As if Stephen King hasn’t already wiped the smile off many a circus-lover’s face, along comes Will Elliott and his novel The Pilo Family Circus – winner of the inaugural ABC Fiction Award. Elliot’s story is set in the generically familiar and seemingly benign suburbs of Brisbane, a most unlikely location for horror – or so you’d think.
Winner of 5 major literary awards & critically acclaimed in Australia & overseas. The Pilo Family Circus beat 900 entries from around Australia to become the inaugural winner of the ABC Fiction Award. It went on to be published in the UK & rewarded with a host of prestigious awards, establishing him as an important up & coming star of Australian fiction. Two Flat Whites are excited to talk with author Will Elliott.
Where did you grow up & where do you hang your hat?
I grew up in the northside of Brisbane, pure mortgage belt territory, and haven’t been away for longer than a week. Not quite how things had been intended to pan out, but what the hell, there are worse places.
In your own words, what do you do?
I somehow dodge necessities that prevent many others from pursuing dreams, I guess. This basically means I owe lots of people money.
Where did you learn your craft?
In the spare room at my parents’ house, in a dingy little apartment, in the messiest room in a pretty filthy sharehouse, etc. Still learning it, by the way… I think writing takes longer to master than a lot of other art forms, and often a first published novel just means you’re on the right track.
Who inspires you?
Musicians, actually, from folk music to metal. Tom Waits, Mike Patton, Nick Cave, Loreena McKennit are particular favourites. I listen to them while writing, sometimes.
TV Show – The Young Ones. We could quote entire episodes before understanding many of the jokes.
Hobby – Cricket and chess.
Food – Lasagne, in honour of my childhood hero, Garfield the cat
Fear – I worried a lot about spontaneous human combustion, for a while there, after reading some sensationalized article about it. Only felt safe in the bath.
People – They certainly played their part.
Defining moment – I dunno, must’ve copped a pretty bad head injury somewhere along the way.
Schooling memories, chore or cherished?
Suppressed, mostly. Probably means ‘chore’.
Where is the most beautiful place in Australia you have visited?
Fraser Island, swimming in the ocean while warm rain swept across the sea.
Are there any other young Australian Authors we should keep an eye out for?
Probably. You’ll find them at the local Centrelink. To be honest, I don’t know many. The serious ones are probably reclusive and actually spend time writing, the ones who like namedropping and getting drunk will all be out namedropping and out getting drunk. I guess keep an eye on magazines like Griffith Review, who frequently try exposing young authors.
From the hours of 9am to 5pm, what do you get up too?
Coffee, read, read, read, coffee, plead with collection agency, write, write, write, coffee, read, write. One sort of mini-session of writing in the morning, editing yesterday’s progress and trying to clock up a thousand new words, then hopefully a longer session that night, taking the daily tally beyond 4,000. That’s the ideal, not always lived up to, and depending on how much life intrudes.
For love or money?
According to my bank account, it’s love.
What future endeavours are in the pipeline?
Right now I’m working on a trilogy, more sort of ‘mainstream’ fantasy, because I’ve had trouble selling the more quirky, experimental stuff. It’s kind of a new one for me, coming up with one extremely long story broken into 3 parts, but it’s proving to be fun. It’s also the first time I’ve been able to use fantasy devices without feeling just a touch self-conscious about it, which is liberating. Dragons and gods and whatnot, they’re pretty cool to play around with, really. There’s a memoir coming out not too far away, too, with ABC Books, called ‘Strange Places’.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Yikes. I dunno, 5 years ago I was wanting to be anywhere but Brisbane, now I’m not wanting to be anywhere else, at least not permanently.
If you could invite 3 people to chat over coffee, who would they be & why?
Mervyn Peake, so I could ask him about his writing methods; David Kowalski, who wrote a masterpiece called “The Company Of The Dead”; and maybe Sara Douglass, so I could ask her about pacing a trilogy.
Coffee or Tea?
Coffee and lots of it.