During this book launching process a number of publications have sent me questions. Once they have appeared, I will copy them here.
How do you describe To the Highlands?
It is the second in a trilogy about the life of Jack Muir, now a reluctant employee of The Colonial Bank of Australia and dispatched to an unnamed colonial outpost somewhere in the Pacific to the north of Australia. It’s 1968 and the western world is at odds with itself.
Where does it compare with Boy on a Wire? How’s Jack changed and grown since readers last saw him?
Jack is still Jack ─ witty, battling the bullies, grappling with questions he doesn’t understand. In Boy on a Wire he was often the victim of others, of outside forces. Now he’s a young man and making his own choices. Badly. There are still pressures, of course, but Jack has lost his way.
Boy on a Wire is most often described as a “dislocated memoir”. Being a sequel, to what extent is the same true of To the Highlands?
Also true, but I have taken greater license in To the Highlands. It is based on a year I spent in Papua New Guinea, a year I did not spend wisely and during which I was often “tired and emotional”.
It’s no secret that Jack Muir is, more or less, you. Does it take a lot of bravery to share some of these stories in a book?
Indeed. The books I write are very personal and leave me exhausted, bruised, yet smiling a faint, knowing smile.
Can you tell me a little about the significance of the setting – 1960s Papua New Guinea?
1968 was a mad and crazy year. For those who were never there, or cannot remember, let me remind: Robert F Kennedy and Martin Luther King were assassinated; an attempt was made to assassinate Charles de Gaulle; Russia invaded Czechoslovakia; students rioted in London, Paris, New York, Chicago; The Beatles split up. One very important issue students always seemed to hold high was what they called “Free Love”, the freedom to have sex without wedlock. Gen Y would laugh their heads off if they knew Baby Boomers had to fight for such a right.
You pay tribute to Randolph Stow’s To the Islands in your title and acknowledgements. What influence did his work have on yours?
To the Highlands was not a book I had planned but then I read Stow’s To The Islands and re-read Joseph Conrad’s Heat of Darkness and I knew I had to get my own year of living darkly off my chest.
Boy on a Wire saw your name pop up on the Miles Franklin long list and attracted quite a bit of praise. Do you worry about the expectations around its follow-up?
It did make it hard to get started, to believe I had more than one book in me. I have a hope that this book will do well enough for people to begin referring to me as “the new Craig Silvey”.
How would you describe your writing process?
At the start, intensely disciplined. I go at it as though I have a job. I set myself targets, goals, timelines and because I am then the opposite of my natural self – which my partner would describe as chaotic – I become dysfunctional around the house. Once I have the first draft I revert to type and write and re-write on inspiration.
Does your partner read your books? (I’m asking this because of the “is it because his partner has said she is not sure she wants to read it?” part of your blog.)
Ms Doust only reads a book after everyone else in the known universe has read it, all the reviews are in and Mr Doust has left the house on an extended holiday.
What do you hope readers will take away from it or get out of it?
I hope they will take something, anything, but in particular that they will understand Jack, empathise with him and know his pain and the pain of young men like him in a brutal and unkind world. I also hope they will be both amused and disgusted in the appropriate places.