An Interview with Sylvia Martin

Writing a biography is a big commitment to a single subject. How did you discover Aileen Palmer and when did you know you wanted to write her life?

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      Origins of Asylum

       While at the Sydney Writers Festival I did a lot of dining on my own. I quite enjoy it: watching people, listening. We are endlessly fascinating in our small differences. The ways we coalesce and break apart; hold our histories in our bodies. This is one of the reasons I enjoy writers festivals: they make you alive to stories. They inspire empathy; allow us a safe space in which to broach difficult subjects. We think deeply about how we can do better.

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      What do readers want?

      ‘Historically speaking,’ said one of the visiting publishers at the Australia Council’s 2016 publishing scheme, ‘Koreans read for educational purposes. Only recently have we started reading for pleasure. This is why non-fiction books are very big in our market: business books, science…but literary fiction is starting to sell very well.’

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      Forever in print, or: Notes on printing and publishing at the time of the Bard

      It is difficult to overstate Shakespeare’s influence on language and popular culture. After a while it becomes hard to tune him out; he’s on screen, in political speeches, in marketing campaigns, on The Simpsons. You try to escape, slither back into your pre-Shakespearean world for a moment; huddle up in front of a Disney film. Then someone pipes up, ‘Did you know The Lion King is based on Hamlet?’ This man, it seems, single-handedly changed the course of Western popular imagination. He gave us new words with which to express ourselves; characters that have proven immortal; thoughts on love and death that remain relevant.

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      An extract from Extinctions by Josephine Wilson

      Sunday January 17, 2006

      Out the window there was nothing that could be called poetry, nothing wind-swept, billowing, tossing or turning in a streaky sky, nothing other than a taut blue sky and the low drone of air conditioners. In car parks across the city women pulled on soft cotton hats and cowered under brollies. Babies kicked and squalled, itchy with heat rash. Fridges groaned. Water dripped from old rubber seals. Milk soured. Fans turned. The grid strained.

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