I’m writing this in December 2022, the third year of the pandemic. Ten years ago I enrolled in a Creative Writing PhD in order to study post/apocalyptic YA fiction, not realising I’d be living through my research material a few years later. I still love the clean slate trope in fiction, but it’s messier than I thought it would be IRL. Things usually are.
The Glorious Mess is pretty much the reason I write. Life is so wild, so unpredictable, so damn hard to figure out sometimes. Writing things down sometimes helps. Sending fictional characters through stories and challenges sometimes helps. I’ve always relied on storytelling to help me make sense of the world, right back to the time I sent a boy to Mars in an aspirin-powered rocket, typewriter click by typewriter clack at a time.
I don’t remember what happened when he got there, but those hours were richer for trying to figure it out.
I grew up in a small country town in South Australia. It’s more like an outer suburb of Adelaide now, which makes me sad. It was a gorgeous place to grow up as a kid, and a somewhat shitty place to be as a teenager. I’m queer, and I spent the first twenty-something years of my life stuffing that knowledge down as far as I could shove it. Small town. I wrote a bit about that here. See above: writing to figure out the Glorious Mess.
My dad’s a scientist and an academic (he retired 20 years ago/he never retired), which means I grew up with the extraordinary privilege of travelling with my family on study leave every few years. I lived in Utah as a one-year-old (nothing), Kuala Lumpur as a seven-year-old (peanut pancakes! Hawkers’ markets! Murtabak!), and a small village outside of Edinburgh as an eleven-year-old (Chippies! All the lollies all the time! And WTF are my new classmates saying to me? Ah dinnae ken!)
It wasn’t always easy. I wouldn’t change it for the world. I wish everyone had the privilege of travel, of moving around, of choosing to live in places where you don’t know how things are done, and where you start to realise that there is no right way of doing things.
My mum’s a visual artist and a writer, which means I grew up with the extraordinary privilege of having creativity valued, and being encouraged to travel deep within the imagination. Books in every room. It took me a while to realise that not everybody was given these gifts.
After I finished my undergrad (BA in Anthropology) I went and lived in Nagoya, because I didn’t know what to do next. I taught ESL, discovered the joy of mochi and kana, and started writing stories on an ancient word processor with a dodgy disk drive. Some of those experiences eventually turned into Nine Hours North , my first published novel.
Back to Adelaide for a bit. Katoomba for a bit. Poetry. Spoken word and open mics and trying to find my voice. Combining my first love (words) with my second love (music) to record a “poetry concept album”. Indy publishing my first poetry collection. Finding JSP, the love of my life. Moving with her to New York City. Landing a job at Poets House. Learning my way around another grid.
And then Sydney, where I’ve been for the last 15 years. Gadigal country.
I’m still surprised I’ve been here so long. It took me a while to love this place, but it’s grown on me like lichen on sandstone. There’s a beautiful and supportive community of YA authors here. There’s bin chickens, there’s coffee, and there’s a wild ocean that will draw out all of your poison.
I set my next novel, Run, around the bits of Sydney that drew me in when I first arrived – the in-between spaces where my main character could go to practise his passion, parkour, and where he could learn about himself in the shadows.
And now I’m wallowing in a fantastic world, a future place that I hope some day to share with you.