Page 2

Some more reading tips from the Brisbane Writers' Festival 2006...

William Elliott, author of The Pilo Family Circus, gave some interesting insights into his writing.

He also gave some good reading suggestions.

Mr Elliott, 26, won the inaugural ABC Fiction Award with the novel; the award attracted around 900 entries.

In the novel, Jamie, who works as a concierge at an exclusive Brisbane club,winds up press-ganged into a demonic circus.

He has to deal with the circus’s malevolent clowns – including JJ, the clown Jamie becomes when he puts on a clown’s white makeup.

Will Elliott said he had fun with the characters, particularly with evil ones; and that’s how they “bought their ticket into the book”.

He said he set the characters up and the book wrote itself, just by the characters interacting.

And he said if the story ran out of steam he just made an event happen – like the birthday party of one of the brothers that ran the circus, Kurt Pilo – and this would set the characters off again.

Clowns get a bit of a bad deal in popular culture these days; they are just fun-makers, but a lot of movies, books, and other media often portray them as demonic or psychos.

William Elliott said he was indifferent to clowns while he was growing up, but now he thought they were ok.

Also he said there was a trend in fantasy writing of setting stories in a realistic setting and then adding a fantasy element, and his book was consistent with this.

Also he said the first generation of writers about Brisbane, like David Malouf, had already delineated the city in literature, and now subsequent writers about Brisbane didn’t have to describe the city so much.

Elliott said this novel was the fifth manuscript out of six he had written.

His favorite author was Mervyn Peake, and he liked Gormenghast.

While Mr Elliott was writing the novel he had drawings of the characters, such as diabolic clowns, stuck on the walls of his room to keep them visualised in his mind.

He mentioned how Mervyn Peake also had a visual approach, using illustrations in his books.

Mr Elliott strongly recommended the John Gardener how-to-write books: The Art of Fiction, and On Becoming a Novelist.

Earlier in the week of the Brisbane Writers’ Festival, I saw three writers speak at the Chermside Library, on Brisbane’s north.

Paul Cleave was a young New Zealand author who wrote The Cleaner about a serial killer in Christchurch.

He liked Killing Floor by Lee Child, and John Connelly’s Every Dead Thing.

He was also a fan of Jeffrey Deaver and Michael Connelly.

Kate Holden wrote a memoir about her life on heroin and working as a prostitute in Melbourne.

She said she had had a good family life and attended university, but was introduced to heroin by a boyfriend.

After a year of using heroin she turned to prostitution on the streets of Melbourne and then started working in brothels, which she preferred.

Eventually she managed to quit using heroin, but kept working in a brothel for a year before leaving for overseas.

When she returned to Australia she enrolled in a creative writing course and the result was her memoir Under My Skin.

There wouldn’t be many who’d had the same happy ending to that lifestyle.

Kate Holden said she liked Drink Me by Skye Rogers, which she said was extraordinary.

Rachael Treasure lives on a massive sheep property in Tasmania, and has to juggle her writing with work on the property.

If you want to learn about life for young women working on the land in Australia, you might try her novel Jillaroo – a job the author once had.

The novel was popular with a lot of young women in rural Australia because it voiced a lot of their concerns and experiences.

Other Rachael Treasure novels include The Stockmen.

She said she liked Up the Duff by Kaz Cooke, which she said anyone who was about to become a mother should read.

Writer’s Festivals are still worth going to, but there’s a lot of politics being pushed all the time at writer’s festivals and it can get to be a bit of a drag. Still you can find a lot of writers worth listening to.

-Copyright Simon Sandall.