Today I’m interviewing Emily Gale, who was born in London and moved to Melbourne in 2008. Her new novel, Steal My Sunshine, is amazing – I picked it up from my school library and read it that night. Details on purchasing the book later. For now, here’s what it’s about:
Thanks for letting us interview you, Emily! First of all, what prompted you to write this story?
The historical aspect of Steal My Sunshine is something I’ve been interested in for a long time, and by that I mean the appalling treatment of so-called “fallen” women by governments, religious organisations and society. Attitudes have changed significantly in the Western world – but not enough – and looking back at how things used to be can shine a light on the need to push harder instead of accepting the status quo.
Hannah has quite a negative relationship with her brother in the novel. What made you choose to go that way?
Sibling rivalry and sibling love almost always find a place in my work. These relationships were incredibly important to my formative years, and I think the way we see our role in the family is really interesting – often it’s something that’s sealed very early on and can be a battle to change, often an impossible one.
Hannah and Sam love each other but they’re going through a period where they can hardly be in the same room. No one can stir you up like a family member. For Hannah, Sam’s behaviour is another reason for her feeling that she’s on the outside of a formerly neat family unit. She’s edged out, and it forces her to look at how passive she can be. She learns that she mustn’t be reliant on other people’s decisions but come to her own. Sam is clumsy with the situation, but deep (deep!) down he’s not so bad and I hope that comes across eventually.
You’re originally from London. Why did you want to write an Aussie contemporary book?
I moved here with my Australian partner and our two children just over five years ago. Since then I’ve immersed myself in Australian fiction – mainly YA. It’s been brilliant, and has given me more insight into Australian culture than anything else I’ve experienced. I wanted to mark my difficult but fascinating adventure of living on the other side of the world by setting a book here. Writing Australian characters felt like a risk because I don’t feel Australian and I didn’t want it to sound overdone, but if you’re not taking a risk you might as well just write shopping lists.
Do you think you’ll keep writing contemporary, or something else?
That’s definitely where I see myself, but I love writing history as well and I’m a sucker for time-slip novels. Although my reading is wider in terms of genre – for example, my mind was completely blown by Margo Lanagan’s fantasy novel Sea Hearts – that’s not how my writing brain works and I’ll probably stick within those parameters.
What is your FAVOURITE part of writing?
I really like the nervous energy and freedom of a first draft. It’s a huge adrenalin rush. I used to love making a huge pot of tea and sitting for hours at the dining room table in my pyjamas with horribly unkempt hair, surrounded by research and notes and usually my two cats, one of whom has an unfortunate habit of eating paper. It was bliss just living in the fictional world I was creating. Now that I work full-time I don’t have any long periods of solitude and I really miss those. But I also love my job and it’s the right time of my life to be doing it so I’ll just have to be thankful that I ever had those pyjama days.
What would you like to say to other Australian writers out there?
I think the Australian publishing industry is really good at nurturing talent, taking risks and not over-commercialising everything, which is great news for writers and therefore even more reason to write the book YOU want to write.
And finally…favourite part about Australia?
I love the sardonic layer of Australian culture, which is such a good antidote to the conservative side. The never-ending sky is pretty decent, too.
So that’s Emily Gale for you – she’s great, right? Even better news, she’s offering a SIGNED copy of Steal My Sunshine to anyone in Australia or New Zealand (because shipping is expensive). All you have to do is comment below, and say why you’d love to win it, in 25 words or less. We’ll pick a winner and this fantastic book will be yours to keep.
If you don’t manage to win it, Steal My Sunshine is available now in bookshops throughout Australia and New Zealand. It’s also available for Kindle from Amazon, and on iTunes, and in libraries. UK readers can purchase a copy online at Fishpond with free shipping.