Episode 13: Hannah Kent

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Australian author Hannah Kent (left) with Book Ends host, Philippa Moore

And just like that, it’s December and the last Book Ends episode for 2013 is (finally) ready for your listening pleasure.

Although this interview took place during a heatwave in September, Hannah Kent‘s haunting and beautifully written first novel Burial Rites, one of the most talked-about Australian débuts of 2013, is actually perfect winter reading!

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

In 1829, the last public execution in Iceland took place – a man and a woman were beheaded for a brutal murder committed on a remote farm. As there were no prisons in Iceland at the time, the condemned woman, Agnes Magnúsdóttir, is sent to spend her final months on the farm of district officer Jón Jónsson, under the watch of his wife and their two daughters. Horrified to have a convicted murderer in their midst, the family avoid contact with Agnes and regard her as something of a monster. Only Tóti, the young assistant priest appointed to supervise Agnes’s spiritual wellbeing, tries to understand her. As the months pass, the winter deepens and the hardships of rural life force the household to work side by side, the true story of Agnes’s crime unravels and it is revealed to be far more complex than anyone imagined or, more to the point, was willing to believe.

Set against the backdrop of the exquisite Icelandic landscape, which I’ve actually seen with my own eyes so I can attest to how hauntingly beautiful it is, Burial Rites is a compelling read and a moving meditation on human nature, on truth, survival, freedom and on the painful gulf that often exists between how we are seen by the outside world and how we see ourselves. 

Hannah was born in Adelaide in 1985 and found herself in Iceland at age 18 as an exchange student – not in Reykjavik as she thought, but in a remote fishing village in Iceland’s north called Sauðárkrókur…so remote, Hannah couldn’t even find it in her atlas! Despite struggling at first to find her place in the close-knit community there, Hannah fell in love with Iceland and has since returned many times. But it was on her very first visit, as a teenager, that she first heard the story of Agnes Magnúsdóttir and was instantly captivated.

Returning to Australia, Hannah completed a BA and in her honours year, she submitted a creative writing project inspired by Agnes’s story. Encouraged by this (and now certain this was well and truly a story she wanted to write), she then embarked on a PhD in Creative Writing, for which Burial Rites was her project. She submitted the first draft of Burial Rites to the inaugural Australian Unpublished Manuscript Award in 2011, which it went on to win! Burial Rites has now been published in Australia, the UK and the US and has been shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award.

Persist. It’s really important not to let any feelings of insecurity or disbelief in your own ability paralyse you. Just keep on pushing through and maybe accept that you will always feel this way….but you’ll never be objective about your own work and therefore shouldn’t listen to yourself! And be disciplined. Write regularly, even when you don’t want to. Don’t wait until you’re inspired because you’ll so rarely feel that way. Persistence and the ability to work very hard on something consistently pays out a lot more than talent.”

– pearls of wisdom from Hannah Kent in this interview

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I wasn’t ready for the camera!

Highly articulate, funny, modest and generous, Hannah was a delight to interview and this was such an enjoyable hour or so that we spent together in her publisher’s office in London. I can’t wait to see what she does next.  Thank you so much Hannah for being on the show!

You can listen to the podcast here:

Or you can download it in iTunes 

Or download the file separately to your computer.

Guests

Hannah Kent
Australian writer

Publications mentioned

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent (Picador)

Fred and Edie by Jill Dawson (Sceptre)

The Icelandic Sagas (Penguin)

Kill Your Darlings (literary journal of which Hannah is Publishing Director)

You can also read a great interview with Hannah at Bookanista and I’d also recommend reading Hannah’s own account of the Burial Rites journey in the April 2013 issue of Kill Your Darlings.

Credits

Presenter
Philippa Moore
Producer
Tom Schoon 
Music
“Aurora” by Bjork (buy on iTunes

Book Ends, Episode 11: Ramona Koval

This is a rather momentous episode, listeners and readers!

My guest for Episode 11 is Ramona Koval, one of Australia’s most respected literary journalists and broadcasters, who hosted the now departed Book Show on ABC Radio National for over five years. Known for her fascinating in-depth interviews with writers, it’s fair to say that Ramona and her work have been a real influence on me. In fact, the end of The Book Show devastated me so much that I was moved to start this very podcast!

Ramona Koval

Ramona Koval

In addition to her work as a broadcaster, Ramona is also editor of The Best Australian Essays (2011 and 2012 editions) and hosts The Monthly’s online book club.

She has written reviews, features and columns for newspapers including The Age and The Weekend Australian. She has been a guest interviewer at international literary festivals in Edinburgh, Montreal, Berlin, Cheltenham, Auckland, Wellington and all over Australia.

Ramona is also a writer in her own right, having written a novel, Samovar, collections of interviews including Speaking Volumes, and a cook book, Jewish Cooking, Jewish Cooks. Ramona’s love of books started very early in her life, as it did for me.

“Books could take you out of your own life, to another family, another country….you could live many lives, not just the life you had.”

– Ramona Koval, in this interview

So, fittingly, her most recent book is By The Book: A Reader’s Guide to Life, a journey through her life as a reader and book lover. Part memoir, part literary and social history, and written with Ramona’s trademark warmth, it’s a celebration of the books that have meant a great deal to her over the years but also a meditation on how the books we read often shape our lives, our characters, our understanding of the world and even occasionally our destinies.

When I was in Melbourne in June, knowing in all likelihood I wouldn’t be there again for some time, I thought I’d be brave and ask Ramona if she would be interested in being a guest on this podcast. To my utter delight (and shock and amazement) she graciously agreed.

For the first time in my life, I was about 20 minutes early for our appointment and so I enjoyed a soy latte – there is nothing like Melbourne coffee – in a cafe around the corner and re-read a bit of her book while I waited:

By The Book

And then I walked the block or so up to a National Trust house, trams merrily ding-dinging past.  This “funny little house” (as Ramona put it!) has been converted into offices of sorts which are rented out to writers to use as their working space. Ramona kindly brewed me some Greek mountain tea and we sat in her sparse office, the early winter afternoon sky slowly darkening and only a long desk with a computer, a small pile of books and our steaming mugs of tea and my mp3 recorder between us. It really was one of those “pinch yourself” moments.

In this generous and intimate interview, Ramona expands on some of the tales she tells in By The Book; sharing some of the books that have shaped her and that she associates with particular times in her life (there are some rather hilarious stories!); her eclectic range of interests; memorable moments in her broadcasting career; and the transition from life as a journalist to life as a writer.

It’s not often in life that you get to actually meet the people who inspired you to get going on your own path and to be able to thank them in person. I am grateful that starting this podcast has enabled me to meet so many of those people and particularly in this case. I did not take a minute of being there for granted. It was one of the happiest and proudest afternoons of my career.

Ramona Koval and Philippa Moore

Thank you Ramona for all the inspiration over the years and for a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon chatting in your studio. Thank you Tom for the usual brilliant stirring and mixing of the audio. And thank YOU for listening!

You can listen to the podcast here:

Or you can download it in iTunes 

Or download the file separately to your computer.

Ramona’s latest book, By The Book: A Reader’s Guide To Life is currently available at bookshops in Australia and New Zealand and will be published in the UK and the US in November 2013.

Guests

Ramona Koval
Australian writer, journalist and broadcaster

Publications mentioned

By The Book: A Reader’s Guide To Life by Ramona Koval (Text)

Eating Your Heart Out: Food, Shape and the Body Industry by Ramona Koval (Penguin) (out of print)

The Trial by Franz Kafka (Penguin Modern Classics)

Ulysses by James Joyce (Wordsworth Editions)

Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H Lawrence (Penguin Modern Classics)

The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels (Penguin Classics)

 The Gulag Archipelago by Alexander Solzhenitsyn (Harvill Press Editions)

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn (Penguin Modern Classics)

The Complete Kama Sutra by Mallanaga Vatsyayana and Alain Danielou (trans) (Inner Traditions Bear and Company)

Clara: A Novel by Janice Galloway (Simon & Schuster)

The Twelve Caesars by Suetonius and Robert Graves (trans) (Penguin Classics)

The Icelandic Sagas (Penguin)

The Arabian Nights: Tales of 1001 Nights by Malcolm and Ursula Lyons (trans) (Penguin Classics)

Waterlog: A Swimmer’s Journey Through Britain by Roger Deakin (Vintage)

Wildwood: A Journey Through Trees by Roger Deakin (Penguin)

Credits

Presenter
Philippa Moore
Producer
Tom Schoon 
Music
“At The Western Wall” by Deborah Conway and Willy Zygier (from their excellent album Stories of Ghosts, buy here

Keep buggering on…..the latest from Book Ends

Keep buggering on

Some motivational signs in Rae Earl’s writing shed. Yes, that’s right. I was in her shed!

It’s been a while between drinks over here at Book Ends, hasn’t it?

A LOT has gone on behind the scenes though.

I’ve been rewriting my own novel, following some excellent feedback from two agents. The air is prickling with possibility. But I have had my moments of Absolutely. Freaking. Out. However, I read this brilliant thing yesterday and am attacking the MS again with renewed vigour.

It’s getting there. Slowly.

I also have recorded two episodes for the podcast on my recent trip to Australia, which will be available very soon.  I interviewed the awesome and hilarious Rae Earl, author of My Mad Fat Teenage Diary, who now lives in my home town; and Ramona Koval, writer, broadcaster and one of Australia’s most respected literary journalists….and, truth be told, the reason I started this podcast in the first place.  Sitting opposite her, with my mp3 recorder between us, sipping Greek mountain tea on a wintry Melbourne day, was one of those pinch-yourself moments.

I am thrilled with both interviews and can’t wait to share them with you.

I have also lined up some more exciting guests who will be subject to my interrogation very soon – including Gemma Burgess, who will feature on here tomorrow with a written interview to celebrate the UK publication of her latest book, Brooklyn Girls.

It’s all good in the hood in these parts, so do stay tuned!

– PM

Book Ends, Episode 3: Ivy Alvarez

I am thrilled to welcome internationally renowned poet, and fellow Tasmanian, Ivy Alvarez to this episode of Book Ends.

Ivy is the author of Mortal, a collection of poetry published by Red Morning Press, and of several chapbooks published by The Private Press.  Her second collection is forthcoming from Seren Books.  In addition, she has been published in poetry journals and anthologies all over the world, including Best Australian Poems 2009, and makes regular appearances at international writing festivals.  Ivy has also curated many artistic events involving poetry, art and performance; and edited several anthologies herself.  She is a woman of many vast talents, and I’m also lucky to count her as a close friend.

Today’s episode is a unique combination of poetry and conversation as Ivy reads some of her work and shares her thoughts and experiences of her poetry career.  Regardless of which genre you work on, Ivy’s advice on getting noticed and getting your work out there applies to us all – “you only need one person to say yes.”

You can listen to the podcast here:

Or you can download it in iTunes 

Or download the file separately to your computer.

I hope you enjoy listening to our conversation and thank you again Ivy for being such a wonderful guest!

Guests

Ivy Alvarez
Filipino-Australian poet

Publications mentioned

Mortal by Ivy Alvarez (Red Morning Press)

A Slice of Cherry Pie edited by Ivy Alvarez (The Private Press)

what’s wrong by Ivy Alvarez (The Private Press)

The Monkey’s Mask by Dorothy Porter (Serpent’s Tail)

To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf (Wordsworth Classics)

The Writers and Artist’s Yearbook (A&C Black)

Credits

Presenter
Philippa Moore
Producer
Tom Schoon 

Charlotte Wood’s Seven Enviable Lines

I came across this wonderful piece from Australian writer Charlotte Wood and thought it was so fantastic I had to share it with you guys:

http://www.charlottewood.com.au/sevenlines.html

It’s from a speech Wood made at a writer’s festival last week in which she discusses seven contradictions and lessons about the writing life that she wished she had learned earlier in her career.

I could relate to every single one of them and, indeed, wish I had known about them earlier too. Some of them I’m still learning and getting my head around. Very illuminating and inspiring 🙂

Book Ends, Episode 1: Nikki Gemmell

Welcome to the very first episode of Book Ends, the podcast for writers and book lovers. I am delighted to welcome acclaimed Australian writer Nikki Gemmell as my first guest.

Nikki has been one of my heroes for a very long time so I was beyond excited to speak to her about the writing life and her novels The Bride Stripped Bare and With My Body which explore, in her words, “the raw underbelly of the female psyche”.  There is such an audacity and honesty in her writing but also a wonderful sensuousness, tenderness and intimacy.  She says that every book she writes is a violent reaction to the previous one – she is currently working on a children’s book after two best-selling erotic novels!  Overall I just really appreciated Nikki’s message to all of us aspiring writers that discipline and tenacity is what matters – showing up, having a deadline, getting it done and, most importantly, never giving up 🙂

You can listen to the podcast here:

Or you can download it in iTunes 

Or download the file separately to your computer.

I hope you enjoy listening to our conversation and thank you again Nikki for being the very first Book Ends guest.

Guests

Nikki Gemmell
Australian writer

Publications mentioned

The Bride Stripped Bare by Nikki Gemmell (Fourth Estate)

With My Body by Nikki Gemmell (Fourth Estate)

Shiver by Nikki Gemmell (Vintage Books/Random House)

A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf (Penguin)

Coming Through Slaughter by Michael Ondaatje (Bloomsbury)

Dancing on Coral by Glenda Adams (Harper Collins)

Credits

Presenter
Philippa Moore
Producer
Tom Schoon 

Google+ Hangout with the first Book Ends guest

Tomorrow is the official launch of the Book Ends podcast (!!) but tonight I thought you might like to see the Google+ Hangout that I participated in with the first guest the week before.

See you tomorrow for the first podcast! 🙂