Thursday, May 1, 2014

From the occasional conservationist

I was asked to write a piece for Reading Time about what inspired me to write The Windy Farm. Here is an edited version. I wanted to make the book more entertaining than 'educational' because many people have a dim view of the wind turbines. I''m not one of the detractors. I think that any renewable source of energy is a good idea. Bearing that in mind, I really hope the book makes you laugh.

Writing books and trying to be funny.
My first novel , Tumble Turn, went through about seven drafts before it was ready for publication. It took me so long because I wanted to make it as funny as possible. (You can read it for free on my website; I enjoyed the experience so much, that I decided to write a few more books. I’ve now written seven novels, which are thinly disguised autobiographies. I don’t make much money from it, but that is not such a problem. I have a very clever partner who invested the money we both made into buying a big spooky house in St Kilda, back in the days when people were genuinely frightened of the place, thinking it was a dangerous area crawling with thieves, druggies and prostitutes. As it happens, it isn’t, and we enjoyed getting to know the locals. I think there are more writers per square meter in St Kilda than anywhere else, and the ladies who run the bookshop on Acland Street are getting sick and tired of authors coming in and rearranging the shelves so that their titles are more prominently displayed.  I no longer have to worry about paying the rent, because we’ve paid off our St Kilda House. But food and clothing and heat are also quite nice things to have, so we do still need money. It’s difficult for me to make money from writing books, which is what I enjoy doing best. So, I have an agent, and every now and then, I write a TV script or even a TV commercial, so we keep the wolf from the door. (Mind you, he visits so often that we call him ‘Rover’.  Most of my jokes are better than that one. )
I was brought up by my parents to be a conservationist and I attended protest rallies with them when I was a kid. We used to have a holiday house on Westernport Bay, when it was being turned into oil refineries, and giant storage tanks and stuff like that. My parents now live in Ballarat. When I visit, we usually go on scenic drives in our very environmentally unsound car. (Sorry about that. We’ll buy a Prius next.) It was on one of these scenic drives that I saw the huge wind turbine farms that are going up in the area around Warborough, Ballarat. I thought that the wind turbines could form the basis of a funny storybook. I didn’t want it to be preachy. I wanted it to be absurd, which is why I desperately wanted Craig Smith to be the illustrator. He has a great sense of humour. Really, if you want a picture of a giant landrace pig flying through their air, you can’t go wrong with Craig. His pictures in the book look windblown, which is perfect. We did have a chat before Craig commenced work, but the best jokes in the book are his. We first worked together twenty-five years ago on a verse book called Sister Madge’s Book of Nuns. It’s a funny book that you really must see (or indeed buy), even if only for Craig’s hilarious pictures, after you’ve sampled The Windy Farm.

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