ABC Bookclub: “Gone” by Jennifer Mills

Today, at 5:45pm on ABC Statewide radio, Barry Nicholls and I will haivng our first on-air bookclub discussion. We’re talking about Jennifer Mills and her book Gone. I asked Jen to answer some questions for me, leading up to this afternoons chat and here she is:

1) Where did the idea for Gone come from?

I have done a lot of hitch-hiking over the years, in Australia and overseas. I wanted to write a road story that included some of those experiences;  Ilove the fragile, confessional quality of stories told by strangers in the intimacy of the car. The character of Frank arrived in my head some years before I started writing him – the idea of this lost man looking for his story, picking up pieces of other peoples lives along the way, really stuck with me. If something annoys you for long enough it eventually becomes a book. It wasn’t until later that Gone started to take shape and then it became infused with a lot of my thoughts and feelings about the desert, the past, justice and memory, redemption and landscape.

2) How long did it take you write?

Gone took me two years or so, but it felt like a very long two years. it was a hard one.

3) Gone is your second book, The Diamond Anchor being your first. Can you tell about us your journey to publication?

I took the traditional road – I had been submitting short stories and poetry to journals for years and had many short pieces published and a small collection of awards piling up. I applied for everything and slowly made a name for myself. I eventually met the right publisher for my books through a NT Writers Centre seminar. It has all happened at quite a sensible pace.

4) What research did you have to do for Gone?

A lot of geographical research, though much of it was already in my head from my own travels. Compared to my first book, which took place over 70 years, Gone was mainly an exercise of the imagination and an investigation of this man’s inner world. I had some experience working with ex-prisoners when I was a social worker and was able to use that as Frank developed. And of course, many rides on many highways. I was researching Gone for years before I knew I was going to write it.

5) Is writing your main occupation and what does a day for you hold, writing or otherwise?

I am fortunate to be a full-time writer but I support myself with freelance work so i still get maybe one day a week to do my creative work. Grants and residencies are a big help in terms of buying the space and time to write. At the moment I am promoting Gone at the Sydney Writers Festival but an ordinary day sees me sitting at my desk from nine to five and working on whatever I am working on. I definitely subscribe to the ‘show up every day’ method of writing.

6) Are you working on anything new?

Always! I have been focused on short stories for the last six months, since I got back from a residency in China. I’m just processing a lot of new ideas and taking the time to experiment. Another book is slowly forming out of this process, and gestating away in the back of my head.

Thanks, Jen. I hope all you WA-ians are able to listen today and to anyone interstate, I’ll put the link up so you can listen to the audio, tomorrow.

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