Anita Heiss is a powerhouse in Australian literature, and a proud member of the Wiradjuri nation of central New South Wales. She has written numerous fiction and non-fiction books, and her autobiography Am I Black Enough For You was a finalist in the 2012 Human Rights Awards. If you follow Anita via Facebook or Twitter you’ll know that she is also extremely busy at festivals, in schools, as an Indigenous Literacy Ambassador, and so much more that you might wonder how she finds the time to write, let alone sleep! Therefore, I’m delighted that she has popped by to answer my questions about her new novel, Tiddas.
Congratulations on your latest release, Anita, and welcome to my site. Could you tell us what inspired you to write TIDDAS?
Two things inspired me to write Tiddas – one was my desire to acknowledge the strengths, challenges and value of life-long friendships, and how we grow and change over time as individuals, but also within our circle of friends. I wanted to pay tribute to the role my tiddas have played in my life over time, and how they continue to enrich my life everyday. The best way to do this was by writing about a group of friends who support each other, love each other unconditionally, and even though they can disagree on many things, their shared values will nearly always keep them tight.
Secondly, I wanted to write about a place that brings me an unusual sense of peace, and that’s Brisbane. I had already written novels set in Sydney (Not Meeting Mr Right), Melbourne (Avoiding Mr Right) and Canberra (Manhattan Dreaming & Paris Dreaming), but Brisbane is my home-away-from-home. I was inspired to showcase all that I love about the city-with-the-country-style heart and hospitality. And I hope my readers fall in love with Bris-Vegas too.
This was the first novel where there were five characters that all had equal importance to the story. It was five women’s lives I wanted to follow – their own personal journeys as well as their collective journey. And so, I really enjoyed getting into the heads, hearts and quirkiness of each of the women. As a method writer I loved having to go through their daily routines and emotional highs and lows. I cried writing some scenes, I laughed writing others (don’t want to give anything away here). I also really enjoyed the research process: catching the ferry from West End to Southbank, wining and dining in various cafes and restaurants, sitting at the general store in Brookfield, running along the river front like my characters Ellen and Izzy do.
Now that TIDDAS is about to hit the shelves, what are you planning to write next?
Good question. As I write these answers I am about to start penning a short story about love. I am nervous because I am known for my verbosity and I find it easier to write 10,000 words than 3,000 when it’s fiction. It will be a challenge. Aside from that I don’t really have a plan for another book right now, and I think as this is my fifth novel in seven years, I should probably give my brain a break. An idea will present itself soon enough and the process of researching and writing will start all over again.
Tell us one of the things you love about being a writer?
Being able to create the world that I wished we lived in.
When you hit a roadblock in your writing, how do you get going again?
This is a common question but the truth is that because I am a plotter – I map out the entire novel chapter by chapter – a roadblock doesn’t really bother me that much. Because I know what will happen in the novel before I sit down to start writing in full – I know what happens next chapter and even at the end – then if I get stuck on something, I just move onto the next chapter and write, going back to the problem scene later. I can’t remember really having writer’s block in recent years. Having said that, I may write a lot of text that eventually gets deleted, but I am a huge advocate of plotting to solve the potential problem of ‘road blocks’. Of course, when that fails, I reach for the chocolate.
What else are you feeling passionate about at the moment?
I’m feeling passionate about the ongoing denial of human rights for Aboriginal people living under the NT Intervention / Stronger Futures legislation (http://stoptheintervention.org/facts). I cannot believe more Australians aren’t angry about it.
You’ve travelled a lot – tell us about one of your favourite places.
I’ve often commented that Manhattan was my all time favourite holiday destination for it’s soul and excitement, but I’ve just returned from my sixth visit to Barcelona, and it really is a place I feel I could live in. I stay in El Born which is walking distance to the port, the Picasso Museum, Parc de la Ciutadella (Citadel Park), the zoo, fantastic restaurants and bars. The local Catalan people are friendly, the food is always memorable, the vibe relaxed and cultured. I do believe Barcelona is the new Paris for it’s romantic aura and style.
I love book recommendations. Tell me about one book you’ve loved in the last year?
I highly recommend Melissa Lucashenko’s Mullumbimby – it’s got everything: romance, history, family dramas, Aboriginal culture and politics, and she’s very funny!
And what are you looking forward to reading this year?
2014 is my ‘catching up on reading year’ as I’m not working on a major project, and flying a lot means I can read on planes and at airports. So I am looking forward to reading lots of titles including the ones by my bed right now: Toni Morrison (Home), Julie Wark (The Human Rights Manifesto), Georgia Blain (Darkwater), Lisa Walker (Liar Bird), Stephanie Dowrick (Everyday Kindness), Us Mob Writing (By Close of Business). My writing tidda Lisa Heidke is releasing two novels, Tennis and Friday’s Fortunate Life, in coming months and she hasn’t let me even look at drafts of those, so I’m psyched to read them. I’m also looking forward to reading Ellen van Neerven’s collection of short stories (September, UQP).
Finally, where can people go to find out more about you and your books?
Thanks so much, Anita!
NOW IT’S YOUR CHANCE TO WIN A COPY! Every month I offer my newsletter subscribers the chance to win books, and this month you can win a copy of Tiddas! Since Tiddas is all about friendship, all you have to do to enter is to give a shout-out to one of your friends and tell us why they are great in the comments below. The winner will be drawn at random after the competition closes at midnight WST on 1 April. And don’t forget to sign up to my newsletter here, if you haven’t already. Good luck!