Carrie Tiffany

Posted on Posted in Carrie Tiffany, Interview, Literary fiction, The Stella Prize, Writer

Carrie Tiffany's first novel, Everyman’s Rules for Scientific Living (2005), was shortlisted for the Orange Prize and the Miles Franklin Literary Award, and received the WA Premier’s Award for Fiction. Her second novel, Mateship with Birds (2011), was awarded the inaugural Stella Prize and the Christina Stead Prize for Fiction in the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards. Her third novel, Exploded View (2019), is an equally impressive work.

Carrie Tiffany_The Garret

TRANSCRIPT

ASTRID: Carrie Tiffany's first two novels were critically acclaimed. In 2005 her debut, Everyman's Rules for Scientific Living, was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin and was awarded the Western Australian Premier's Award for Fiction. Her follow up, 2012's Mateship with Birds, was awarded the inaugural Stella Prize as well as the Christina Stead Prize for Fiction in the New South Wales Premier's Literary Awards. In 2019 her third book, Exploded View, looks set for similar acclaim.

Welcome to The Garret, Carrie.

CARRIE: Hi Astrid, thank you for having me.

ASTRID: You have published three books in 14 years. How long did it take you to write each novel?

CARRIE: [LAUGHTER] Time really isn't something that I think about at all when I'm writing... Actually that's not true. I'm thinking how to manage narrative time, which of course is one of the major difficulties in writing a novel, because how do you imply in this static way, in language, that time is passing. Words themselves don't really hold time or imply time.

But aside from that, what's happening externally - as in the calendar, as clearly as you're pointing out, flicking over year-by-year - that doesn't really come to mind.

And it's interesting... You mentioned to me before about people who listen to the podcast being interested in having a writing career. Well, I don't really see myself as having a writing career. I don't really think of writing as being a career. I would see myself very much as a kind of, you know, a kind of enthusiastic amateur or a sort of hobbyist, where you might throw yourself at everything, you know, and it could be, I don't know, leatherwork or macramé or cake decorating or writing or something, with a great deal of enthusiasm. But the response to that is really another thing. It's very much about the doing and the making and the being in the place of writing, and the reading around the writing, and the research around the writing. And everything that happens at publication and after that is really a completely different beast, in which I'm, you know, just a sort of fish swimming along. I feel I have very little control, and I'm often quite perplexed by reviewing and prizes and responses. So, I don't really see myself as having a career (as a writer).

ASTRID: That is fascinating because... I mean to be shortlisted for the Miles, to win the Stella, to win the Premier's prizes. Some other writers consider that a career achievement, a pinnacle achievement of their career. So it is fascinating that you don't even see writing as a career, which I guess leads me to a question. What do you do when you're not writing?

CARRIE: I make money so I can eat and pay my bills and feed my family! actually they are all grown up now, they kind of feed me. But yeah, I have a life like everybody else has, you know, and this is just one aspect of that.

I think in the past the idea of being a writer with some kind of writerly career, came from the UK and from Europe and even from America and perhaps it was kind of possible. More so for blokes, but I don't think in Australia it's really very possible, or only possible for very few people, and you really do need to be published overseas. So the idea of linking this kind of creative thing to income and mortgage and rent and car payments and buying zucchinis doesn't really seem to work for me. And I don't want them linked... I don't really want one to be corrupted by the other, because I don't want to think that my writing could ever be influenced by a commercial imperative. I think that would be tragic. And I do often think there are some writers out there - and I know I've said this before and I think it probably makes me unpopular with writer friends and with other writers - but I think that many writers write too much. And in saying that I'm not just trying to make myself feel better for writing so little, but often, you know, I'll be reading a book by a writer whom I have greatly admired, and I've felt that I'm reading, you know, make-work, really work that is sort of proving that they're continuing to be a writer, but not work that's coming from a tremendously essential place.

ASTRID: That is an interesting point that you raise. I've spoken to Louise Adler on The Garret before, and she quoted the 2018 stats for publishing in Australia. More than 60,000 books were published in Australia over a 12-month period, and less than 5,000 of them even made their money back, and that doesn't mean they're making money for the author. So to think about maybe there are too many books being published is not such a long shot when you consider the nation as a whole.

CARRIE: I would never say that there are too many books being published. And I would never want to deny someone the possibility of being published and the satisfaction of that and working towards that. I think often it's not that there are too many books being published, but sometimes the books that are being published all resemble each other, they're too similar. I don't think that we have enough appetite for experimental writing, for poetry, I just think the poetry scene in Australia is very sad, and we publish very few poets, and we're not dedicated to the careers of poets. Well that's interesting isn't it? I seem to think poets can have careers but the prose writers can't. I'm definitely not saying we should publish less, I think we should always publish more. But it would be better if it were broader.

ASTRID: So when you sit down to write and you're not driven by anything external apart from, I would imagine, your desire to write and your choice coming from the heart. How do you find the best story for you to tell?

CARRIE: Well again, I'm not really thinking about reception, I'm not thinking about a public, when I write. I'm thinking about a kind of question that has bothered me, that is bothering me, that is kind of prickling me in some way and that I have a desire to spend some time with. And then I'm thinking about form, and about what the novel can do as a form, and how I could maybe stretch that, or what I could possibly encompass in that idea of what form is.

So, it's not so much, you know, like 'I heard a yarn' or 'here's a great story'. I don't see myself as a writer who's particularly imaginative. I'm not kind of coming up with things in my head all of the time. I don't see people and think that they are characters. Often my work really actually springs from other texts. So something that I'll be reading or looking at, often arcane things that presumably other people are not interested in, you know, pamphlets about soil science and strange things about dairy farming or about birds. More recently, a lot of looking at car manuals...

ASTRID: Yes, for Exploded View!

CARRIE: ... for automotive stuff. So, it's often springing from within another text, the idea that I could take some elements of these other texts and sort of push them and pull them and manipulate them, and make them into something else.

ASTRID: That actually leads me to a question I wanted to ask you, about the titles of your books. So, Exploded View, your most recent work, takes its name from those you know technical schematics that explain how pieces fit together. Mateship with Birds was named after a book written about birds by Alec Chisholm. What was Everyman's Rules for Scientific Living name from?

CARRIE: Well that wasn't my name, my title, for my first novel. My title was actually The Cultivator, and there's a line in the novel, a kind of metaphorical line about the cultivator coming through across the paddocks and everything being different, and I’m playing with the idea of what knowledge you might cultivate in a particular environment. But the novel went to the UK where my agent there was sending it out, and there was going to be an auction for it, and she said, 'You know, this title is dreadful. I'm not sending it out as this title. You have the weekend, come up with another title.' And the book has forty, chapter titles, and one of them was 'Everyman's Rules for Scientific Living'. It is a series of rules; I think eight rules, which one of the main characters uses as precepts to live by.

I thought that this title was so ridiculous, Everyman's Rules for Scientific Living, that my agent would say no and would revert to my title, The Cultivator. But alas, she loved it. And the book sold as that and it came out as that. And I had to stomach people asking me if it was a diet and exercise book! Also nobody can remember the title. But in some ways it did probably encapsulate something about the book, and that rules were contained in the book and they were a central idea.

ASTRID: I'd like to go back to your second work, Mateship with Birds, for which you received the first ever Stella Prize, the inaugural prize. Just recently I had the pleasure of interviewing the 2019 recipient, Vicki Laveau-Harvie, and I interviewed her the day after winning the prize. And the prize didn't really mean anything to her at that point. And so I'd like to know, seven or eight years on, I'd like to ask you what did winning the prize mean to you, or to your kind of ability as a writer to put your words out in public?

CARRIE: Look, I've been incredibly, strangely fortunate with this whole prize thing. And of course, you don't enter your own work into prizes, your publisher does it. My first novel, Everyman's Rules for Scientific Living was shortlisted for the Orange Prize in the UK. And I remember my agent in London ringing me and saying, 'you've been shortlisted for the Orange Prize'. And my book was about agriculture, and I thought it was a prize to do with horticulture, so I thought, 'that's so fitting, isn't that lovely?' And she said, 'No, no, no, this is a really big thing, this is this Women's Prize for fiction'. I was on the shortlist with Zadie Smith, Hilary Mantel, Ali Smith, Nicole Krauss and Sarah Waters. So it was pretty fabulous. It was a remarkable shortlist to be on. And I had to go to London and we did a lot of events together and got to hang out together. Zadie Smith's On Beauty won the award that year. It was incredible to be a part of that kind of climate and to have my first novel accepted in that way.

I also got to see a women's writing prize in action, and I think that prize was very much the model for the Stella in Australia. So I knew a bit about the Stella which I was delighted and astonished to win. I had friends on the shortlist. Michelle de Kretser had actually launched Everyman's Rules for Scientific Living. And my friend Kate Kennedy was there as well, Kate has been a real supporter for me; so to be sort of amongst those people is pretty fabulous.

But in fact that first year I think there was some backlash, and I experienced some of that. So the morning after I won, there was a headline in The Age, an editorial, saying 'Is the Stella really stellar?', as if, when you take the men out of the field would this literature stand up? So even though my book was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin, won the Christina Stead Prize for Fiction, where writer’s like Peter Carey and Frank Moorhouse and others were on the shortlist, to the person writing the editorial of The Age, the Stella prize was pointless because male writers weren't there.

I think the backlash was caused by the Stella count, by people really looking at what was happening in reviewing pages in Australian publications, and being critical of places like The Age and Australian Book Review and, other major outlets for their male-dominated reviewing. I myself hadn't been really aware of this, and I'd actually thought - because I have worked in some fairly male dominated situations. (I was a park ranger in my early 20s in the Northern Territory, I was one of the first female park rangers in the Northern Territory and I experienced some fairly hefty discrimination on a daily basis) So when I started writing and was meeting other writers, many of them women, I experienced a great sense of community and support and camaraderie. I was surprised about the feeling around the prize. I was even surprised there was this sort of discrimination, although when you look at the Stella counts it's obvious that there is, and there still is in many cases.

There were also some ridiculous headlines. The Australian headline was something like 'Bush romance tale wins women's writing prize'. My novel isn't a bush romance, or a tale. If it had been by Peter Carey or Tim Winton it would have been a 'Forensic investigation of nature and desire' or something like that. I was living in Mitcham at the time, and I was called a 'Mitcham mother of two'.

ASTRID: Oh my goodness

CARRIE: I don't think I've ever heard of a male writer being referred to by their parental status, the number of children they have…But what I've seen I think since then - and I was at The Stella the other night when Vicki won, is the prize has grown into a fabulous event. The room was full of people of all genders celebrating this wonderful prize, celebrating Vicki, who spoke magnificently, and just celebrating writing. There is a much greater acceptance and joy around it, which is pretty wonderful to see.

ASTRID: It is. I was there that night too, it was a good feeling in the room. With your latest novel, Exploded View, can I ask, do you have hopes that this will be longlisted for the Miles or the Stella?

CARRIE: I just don't think about it. Of course if these things happen that's really delightful and wonderful. I must admit, I would love to get shortlisted for the Stella as everyone on the shortlist goes on this residency for a few weeks – the Grasstrees Residency at Point Addis. I got to do this a couple of years ago. It wasn't around in the year that I won the prize, but unfortunately because Georgia Blain and Cory Taylor didn't get to go – tragically two fabulous women writers on the shortlist that particular year died before the prize was announced. In Corey and Georgia's place I got offered one of these residencies.

So that was fabulous. And prizes probably mean you get invited to more festivals, where you can see your friends and go and hear other writers talking and reading which is lovely. And if you do win something, yes, you funnel that money back into your writing.

I also feel a sense of responsibility and gratitude to publishers. Publishers take a risk on you. My latest book has been published very beautifully in hardback, but I'm thinking please sell a few copies, because Text has taken a chance on it, and I don't want to feel embarrassed in front of them, which I sometimes do at signings and things, when there's no one there. So I'm not really embarrassed for me, I'm just embarrassed for the publisher.

ASTRID: As a writer you are practiced at recreating time periods in your work. Your first work Everyman's Rules for Scientific Living brought to life the 1930s in the Mallee, Mateship with Birds explored the 1950s again in regional Victoria, and Exploded View moves to the 1970s in suburbia as well as there's some very depressing cross country road trip. How do you evoke a time and place with the written word?

CARRIE: Well, I'll start with the 1970s. I grew up in the 1970s and things like Hogan's Heroes, were really emblematic of that particular time. There are the things of the world that are around us that sort of say that they belong to that particular period. But there's more than that. There's a kind of spirit, I think, a kind of collective spirit in people that you're trying to grapple with in some way.

The 1930s for Everyman's Rules was very much about that interwar period, where there was a great interest in progress and enormous developments in agriculture, a sense that things were possible, and then the movement into the Second World War, which was considered to be a scientific war, almost this idea that maybe with science people wouldn't actually get killed. So I was very interested in how in that period the language of science was changing. Although now when I sort of look at that trajectory, I think that we now misuse this language of science in the present day and contemporary issues around truth and misspeaking has probably even stemmed from the same place.

The 1950s for Mateship with Birds was... a number of things. I was reading a lot of Victorian dairy farming manuals going back to that particular time, and I was also looking at the work of some early Australian naturalists and looking at the language that they used to talk about birds and plants and animals, and wanting to think about that. Also reading a lot of Freud and reading Havelock Ellis. And I think the other issue for Mateship with Birds was that I wanted people to come together in a simple way. I wouldn’t people to meet and form sexual attraction because they were neighbours not because of something like Tinder or RSVP.

I really love research, but I don't have a process whereby I'm writing and then I need to know something and I go and find out the detail. That seems to me to be the right way to do this, but I don't do it that way, unfortunately. I'm more likely to just be looking at a lot of material. And I love just immersing myself in material. I'm led by the material in some ways, so something will suggest itself to me in an old newspaper I'm looking at, or a magazine or a road sign or a journal or something, and that will kind of lead the next bit of the writing.

ASTRID: So when you say you know when you're looking at such a piece of material, do you take yourself to libraries and just enter the archives? How do you come across...

CARRIE: I’m a garage sale, op shop sort of person. I've got a lot of arcane bits and pieces. With Exploded View I had this old manual for a Holden, and I also had this really amazing book from America called Behold the Car, which was from an earlier period, from the 1940s, but some of the language in it really intrigued me, and ideas about ergonomics, and the idea that the car was entirely masculine. Those sorts of things interested me. So I had a couple of major texts.

For Mateship with Birds I had the actual Mateship with Birds from Alec Chisholm, which I think was published in about 1919. And that was the other delightful thing – my novel brought the original book back into publication and it was republished again, which was pretty fabulous.

For Everyman's Rules I had all sort of sorts of bits and pieces. I had a lot of material from the State Library to do with the Better Farming Train, and that provided much of the basis for the novel. And then more contemporary materials about soil conservation and soil management. So, surrounding myself with bits and pieces.

Quite a lot of Mateship with Birds and Everyman's Rules were written in the State Library here.

ASTRID: It's a beautiful building, isn't it?

CARRIE: Yes! But now it's too busy, and I can no longer work here.

ASTRID: There's a line outside at 10am every morning with people wanting to get the best seats. So moving onto Exploded View, I have to say you hooked me with this book and also haunted - or maybe are haunting - me with the characters. But it took me a while to get into the rhythm of your language. I didn't understand it on the first page necessarily. Were you conscious of doing that?

CARRIE: In the book I'm trying to give voice to someone who is silenced. So, what you're eavesdropping on what is a very interior space. I'm trying to portray something about the jumble of thinking, which is not the same as speaking. And it's not even the same as the kind of thinking you might do knowing that you might be overheard. So there are lines in-between, you know, what the mess of thinking is, and how you might portray that in a way that is understandable and that makes enough sense to become writing. But it's very internal, and it's very idiosyncratic. I know it's claustrophobic.

I feel like I have to apologise to people for the book in some ways. I've had a number of people tell me that they've been very disturbed and confounded by the book, and sort of haunted. I'm pleased to get strong responses. Nobody's said, 'Yeah, it was all right'. People tend to either love it or hate it.

As a reader I’m interested in writing where that voice can only be that voice. You know, it couldn't belong to another writer or to another character. So the voice has to spring organically out of the material. In this case its the mind of a 14 year old girl who's in an extremely dysfunctional family, who is kind of powerless but trying to find some power in her situation. She’s also obsessed by the texts that she has around her, and those are car manuals. So those things altogether probably create what must feel to the reader as quite a jerky kind of language.

ASTRID: So I was at first confounded and then slightly obsessed with the way mechanics, equipment, electricity, structure the novel and are found throughout. The girl, our protagonist, is of course obsessed with them. I wanted to... I guess maybe you've already answered that, but what did you learn about engines and mechanics - not just the resources that you were looking at - but did you learn more about mechanics as you wrote this novel?

CARRIE: It comes from a place where I had some knowledge. I didn't just learn about mechanics so I could write about it. I did do some of this stuff when I was younger. When I was growing up it was not unusual for people, for the men around you, to fix their own cars. It was just kind of part of normal life. Everyone did it. Everyone was stripping something down or putting something together, and you saw it all. When I went to the Northern Territory I did a diesel mechanics course, and I've always tinkered and wanted to fix things. I'm quite practical; I'm the person in my family that fixes things. I don't like throwing things away, I like to fix them if I can, and I get a lot of satisfaction from fixing things. So, there was some base knowledge and understanding there.

I was interested in the allegorical and metaphorical possibilities of engines, and I was interested in the structures and how I might be able to demonstrate something about other structures in the world through engines. So, rather than just say, 'here I'm going to grab you by the scruff of the neck and I'm going to tell you something about gender, I'm going to tell you how constraining it might have been to be a girl in 1970s - probably still is today'. This is a way of not being overt. I'm trying to demonstrate oppression and constraint a different way. I was wondering if I could use the structures, the engine parts, and how the parts come together and how they function, how they either enlarge things or how they destroy things depending on if they are working together, to say something about other issues that I was really concerned about.

ASTRID: And you're right, it is an opportunity for a metaphor throughout the novel, male and female parts, how they fit together and how they don't, how when you're looking for a problem in an engine you always look at the female parts because they're considered to be weaker, you know, made of rubber or whatnot. It really does provide the reader a different way of looking at the family dynamics, and it is a dysfunctional family - not a happy family and not a happy home.

I have to say every single time that you referred to Father Man locking the deadlock it gave me a shiver, because a deadlock is quite a depressing word when you break it apart and think about what it's implying. But also it's another little mechanical thing that is part of the whole string that put the novel together.

No one in the family is named, although there are characters that are peripheral to the family who do have names, her friend Sharon etc. But tell me about the use of Father Man.

CARRIE: I'm interested in the myth and symbolism around the idea of the head of the family and the father. I'm probably interested in pushing that more broadly to the universal father, and then I'm interested in masculinity and in men. It's very loaded that the narrator the man Father Man. She's acknowledging that he is in the position of a father, and she's acknowledging that he's a man. But the fact that he's a man and not actually a father is a problem. The name is also an act of resistance in some ways. She should just call him her father, her mother would probably like her to call him her father, but there's something in Father man that encompasses all of the different (and terrible) aspects of him.

ASTRID: It's quite sinister. The girl protagonist is traumatised. She is abused by Father Man and neglected by her Mum, and she stealing cars at night and driving them around the street in what I read as an effort of both freedom and rebellion. She's breaking into other people's houses - not with malicious intent. She's eating their food and fixing the toasters. But you know, she shoplifts, she doesn't go to school, she hangs out in rubbish tips. She is traumatised. Where did that story come from and why did you choose... Why did you choose to not have this character speak?

CARRIE: She says something at one point; 'one of the things that has been taken from me is this ability to tell my story'. Within families who can speak and how they speak is all about power. So I wanted to return the voice to someone who is silenced, by writing this novel. She says, 'you're only lost to others, you're not lost to yourself'. So just the idea that someone can't speak - either because they just don't share a language or because they're silenced because of a disability or they're silenced because of abuse - doesn't mean that they don't exist. And it doesn't mean that they don't have a rich, imaginative and spiritual life.

We take notice of people who blather all of the time. I was interested in giving voice to someone who doesn't have it. She can't actually speak because she's terrified about what she might say, and basically if she speaks and she speaks the truth, well then the world falls down.

I could sense that it was going to be very claustrophobic. Initially it was just the family in the home; that was tremendously claustrophobic. Then I wrote the road trip and placed it in the middle, and I played with various ways of getting more air and light in. I also tried to thread the whole of the story through the road trip at different times as well, and then I unpicked that and tried something else. So it's a very slow process, and it's very iterative, one step forward and one step back.

The book was very much about truth of voice. I would write and I would immediately know if something ‘wasn't’ voice and I would take it away. Somehow I would know when it ‘was’ voice.

ASTRID: I'd like to explore that for the writers listening. The entire novel is written in the first person, which I think does add to that claustrophobia because we know that she is not speaking aloud, at least to her family, so everything that we are reading is her voice, just not verbally voiced aloud. Technically, how difficult was that to do and when you say you knew it wasn't right, it wasn't going to be in her voice, how did you know?

CARRIE: It's a bit like listening to music, when you just can just hear the note, you just can hear there's rhythm and a musicality and a sensibility. There's a reason for those notes to be there.

It does move into the second person occasionally, which is a dissociative state when she's explaining something. So, for instance, when she's talking about sabotage, she might say 'you can do this'. She's placing her actions outside of herself. But mainly it is very, very, close first person and for me that was the only way to get this closeted, internal feeling. When I think about the first person ‘I’ I’m trying to get even closer than that. Even the ‘I’ can have distance. I’m trying to place the ‘I’ behind the organ of the eye.

She also doesn’t actually use ‘I’ very much. That to is distancing. It implies person then thought. In the internal state we are just within ourselves. We're not narrating ourselves to ourselves. This produces a close-up and miniaturist kind of view of the world. Things can be looked at in a lot of detail. There’s not much of the larger-scale, big-story kind of writing. Everything's up close and sensory.

ASTRID: What is your writing process? I mean how long would you sit down for a day to get into that viewpoint?

CARRIE: That’s hard. I wonder if it’s like committing a crime, because I don’t actually remember writing a word of it. Although I clearly did!

ASTRID: That's amazing.

CARRIE: Maybe it’s something to do with stress or trauma and not remembering. I don't remember very much at all about the actual writing. I like the fiddling around and editing and moving things around – the structural work. But the initial writing I find difficult. I’ll procrastinate and try not to do. Once I have something down I'm quite happy to work with it. I really like the editing. It feels almost physical – the act of polishing, perhaps that suits my practical sensibility?

I don't write every day. I don't have any sort of tips for how to write. In terms of process I think each particular novel is its own problem, and you have to wrestle with it and find your own way with it. If you really want to do it you're going to do it. People make excuses about having the perfect job to support the writing, or having the perfect place to write... None of that is ever going to happen. If it's important to you then you just need to plug away at it.

A lot of writing happens when I'm not writing. Just noticing - being out in the world in a way where you don't get noticed, but where you can notice other people. Being a bit of a spy. Seeking situations where you can hang back and be in the world in a very quiet way.

ASTRID: Going back to what you said, you know a state of high stress and you don't remember writing this book. Is that how you feel about all your books?

CARRIE: Yes, I can't really remember writing any of them!

ASTRID: Oh my goodness.

CARRIE: I'll have to ask other writers about this. Maybe it's common? I don't know.

ASTRID: I don't think it is common. I don't know. Well, here's a different question. Have you got another manuscript that you're all working on?

CARRIE: I'm working on something else, slowly of course. At this point I'm not really sure what it might be. It might be non-fiction. It's around ideas to do with animals and things that are buried. That's what it seems to be at the moment.

ASTRID: That is fascinating. You haven't published non-fiction before, have you?

CARRIE: I have published essays.

ASTRID: But novel length?

CARRIE: No, not book length.

ASTRID: Now that is very exciting. Would you ever consider writing fiction set in the contemporary day?

CARRIE: Well it looks like I'm moving toward it, doesn't it? I'm doing these leaps, these thirty-year leaps, or twenty-year leaps, or something.

ASTRID: Well, a twenty-year leap would put you up into the late 1990s and then today.

CARRIE: I don't know. The animal thing is possibly 1990s. I haven’t really thought about when it is set at the moment. Maybe I'm just doing that without realising I'm doing it. I can't imagine writing something that's contemporary, because I'm confounded really, most of the time, in contemporary life.

ASTRID: You're shaking your head right now. [LAUGHTER]

CARRIE: I'm someone who looks on at politics and culture and technology and thinks, well how did that happen? Why are people doing that? And I'm not very up on things. I’d find the social media element really difficult.

ASTRID: Social media is difficult. So where do you go for inspiration, writing inspiration?

CARRIE: I think it was Eudora Welty that said 'all true daring starts from within.’ She is one of my favourite writers; she's fabulous. So you don't have to go anywhere, you have to be comfortable with spending quite a lot of time on your own and being quiet. Not wanting to be seen and heard, but sitting with your own thoughts and your own feelings and your memories.

And you have to read. You have to be really obsessed with reading. If I had a choice of giving up writing or reading I would always give up writing, I would never give up reading.

Being ‘in the world’ in terms of seeing things and trying to be engaged politically and looking at other art forms can help too. Visual art is important to me, music is important to me.

ASTRID: That is beautiful advice. Carrie, thank you so much for coming on to The Garret.

CARRIE: It was a pleasure. Thank you.