A great way to wrap up the literary year. My creative non-fiction ‘Borrowed Tongue’ was published in the Dec-Jan of The Victorian Writer. It is a bit of a dream come true moment. Big thanks to Writers Victoria.

My piece was about learning to write and excel in a second language and it reflected on the time when I was learning English. I hope it resonates with multilingual readers and writers who have also become accustomed to an overuse of English and have become a bit rusty in their native tongue.

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Publication News

Great week to be a writer. I have been published in two new publications, n-SCRIBE 12 created by Darebin Council and U.K based anthology One, created by Ellipsis Zine.

A free copy of n-SCRIBE can be picked up from Darebin cafes and libraries. A copy of One can be purchased from the Ellipsis Zine website, in print or a digital copy. Ellipsis Zine will generously share their profits and pay the 57 featured writers royalties.

I have published a poem in n-SCRIBE and a short creative non-fiction in One.

 

 

Published Collage

A sunny winter day in Melbourne. Perfect for a long walk and some coffee, before a long haul of editing.

I’m convinced that editing never stops when writing a novel. I’ve picked up my manuscript after a long break and the break has really refreshed my mind and eyes and allowed me to edit mercilessly and incorporate new parts to the story.

It’s an exciting time!

My interview with author Mark Brandi

Mark Brandi: How two characters went in search of their author – and found him
Maggie Jankuloska

Writers can’t always predict the journeys their characters will take.  So when Mark Brandi wrote  a short story about a father and son rabbit-hunting trip, he didn’t think it would lead to the inception of his novel. The story was published, but that was just the beginning for Brandi’s characters.

“Long after the piece was published, the two characters, Fab and his father, lingered – I felt there was more to their story, and that’s where the novel took root.”

Mark Brandi won the Debut Dagger at the British Crime Writers Association awards last year.

Mark Brandi won the Debut Dagger at the British Crime Writers Association awards last year. Photo: Eddie Jim

Mark Brandi’s debut novel is Wimmera,  a crime novel that generated considerable buzz before its publication this month. It didn’t harm that last year the novel won the British Crime Writers Association Debut Dagger, an award for unpublished manuscripts.

Opening in the scorching summer of 1989, Wimmera is a coming-of-age story, set against a bleak backdrop. Ben and Fab are on the cusp of adolescence and living in Stawell, in the Wimmera. They play cricket, go yabbying in the dams and plot revenge against school bullies. However, Ben’s unease over his neighbour’s suicide and the domestic violence Fab endures, are left unspoken.

The arrival of a stranger has a profound effect on their lives, but its impact is revealed only 20 years later when a body is discovered. Meanwhile, Ben and Fab’s friendship has disintegrated and life has pulled them in different directions.

“On one level, Wimmera is about crime and vengeance, as it delves into some of the darker aspects of Australian rural life,” Brandi says. “But it’s the friendship of the boys that lies at the heart of the story.”

Given its outback setting, Wimmera has inevitably been compared to Jane Harper’s hugely successful debut, The Dry, which won the Victorian Premier’s award for an unpublished manuscript, and Craig Silvey’s Jasper Jones.

“The 2016 Debut Dagger was a big moment. It’s an international prize and no Australian had ever won, so I kept my expectations low. Even when Wimmera made the shortlist, I still thought myself an outsider,” Brandi says.

The shortlisting and then the win led to interest in the novel and paved the way towards Wimmera’s publication. Vanessa Radnidge, Brandi’s publisher at Hachette, was among the first to call. “She congratulated me and, ever so casually, asked to see the manuscript. It all happened quickly from there, but it was a lot of work to get to that point.”

Wimmera was also short-listed for the Impress Prize for New Writers and highly commended in the Victorian unpublished manuscript award.

When Brandi is asked about his success and the advice he would give emerging writers, he says it’s a question of voice. “Being true to your voice and vision is important – it’s what makes your work unique and distinctly yours. Listen to feedback, experiment with your work, but don’t be pushed in directions you’re not comfortable with.”

Despite having worked in the criminal justice system, Brandi didn’t set out to write a crime novel.  What really interests him is the social context of crime. Books such as The Stranger by Albert Camus or recent Helen Garner – not so much about the crime at the centre but more about how the society reacts around it – are ones he responds to.

“If you read the newspapers or watch the nightly news, you’d be forgiven for thinking every city is overrun with crime and violence. But news agencies are just reflecting our desire for these stories. As writers, I suppose we take it that one step further,” Brandi says.

“Through fiction, we can gain insight into the horrors that befall others, giving us a sense that we might avoid similar peril. On the other hand, I think there’s a vengeful streak at work – we like seeing villains punished for their misdeeds. From either perspective, reading stories about crime might offer catharsis – it allows us to satisfy these emotions in a safe, controlled way.”

Born in Italy, Brandi arrived in Australia as a young boy. His parents restored a “derelict and rat-infested pub” in the Wimmera that they operated successfully for 30  years.

This is where Brandi was drawn to the mystique of passing strangers.

“Growing up Italian in a small town, I always carried a vague sense of otherness. When you’re struggling to find your niche, you tend to observe people and conversations quite closely, looking for common ground. You notice what people are saying, but also what is unsaid – looking back, I can see how it helped my writing.”

Wimmera is published by Hachette at $29.99

WIMMERA
Mark Brandi
Hachette $29.99

Featured in The Age and Sydney Morning Herald