May 08 2012
Greetings, cool peeps! My guest this week is author Dean Mayes from Australia.
Welcome, Dean! Tell the cool peeps about yourself.
Hi Molly! Firstly, I must thank you for having me at the Swansea Herald. This is a real honor for me. So, about me – well, I’m on the ‘wrong’ side of 35 and I live in Adelaide, Australia with my wife, Emily and my two children, Xavier (5) & Lucy (2). Adelaide is this wonderfully eclectic, provincial city that is situated on the shores of the Gulf of St. Vincent here in South Australia and is renowned for its wine industry, its architecture and its festival culture.
Ours is a hectic household – as you can imagine – with our day jobs, school runs, sporting commitments for Xavier and toddler dancing for Lucy and all the other minutiae of our little suburban existence for which we constantly wish we had 25 or 26 hours in one day. And somewhere in there, I’ve managed to eke out a ‘minor’ career as an author.
When did you first develop a love of writing? (My undercover sources tell me that purple dragon stickers were involved. 🙂
Yeah (hah, hah), my love for writing began in my 3rd grade class under my teacher Mrs. Furnell, who gave me my first-ever writing award: the purple dragon sticker. For the longest time, I sucked at her creative writing class and I routinely turned out rubbish. All that was required of us at the time was for us to come up with a group of, say five or six words and then incorporate them into a short creative paragraph. Anyway, one day, I totally changed tack and produced a short piece about a soldier’s experience of war that was partly based upon a conversation I had with my grandfather at around that very time. For a 9-year old, I think I must have hit it out of the park as purple dragon stickers were notoriously rare and to get one from Mrs. Furnell was a huge deal.
Some authors are meticulous outliners, others plot as they go along, and many are in the middle somewhere. How about you?
To me, writing and imagining is all consuming and I often compare to art. It’s very similar in fact and I think, in my case, I’m very abstract. For many, writing follows a particular structured path involving planning and construction of plot and character before hand, but I can’t work like that. Often, I’ll figuratively throw a dollop of paint on the canvas and see how it falls. Then I’ll work with it to see what I can draw out of it. That’s not to say that I don’t structure at all, but my initial structuring is very basic. So long as I reach the plot milestones I’ve set for myself, my journey toward each of them is quite open. I discover things along the way about the plot and character and I’ll often go with them instinctively. So far, it has served me well.
Your novel, The Hambledown Dream is on my ever-increasing to-read list. Please, tell the cool peeps all about it.
The Hambledown Dream actually began as a blog. At the time I started writing it, I’d virtually given up on the idea of ever being published, because I felt the industry was too closed shop, but I had this story I passionately wanted to tell and blogging seemed the right fit. I just wanted to get this story out there. After a short time of putting it up in weekly installments, quite unexpectedly, I found I had this following who were enthusiastically ‘tuning in’ to catch more of this unfolding story. I had no inkling that it would lead to my being discovered (by Michelle Halket, Creative Director at Central Avenue Publishing).
The Hambledown Dream is described as a paranormal romance but it doesn’t follow a conventional path – even though it’s a kind of timeless story. I can best describe it as a love story that not even death can conquer – where two unconnected lives are affected by the same tragic event. In Australia, a good and kind young man is torn from the love of his life by cancer while another young man – half way across the world in Chicago – lives on the razor’s edge in a dark and seedy underworld. He is rescued from a near fatal drug overdose at the very same moment. What happens next is an incredible journey of discovery and redemption spanning two continents. For reasons that are borne out during the course of the story, my American anti-hero is forced to reassess his life, once he begins having visions and dreams of life and a love he has never known. The Hambledown Dream is populated by very real and warm characters and situations. I’m very proud of the novel and it’s had a great response – far more than I ever dreamed it would.
The Hambledown Dream is dedicated to the memory of a journalist, Matt Price. Would you tell us about Matt?
Yeah, I dedicated The Hambledown Dream to the memory of an Australian journalist, Matt Price who, to me, was a literary hero. He penned a regular column for our national daily The Australian called ‘The Sketch’ which was a mix of politics and satire. Though Matt loved politics, he loved to ‘take the piss’ out of it even more. He was a lovely, urbane man who was able to talk to both sides of the political divide and he was highly regarded. As a storyteller, Matt Price was wonderfully rich and talented. He died in 2007 after a short battle with brain cancer. He was only 46 and had a wife and beautiful young children.
I know that you’re nearing completion of your second novel. Would you tell us a bit about it?
I am indeed. I’m in the middle of my first major edit of the new novel, which carries the working title Gifts of the Peramangk. It tells the story of a young Aboriginal girl named Ruby who is an incredibly gifted violinist but who lives in crushing poverty and domestic violence in Adelaide’s northern suburbs. She has been taught by her aging grandmother, Virginia who, herself was taught the violin during one of Australia’s darkest periods – The White Australia Policy of the 1950’s. It’s shaping up to be a real special story, though I still have a fair bit of editing to do as well as a lot of cultural fact checking before publication. The novel is challenging in that it’s quite different, stylistically, to Hambledown but also because I as a Caucasian am telling an Aboriginal story which many people regard as pretty risky – at least here anyway. It has the potential to be controversial but I’m not deterred by it. The story has been handled with a great deal of care and I’ve researched it heavily going in. I think the final product will be both powerful and inspiring.
Your publisher is Central Avenue Publishing, founded and run by Michelle Halket. Care to sing the praises of your publisher?
Working with Michelle Halket and her team at CAP has been an amazing experience and it has been a wonderful example of geography being no boundary in terms of working and creative partnerships. We’ve been able to video conference and hold “meetings” in the same fashion as I suspect any publisher would and it has been just as fruitful. We’ve planned and discussed my projects at length via email and we’ve developed an enviable line of communication. Michelle is such an astute judge of literary talent, as evidenced by CAP’s impressive catalogue and she is a trail blazer – having forged a formidable enterprise in a rapidly evolving publishing environment. I’m particularly proud of my association with Michelle and CAP.
The world of publishing is changing so rapidly. It’s hard to keep up. Any thoughts about the ever-evolving landscape? Predictions?
My only prediction is that it is going to remain unpredictable for at least the next couple of years as the rise of digital, independent and self publishing continues unabated.
It’s been alarming to see so many of the big book stores both here in Australia and in the U.S. founder so spectacularly – and not just because of the digital phenomenon. In order for them to survive, they’ve needed to adapt quickly and I guess for some of them, that adaptation came too late. There has been a litany of reports of poor financial practices and misguided business decisions which has lead to the closure of a number of chain stores and thus reduced the bricks and mortar presence of book stores overall. My experience has shown me that a lot of the book stores are incredibly short sighted and conservative when it comes to stocking their shelves. For example, they seemed quite happy for copies of a certain major franchise involving sparkly vampires to gather dust on the same shelf space for months and months on end, yet they were reluctant to support emerging authors for a few weeks – if at all.
The digital landscape remains in flux too as the new giants on the block vie for the attentions of the marketplace. And in that I’ve been concerned at the lengths emerging authors have gone to in the pursuit of best seller rankings and visibility for their product. For example, I’ve long held an antipathy towards the 99c price point for published works because I think it has the potential to cheapen the market overall. Especially when one considers the amount of work an author might pour into their stories – 99 cents is all they think it is worth? Also, some of the selling programs that are being touted by the big e-tailers concern me in that they seem highly inflexible and impose an exclusivity on the author and their product which, in my mind, runs counter to the whole notion of being independent.
My undercover source also tells me that you’re notoriously non-genre specific in your reading and writing? Would you elaborate for the cool peeps?
I’m notoriously non-genre specific in both my reading and my writing. I’ve tried my hand at a few different styles in my various writing projects and indeed, The Hambledown Dream crosses over the genre lines a fair bit. I have a number of samples in the articles and shorts section at my website that people can download view. I’ve experimented with elements of horror, science fiction, abstract literature, erotica and romance as well as magazine styled articles.
Likewise, my library at home is stocked with everything from romance, to science fiction, to literature, to pop culture, to biographies, to Star Wars…and Star Wars…oh! Did I say Star Wars? One of my favorite authors is Simon Winchester who is renowned for tackling subject matter many would regard as painfully obscure and extracting totally riveting stories from them. His titles The Surgeon Of Crowethorne & The Map That Changed The World rank among my favorite books of all time. That second title by the way, is all about the world’s first geological survey map of Great Britain. I mean, a map! Yet it is such an interesting account that one can’t help be suckered in by it.
I hear that you love to cook. Please, tell us all about it. And don’t forget to mention what time dinner is served. ☺
In my down time, I’ve a love for cooking, which has been partially inspired by Australian chef Bill Granger, whose books and shows I love. He is actually self taught and he developed this unique and rustic style which suits almost any occasion and environment. The man can make a gourmet dish out of just about anything and he’ll do it in almost any environment. I love trying to emulate his recipes – and so does my family, thankfully. And, like him, I’ll cook anywhere – indoors on my Smeg, outdoors on an old truck rim firepot, the BBQ, an open fire. Anywhere that I can create and indulge my love for experimentation. Dinner time at my house is usually served at half past… 🙂
I believe that music is a big part of most people’s lives. What kind of music might we find you listening to?
I’m a music nut and I’ll devour everything from Dire Straits to Debussi, Bob Dylan to Bananarama, Pink Floyd to Pink. Music has informed my literary works – especially ‘Hambledown’ and also this new novel – and I have explored vastly different musical forms in order to hone my story telling.
I was one of those who *suffered* the “Zach Braff Effect” in 2003 when the movie “Garden State” came out and since then, I’ve gone way off the mainstream, which has lead me to some really wonderful musical discoveries (some of which, I’ve chronicled at Dean from Australia under a series titled “There Need Be No Other Title”). At the moment, I’m listening to a lot of indie material from the likes of ‘The Decemberists’, ‘Trainwreck In Sarasota’, ‘These Animals’ & New York indie folk rock band ‘Swear & Shake’ – who, I’ve gotta say, are one of the best discoveries I’ve made in the past year.
If you could have a dinner party and invite your favorite fictional characters, who might we see seated around the table?
Wow – that’s a curve ball! Umm, let me think about that for a moment.
Well, first up I’d have Judi Dench’s “M” from the James Bond franchise – but more because she’s Judi Dench than anything and I love watching her being interviewed. She mixes a wicked sense of humour with a bohemian sensibility that would be welcome anytime.
I’d also send an invite to Rutger Hauer’s “Roy Batty” (from the movie Balderunner). Despite his rather messianic disposition, I regard the ‘tears in rain’ speech he gave at the climax of that movie to be one of the most moving speeches ever spoken hands down and the guy can play chess like a bandit so he’d have to be in.
I’d love to have Nikita (as portrayed in the CW series by Maggie Q) – because…I am a man and Maggie Q is gorgeous.
Howard Hesseman’s Charlie Moore, from the 80’s sitcom ‘Head Of The Class’ would be another must have because he was a cool teacher whose classes were rarely boring…(?) – mainly because he had a bunch of gifted, smart alec teens to deal with. I imagine he would make a great conversationalist and debator.
Martin Clunes’ ‘Doc Martin’ – a haemophobic (not homophobic to be clear) London surgeon practicing general medicine in a quaint seaside village in Wales – would also be a must have. He doesn’t suffer fools and is quite prepared to call a spade a spade – or a recalcitrant patient an idiot…if it is warranted of course. However, underneath his gruff and unforgiving exterior, is a surprisingly sensitive and compassionate soul whose sense of duty is without question. As a man of medicine myself, I imagine he would be an engaging personality at the dinner table.
Finally, I would have to include Phryne Fisher, who is the delectable protagonist from a series of books called Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries by Australian author Kerry Underwood. Set in 1920’s Melbourne, Australia, Phryne Fisher is this fearless heroine who works as a private detective, using a combination of sharp investigative skills, a quick wit and sassy sexiness to solve crimes. The books have just been made into a sumptuous television series down under with Essie Davis (The Matrix Reloaded, The Slap) in the title role – which, I think, is an inspired choice – because…I am a man and I think she is gorgeous.
What do you know now that you wish you knew five years ago?
I kinda wish that I had a better handle on marketing both of myself and my work as an author. It’s been a huge learning curve for me and alot of what I have achieved marketing wise – particularly with Hambledown – occurred some period of time after the book was released. I really didn’t have any concept of the breadth of book blogging sites that were out there when I started and I stubbornly confined myself to the pursuit of the mainstream media outlets which yielded pretty well zilch.
What do you hope to know in five years that you don’t know now?
Will The Simpsons still be on T.V.?
I’ve been forever called picky, but I maintain that we’re all picky creatures. What are you picky about?
I have this annoying tick whereby I can’t walk by a bookshelf without rearranging the books on it by height. This is especially true for my children’s respective bookshelves and I can often be found spending inordinate amounts of time rearranging their library like Raymond Babbitt on acid. I mean, how hard is it to line up the Mr. Men books side by side anyway!
I also went through a period of being overly concerned about my skills at writing dialogue – so much so that I ended up a little too much like the ‘Close Talker’ from Seinfeld. I spent a lot of time observing and documenting people engaging with one another in conversation, how they spoke, what emotions they portrayed, their hand gestures and expressions. In the process, I got a little too inside their personal spaces and very nearly ended up getting a punch on the nose. I’ve since learned to observe from a minimum safe distance. How is your personal space right now btw?
Any parting words for the masses? Any shameless plugs? Where can people find you online?
I have long been a fan of the Irish comedian Dave Allen, who had a late night/chat show on British TV back in the day. He always used to sign off with the words – ‘Good night, good luck and may your God go with you’. I have always felt such an understated openess and welcoming in those words and I often have them in mind when I am interacting with people.
My official site – http://www.deanfromaustralia.com – is the best destination for people who want to keep up with my goings on. I try to blog there at least once a week and it is the best place for readers to sample my short story work – including some work-in-progress previews of the new novel, to download a free audio book sampler of The Hambledown Dream (read by me in my Hugh Jackman-esque Australian accent) and to download audio interviews I’ve done over the past year or so.’ And of course, readers can purchase signed copies of my novel The Hambledown Dream in both print and digital formats direct from the site.
I am represented by Michelle Halket at Central Avenue Publishing
I keep a page at Facebook where I am known to brain fart on occasion but it’s also where I like to do a lot of cross promotion of fellow authors and artists and musicians. Invariably, those promos end up as fully blown features at his website under my ‘There Need Be No Other Title’ series at Dean from Australia Dot Com.
Goodreaders can find me at GR
And Amazonian Kindlers can find me and The Hambledown Dream on Amazon.com