The Light On The Water
Allen & Unwin
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Olga Lorenzo is the author of The Rooms in My Mother’s House, which was published in 1996 and shortlisted for various literary awards, including the IMPAC Prize. Olga has won the Felix Meyer Scholarship and the Percival Serle Bequest at the University of Melbourne for her writing, as well as grants from Arts Victoria and the Australia Council, and a Varuna Fellowship. She has taught writing for 17 years at RMIT University and various other tertiary institutions, and has a Masters and a PhD in creative writing from the University of Melbourne. She previously worked as a journalist and sub-editor for the Melbourne Age.
Welcome to my blog Olga. I very much enjoyed your latest release, it is so evocative at times I had difficulty reading.It certainly made me think.
10 Things You Didn’t Know About… Olga Lorenzo
Let’s talk early careers; teaching, journalism and other paths to the road of writer. How did you early careers influence your approach to writing?
I’ve found journalism and novel writing quite different; one is almost like filling out a form to me, in the sense that there is a known and recognizable structure, especially in the inverted pyramid that is a news story. Writing a novel sometimes feels like trying to find a path through seawater. There are very few markers.
Let’s talk writing. I know in 1996 you published the novel The Rooms in My Mother’s House, did you write other pieces before this or plunge straight into writing a full length novel?
I plunged into the novel; I had always wanted to write a novel.
I see that you have won the prestigious Felix Meyer Scholarship and the Percival Serle Bequest at the University of Melbourne, as well as grants from Arts Victoria and the Australia Council, and a Varuna Fellowship – scholarships and grants provide the author with other resources and assistance other than just (useful)$$$ – how did winning these award/grants assist you in your path to publishing?
I was extremely fortunate that when I applied for the Arts Council grant, I had to ask for a letter of support. I approached Hilary McPhee, whose son I had once babysat. Hilary was then head of Pan Macmillan, and she looked at my excerpt and offered to publish the novel when I finished it. I had only just started and that was very exciting and sustained me as I was writing.
What do you love about writing?
I don’t know that I love writing. I love having written. But Toni Morrison once said that the great thing about writing is that you can use all of your earned wisdom, everything you have learned about people and life, all your pain and all your joy can go into it. I do love that about the work I get to do. Only art allows for anything like that.
Let’s talk books and influences. Who is your favourite author?
That is so hard to say. I go through phases and of course I read as much as I can. As a child and young adult I read voraciously. I loved Hermann Hesse and John Steinbeck. More recently I have loved Elizabeth Strout. And Marilyn Robinson’s Housekeeping is a gorgeous book.
Do you have a favourite book?
No, but I think that Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge, while flawed, has moments of absolute brilliance. I love strong characters.
Let’s talk about the characters in your books – your novels are character driven narratives – how do you construct a character? Full formed before you begin writing? Influenced by people you know?
They are always fictional but yes, they are influenced by what I have experienced in life. I tell my students to write from life in the sense of using their own learned wisdom, as Toni Morrison says. And then fictionalising for all your worth.
Let’s talk about themes in your work. The social construct of family seems to feature heavily in your work. What other issues do you want your readers to consider in The Light on The Water?
Ideas about social inclusion and exclusion are huge to me, and I DO think it starts with family. Sometimes we are outsiders even in our own families, for instance, when we are not fully accepted by in-laws or step-children. Sometimes a parent doesn’t accept their child’s sexual orientation. All forms of being unaccepted and excluded are very painful, as we are social animals and don’t do well on our own. We need our clan, our herd. I was writing about this in The Light on the Water, and am returning to it in my next novel.
Who do you see as your prime audience?
I want as many people to read my books as possible. I aspire for them to be thoughtful and intelligent and well-written, but also accessible to a wide audience. I sometimes think of something like The Simpsons cartoons, which I think a wide variety of people respond to at different levels of meaning, depending on their ability to understand satire.
Lets’ talk next book? Are you currently writing a new novel? Where will it be set?
It is set in Melbourne’s bayside suburbs and also inner city Melbourne, and is about a single mother who brings home the wrong baby from the hospital. When she finds her true daughter, she begins a relationship with that child’s father, who is also single. But the daughter she didn’t take home from hospital has grown into a cold and haughty young woman, partly because she has been over-indulged by her father. As a result, she is unable to love or feel empathy and doesn’t accept my protagonist’s attempts to love her.
Keep in touch with Olga here:
F/b Olga Lorenzo – Author
Twitter Olga Lorenzo @olgalorenzo3