Ceridwen Dovey is a South African born Australian author and anthropologist.
Her debut novel Blood Kin (2008) was shortlisted for the Dylan Thomas Award and selected for the US National Book Foundation’s ‘5 Under 35’ honours list.
Her second book Only the Animals (2014) was awarded the inaugural Readings New Australian Writing Award and was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best First Book (Africa).
Her third novel In the Garden of the Fugitives was released in 2018. Ceridwen will also publish the next in Black Inc’s Writers on Writers series, Ceridwen Dovey on J.M. Coetzee, in late 2018.
Astrid: Ceridwen Dovey, welcome to The Garret.
Ceridwen: Thank you, Astrid.
Astrid: Ceridwen, I've been reading up on your career. I am very impressed, and I have to say a little bit overwhelmed. You're Wikipedia entry tells me that we're the same age, and we graduated from high school in the same year, at Sydney. And you have an astounding body of work. And I feel a little bit inadequate actually. So, thank you very much for agreeing to the interview.
Ceridwen: I did start young, but there have been very, very long gaps between books, if that makes you feel any better.
Astrid: Yes. I have questions about those gaps, actually. So, your first work was Blood Kin, published in 2007 to great acclaim. And I believe you were shortlisted for the commonwealth Writer's Prize for the best first book. And then Only the Animals in 2014, received the people's choice awards in the New South Wales Premier's literary awards, and the award for short fiction in the Queensland Premier's literary awards. They were two very different books, a novel to a collection of short stories that actually feels like a novel, with a gap of seven years between. And then this year In the Garden of the Fugitives just published, and a gorgeous book.
Ceridwen: Thank you.
Astrid: So, before we talk about all of your works, I'd actually like to talk about your writing process. How do you write?
Ceridwen: I find that the thing that keeps writing addictive for me is that every project demands a different way of working on it, or a different method. Almost like different seasons. And I never expected that starting out, I sort of thought however I wrote that first novel would be how I always worked. So, quite honestly, my process is sort of dictated by the material itself, and because I like to write books based on a lot of research because I studied as an anthropologist first, so that's usually actually where I kind of cannibalised my material from and my ideas. So, I guess the one constant is that it's, I'm reading very, very widely and actually not as much fiction, but nonfiction stuff to really take that bath in inspirational material.
And then, the other constant would be that I then have to have like a distancing time, so that I can transpose that stuff into whatever it is that fiction does with it. And in terms of just the day-to-day stuff, I'm in a sort of funny phase of my life where I've got young kids and very limited guaranteed work time, so it's quite a piecemeal, throw it together, take whatever I can get experience at the moment, which I feel grateful to have that flexibility in this stage of life. Very, very grateful. But I also feel a little bit scattered all the time. I don't have a working space at home because we're in a flat and sometimes I feel a little bit like, yeah, one day I would love to have a bookshelf that just had all the things that I'm, because there's so much research, just have it all nicely set out that I could go back to, and a sense of continuity in that workspace.
On the other hand, I'm less precious than I used to be. And that's a great thing. I could, I can kind of kick into that mode because I'm so grateful to have any opportunity to do it.
Astrid: So, when you are working on a novel, for example, does the writing take over? Do you only think about it when you sit down to write, or does it consume you throughout the week?
Ceridwen: That's such a good question. Because I try and I have sort of have a hybrid writing practise, so I write nonfiction essays and journalism to pay the rent essentially. And then the slow burn fiction project. And again, because my work week is too short, I don't really have the right balance between those two, and ideally I would love to keep doing both and have designated days for each of the projects. So no, I feel like at the moment, as soon as I'm working on a nonfiction piece, that sort of takes up all my mental space. And I have to really fight quite hard with myself to clear that really, yeah, it's just such a different way of working with fiction and such a slow, slow sort of accumulating of something that you can't rush. But I think I don't quite have that luxury of sort of staying in that project or so, as much as I'd like to. Mostly, I wake in the night and then have terrible insomnia, because the ideas start trawling through my mind then for the novel. But that's not when I want them to come.
Ceridwen: So, I actually had to learn to switch that off, which makes me anxious because I read that Elizabeth Gilbert book on creativity and some image in it about how ideas are like butterflies or something, that they will sit on your shoulder only while you are paying them attention, and then they will fly off and sit on someone else's shoulder. And that's how the zeitgeist works, and why we often have the same ideas pop up in different contexts and, I can see what she's saying. I think that's happened to me many, many times. But again, I think it makes me feel a bit anxious that the ideas are always there, but I'm not maybe being as kind to them as I would like to be.
Astrid: Ready to pay them attention.
Astrid: A few moments ago you mentioned balance and the right balance. Can you explain that?
Ceridwen: You mean between the non-fiction and the fiction stuff? Yeah, I think yeah, it's something I find that toggling between those two different ways of working really exciting, and I feel like the two feed into the other. So, it's not that I feel I'm being pulled in two different directions. But it's again, it's more just pace of thinking. And so yeah, that balances off because I don't have a full work-week, I feel like I'm kind of almost doing both badly, maybe. Sometimes on the bad days, that's what it feels like. And on the good days, it feels like I'm doing one okay, but the other one is going to be neglected for a long time.
Astrid: I think a lot of writers at all stages of their career struggle with this. And for our audience, I'm interested how do you look after yourself, and I guess take care of yourself given that your profession is writing, and there is no set office or set career path?
Ceridwen: I've always been allergic to offices, so in a way this is me taking care of myself. I love being my own boss. My dad was a psychologist, and one of the things he said to my sister and I when we were young is that real winners in your generation will be the people who end up doing what they love. And so, my parents were both, and they were both teachers and Mum was an English literature critic. And so they were completely supportive. My sister's a film academic. Now she works in African film, and they were very supportive of us following that pathway. So actually, yeah, I feel like this was the healthiest choice I could have made, because I think for all writers your way of processing the world is through language. And if I don't get the time to do that, then other things start breaking down in my life.
Ceridwen: And in a way, this most recent novel, In the Garden of the Fugitives is my way of trying to understand why we write and what is that therapeutic effect that as a writer of fiction, what is it that I'm getting out of that? It's this bizarre thing of once you take these things out of your head and put them into text that they become artefacts outside of you and you can contemplate them.
Ceridwen: And sort of not be their prisoner anymore.
Astrid: I found In the Garden of the Fugitives a beautiful work. It's memorable. And it's a book that I know I will read again, which I don't have that feeling for a lot of the fiction that I come across. It's about power and privilege, including white privilege. It's about transgenerational guilt and trauma. It's about relationships with people, with places, with the past. And the entire novel is set against the background of Battle of Pompeii, which is a totally fascinating city. Can you, I know a lot of people have asked you is the work autobiographical, or to what extent is it about you? But your response in the Guardian quoting Coetzee?
Astrid: And explaining his approach to that kind of semi-autobiographical writing. Can you explain that?
Ceridwen: God, I can't remember what I said.
Astrid: You said his response, his understanding of psychotherapy and writing, and how he can narrate our own pasts.
Ceridwen: Yeah, for any of your listeners who are interested in this topic and there's a wonderful book called The Good Story, and it's a series of letters that J.M. Coetzee wrote to a psychotherapist called Arabella Kurtz. He's based in London. And all they talk about in these letters is what is it that literature and psychoanalysis have in common? They both have as their working medium language. And both of them also are about kind of crafting out of the mess and randomness of our own history, some sort of narrative. But Coetzee's, I mean, he's so brilliant that I hardly ever understand what he's saying, to be totally honest. My basic interpretation of what he's saying there is he hates that question about is it autobiographical. And nothing he's written, except his, well actually his memoirs, his fictionalised memoirs are even playing with those ideas. But it's really, he talks about freeing your autobiographical imagination.
So, that sense that the therapeutic kick of writing fiction even if it's drawing on the raw material of your past is that you are taken beyond your story. You're not narrating your past, you're actually giving yourself permission to invent it. And I just loved that. I thought, yeah, I mean it's a crafty way also to dodge the question. I know it's frustrating when writers don't answer that question directly. And I used to get frustrated with authors when it was clear that parts of the work were drawn from some, the bare bones of their lives, if they didn't admit it was autobiographical. And I had steered so far away from doing anything like that in the previous book.
Ceridwen: But now that I had experimented with that myself, I can see when, I always think of a line Jeanette Winterson says, I don't know if you remember the novel Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit. It's a wonderful novel, and she was asked repeatedly is this autobiographical. And she came up with this great response, which was, ‘Yes, of course, and no, not at all’. Which is the only response to that question.
But it is very much something I'm trying to play with in the book. I couldn't draw on that autobiographical material until I'd found the right form to contain it. And that dialogic play between the protagonists they're writing these letters to each other, so on the surface it's an epistolary novel, but it's really mimicking that dialogic play of the psychotherapy that relationship of you are giving somebody the raw material, but you're not just outpouring it at the same time. You're crafting it into some sort of story together, so that the truth of it somehow lives between the two of you.
Astrid: It's a fascinating concept, and as I was reading your latest work, I was aware that you were playing with the form. And I confess, I've only just begun to understand the different layers in your novel. To an audience of emerging writers, I think that there's the well-known fear of being too personal, too autobiographical in your first work. And I guess you've done that most prominently in your third work, but not in a way that, but you've crafted it in such a way that you are playing with the form and it's not simply an autobiography. It's a piece of art. So, I guess my question is, what prompted this third book?
Ceridwen: I think from the beginning, my artistic dilemma was as a white South African, I grew up sort of between South Africa and Australia, what is the ground that I'm writing from? What voice am I allowed to have as an artist? Am I even allowed a voice? So much fiction is actually written from the perspective of the underdog or the victim, and it gets its power from witnessing wrongdoing. So, that sort of moral outrage of this happened and I'm now going to bear witness to it. Which is as it should be. But it's a different kind of dilemma if you're from a class of perpetrators. And I think layered on top of that, my mum growing up, so she had been a physiotherapist and then she in her 30s studied post-Colonial English literature, and all the stuff she was reading, and this was 1980, so in the thick of things, she was teaching all these texts that were very, they were not meant to be in the English syllabus at the university she was teaching at.
Ceridwen: And her interest in them was that it was all about displacing the centre, looking at these voices from the margins. And so, I think I just through that kind of got the sense like, someone like me should be silenced. That's good and right and as it should be. And yet I still had this terrible urge to express myself. Whatever it is that gives someone that weird desire. And so, I found way to write in the first two books by turning to fable. And the Latin route which you would know having taught Latin is to give voice. And so I thought there's a way I can come at these themes, the obsessive theme. The thing I keep circling around is complicity, so not the perpetrators, not the victims, but the beneficiaries of any system of abuse, that grey area that we don't often focus on. So, I kind of in the first book, I made it a political allegory, but I never named the country. The characters were never given any kind of cultural markings or. So, thematically, I kind of came at it, and in the second book, there's all these dead animals and processing how they died and a human conflict. So again, and it's sort of the humans in their lives are sometimes complicit and sometimes not.
And then I just realised there was a hole or something that I was writing around, which wasn't a bad thing. And honestly, I would never write a book like In the Garden of the Fugitives ever again. I'm done. Like that's been processed and put away. I learned a lot from it, but I think I'll probably go back to the fibula of stuff. But I think in terms of a block, or just fundamentally giving myself permission to say what I really needed and wanted to say, and I suppose that comes with a bit more maturity and confidence and a sense that at the end of the day, you write for yourself.
And I really, I know that sounds disingenuous once you've been published, because people would think that you would have some vague sense, even though my audience is tiny, but that there, even once one person has read your book that it's somehow performative. But it really isn't. It's about writing, I don't write what I know, but towards what I want to know. So, that curiosity I think is what is driving me. And then, if anybody else gets something out of reading, then that's an added bonus.
Astrid: I was very impressed with the acknowledgements and the research that you did before you wrote In the Garden of the Fugitives. You mentioned that before that you do a lot of research partly because of your training as an anthropologist. Americanah by Chimamanda Adichie is a book that I read last year and that you quote in the acknowledgements. That is a book that changed my understanding of race relations in America. How did it impact your writing?
Ceridwen: Oh, I love that book so much.
Ceridwen: I love how in her writing, I feel like there's a similar trajectory. If you look at her earlier books, Purple Hibiscus and then Half of Yellow Sun, it's very much about the, a sort of serious processing of Nigerian history, and she speaks about this in interviews, like a sense that she had a responsibility to her literary forebears to really take on that project as a writer whose got some sort of ethical burden to represent the past. And then in Americanah it's like she sort of threw those shackles off, and let herself process her own immediate past without hitching it to the like really ponderous stuff of history. And I found it very liberating to read. And because it's her experience is similar, obviously very different in important ways, but as an African going to an American college and how she processes that outside of you on that culture, and it's funny and it's kind of, and it's a love story and it's an unapologetic love story. That was just wonderful.
So, yeah, I've just felt like it in a weird way, helped me find my way. I know, my book is not, it's not actually funny. I wish it was. But, I didn't get that part of the equation right. It's not that same lightness thing. Maybe I'll get there eventually, but to think that you could process your experience as an outsider in that country where, as I think as someone says in the book, anything you say about America is true. It's just so vast. How can you, this little person, have anything interesting to say about it? But she did.
Astrid: She did indeed.
Astrid: And you do here, In the Garden of the Fugitives as well. Going back to your other works, and we briefly mentioned, it seems like you've gotten, you've become a faster writer. Or you're publishing more. Particularly long works. There was a seven year gap. Then there was a four year gap. And this year you have two works coming out.
Ceridwen: Yeah, I mean let’s keep in mind, this Coetzee book is actually an essay. It's only 10,000 words. It's very kind of the…
Astrid: It's still printed.
Ceridwen: They call it a book series, but yeah, I'll take that. But yeah, I guess, yeah, there's still a lot of, I never struggle with the ideas, and yeah, it's not like I'm ever just sitting staring at a blank page. That's not the part I struggle with. The part I struggle with is when I have a first messy draft and the heat of that moment of creating where you have turned off all your critical faculties, and you really are dealing, I think, in the unconscious. And then suddenly, it is like you having to look at this thing you've produced, and at that point maybe if you're lucky, someone else like an editor will look at it too, which is wonderful but also mortifying.
Ceridwen: And I always feel like it's like to keep up the Pompeii analogy, it's like a mould of rubble that is still hot at that point. And if I don't, I love editing, it's not that I'm resistant to it, but if I don't edit it at that point while it's still got that heat, it goes cold on me and dies, and I cannot get back in.
Ceridwen: So, all the failed projects in between, and there's been many of them, that's happened at that point. And I still am figuring out, I suppose I need to have some therapy, but if it's self-sabotage, or if it's a necessary and if it's a useful creative urge or if that self-disgust that I feel that becomes so unmanageable at that point, yeah, if it's something that I should give into or fight.
Astrid: So, that sounds quite emotionally painful, the way you describe walking away from your work. I mean, how far do you get into some of these drafts? Are they complete manuscripts?
Ceridwen: Yeah, I've had two situations where these were books that were bought and that the editor was happy with and wanted to press publish. And I just couldn't do it. And I'm an idiot.
Astrid: Don't say that. I'm fascinated, but you're not an idiot.
Ceridwen: Well maybe I am. I mean, but I just couldn't. Yeah. It would be at the point where it still needed a little bit of jigging or whatever, and I just couldn't do it.
Astrid: Where do you keep these?
Ceridwen: I do keep them all printed out. And the thing is, they're not, it's not actually painful to walk away. That's the scary part. It's very liberating.
Ceridwen: It feels amazing to walk away from something at that point. And that's always where I'm like a bit suspicious of why does that feel so good? Is it because I'm self-sabotaging or? But luckily with these last two books I've had a wonderful sort of, there's been two editors at Penguin who work very closely with me, and they know all my bad habits. And so they talk me off the edge many times. And then there was a project between them where they were like, no, when I wanted to walk away, they didn't stop me. So, I said, okay, I guess I should just leave it.
Astrid: This is fascinating to me. You have a, in the course of your career you may very well develop a whole pile of unpublished manuscripts that your readers would just do many things to get.
Ceridwen: Well, I don't know. I think it's also figuring out, I think I have two different modes of writing. And for whatever reason, if I go down, and I almost can know at the outset, okay, is it going to be dark, and I don't know, sort of a little bit morbid? Or am I going to try and attempt the lighter emotions? And every time I go down that path, it ends in failure. It seems I'm stuck in the wallowing in the dark of the process step.
Astrid: In the dark.
Ceridwen: But I think there's something about that edge that keeps me from some of the mistakes I seem to make in that other mode. But I also think of it as, I think it was David Foster Wallace who said it's like you're developing muscles in your brain. And so, I never think of it as a waste. Like, even looking at those manuscripts stacked in the cupboard, it's more like I feel like each of them built something else. But then when the projects do work, it's still off the back of that learning. And because it's a process of that curiosity, as long as I've learned something from the project then that's kind of enough. But I think that's also maybe why at that draft point I lose interest a little bit because I'm like, "Well, I've learned everything I was going to learn from that." Why should I now edit it into a form that, yeah, that someone else can learn?
Astrid: And spend a year talking about it.
Ceridwen: Yeah. So, it's again that tension I think, between writing being this very intimate self-involved actually, process of self-administering therapy, and then finding a way to actually make it into something that can be shared and consumed by other people.
Astrid: You have a remarkable insight into your own strengths and weaknesses. I'm quite struck by your point that you do better, or you seem to be more engaged with the darker more morbid topics than the lighter, maybe more humorous ones. What else do you think are your strengths and weaknesses as a writer?
Ceridwen: I'm terrible at dialogue, so I avoid it like the plague. And I found useful way of avoiding it is to write things that have already happened. So, all my texts, if you look through them, you'll see there's actually no dialogue, I don't think in any three of them. I don't think there's any dialogue. Or very, very little. And it will only ever be remembered dialogue, so I can get the hell out of there as soon as I don't know what would be the next thing that they say. I just find it comes out so false. I think I'm also always in danger because it's research inspired, I have to be careful that it doesn't get weighed down. That seems again, like something that I'm sort of aware of. And so that cooling off period, so that I'll read in a topic, but then I need to not, actually I don't look back at those notes or I need to sort of then find a different language for it.
Astrid: So, how long is that cooling off period, ideally?
Ceridwen: I just, that sort of depends again on the project and yeah, like with the stories, because each one was researched differently. It was a shorter time period. But like the Pompeii stuff, about six months, I think? That I just let it sit before, I didn't start writing those sections.
Astrid: Did you visit Pompeii?
Ceridwen: I have only been there once when I was 18, and I've never been back, partially because it's too hard for me to travel overseas with the kids. But actually, I don't think I would have gone back again because it needed to take on a different kind of life. And so much of what I'm processing in the novel is interpretations of the past.
Ceridwen: I wanted to read about what other people have said about Pompeii, and over time, how those responses change and how we change that narrative constantly. So, yeah.
Astrid: We do. We tell stories about the past.
Ceridwen: Yeah. And that's, I suppose that's where the connection between Vita the character who's trying to process her just immediate past, and then this idea of interpreting the past of the ancient civilization. And in both cases, which is the right approach? Should we humanise the people of the past, and so they were just like us? Or is that a disservice to them and should we keep them strange, because that enlarges the possibility of what it means to be human? I think that's a tension that you'll see within history and archaeology and anthropology, and probably even in literature, is how we kind of go between an empathetic approach which is all about that you can use empathy to feel your way into something, which is honourable.
And then a different sense of that distancing is a form of respect in itself, that you shouldn't imagine your way in. That you can't imagine that your own imagination doesn't come from your own cultural milieu, and for you to think that is a tool to get to some truth of the past means you are not really seeing that the imagination is as culturally determined as anything else about you.
Astrid: Yes, definitely the idea of overlaying our own thoughts and opinions in 2018 on something that happened 2,000 years ago is very arrogant in many ways.
Ceridwen: Yeah, the Australian historian Inga Clendinnen, the epigraph for In the Garden of Fugitives is from her memoirs. And I just found her approach really interesting, because she built her whole historical practise on the idea that she should keep her imagination on a very short leash, because of exactly that, that the people of the past, their order, their minds and their emotions were ordered differently than hers, and were not accessible through empathy, intuition, imagination. And that the historian actually had a moral pact with the past to not fall into that trap of humanising people. And the book she wrote about, she studied the Aztecs, and it's a very strange reading experience that I would recommend to anybody because to see that in practise, you realise how actually at the moment we're all about the feel your way into the story and humanise everyone. But in this history of the Aztecs, there’s not a single character who’s named or a life story that's given to try to make that connection. It's like she is holding that whole civilization at arm's length, but it's done in this incredibly respectful way. And yeah, I think that that is sort of the camp I would tend to fall into myself.
Astrid: When you're reading and thinking about your next long-term project, a long-form work, have you come across any areas that you don't think people are writing, or you think that we as a society aren't prepared to go there yet?
Ceridwen: I don't know. That's a really good question. What would be my no-go? Well yeah, I don't know. I don't really have an answer for that. I'm trying to write about space at the moment. Outer space. So, I've been thinking a lot about what kinds of writing have not been done in that realm, and of course everyone thinks then, "Oh, you're doing sci-fi." But what if you could write about space and it's not sci-fi? What does that look like? I haven't really seen that done. Well, there's one novel I read recently called The Wanderers by Meg Harry that's sort of about astronauts who are sent on a kind of SpaceX kind of mission to Mars. But it's pure literary fiction. It's beautiful to read, and it's about the human relationships and the technologies barely mentioned and it was the first one I'd read that sort of was kind of where I would like to go.
Astrid: I love that idea. I'm actually a fan of science fiction. But you're right, I can't think of any work that doesn't put the fact that you're in space, the fact there is technology at least on an equal footing to the characters and the relationships that are driving the story.
Ceridwen: Yeah. I mean because in the speculative space, you've got Margaret Atwood and Ursula Le Guin. But they don't like to call their stuff sci-fi, or certainly Margaret Atwood doesn't. And I suppose because of that tradition that there's no tradition for them to find a place within that. And it is hard, now that I'm trying to write it, it's hard to do it without making reference to the technology or all the time that kind of throat clearing of like, "Now let me explain why this is actually, how would they be?" It's hard to do. But I feel like, again, if I can use the fable form, which sort of takes away the you're not having to pin anything to the realist world, then maybe that's the way to find a vocabulary to speak about it.
Astrid: In Only the Animals, you're talking about not using the fable form, Mus, the little mussel, who died at Pearl Harbour, I feel like I know him. It was extraordinary the way you told that story in a fable form, and it's just, I have nowhere to go with this, Ceridwen, I just wanted to, it just occurred to me a beautiful little story.
Ceridwen: I think that was the point when my parents started getting a bit worried. They knew I was writing about dead animals, but when they learned that one of them was a mussel, they got a particular look in their eye of -
Astrid: He goes travelling throughout the United States.
Astrid: And deliberately wants to end up in Pearl Harbour. It was a gorgeous story. One further question I have for you, you are a very young author who is not active on social media. Tell me about your reasoning.
Ceridwen: Well, it's a funny story, that I was actually, so I went to Harvard as an undergraduate and Mark Zuckerberg was three years younger than me. So, my graduating class was actually the first class that got the, could sign up to Facebook. And it was at the time you had to have a Harvard.edu address. So, a few friends had signed up, and they're like, please do this so we can, Friendster was a thing at the time, which I also had never been on. I didn't understand what Facebook was.
So, I signed up, said yes to one friend, and then realised what it was, and thought, this is terrible, I want out. But obviously he hadn't created a way to get off yet, because it was still so early. So, it got to the point where I emailed him directly, because you could, I was just like take me there for Facebook, because I had to do it so many times and of course, he never responded, he had way more important things to be doing. But there's a ghost profile on there, because it was such an early one that sometimes may or may -
Astrid: It will always be there.
Ceridwen: And there's only one friend, and I had nothing else. But right from the beginning, I have to say, I could see the terrible effect it was going to have. Yeah. And just all of it. I suppose my sensibility as a writer is that if you're not getting that time to do that deep thinking and daydreaming. Like, the daydreaming is so much a part, like when you asked earlier what's going through your mind. If you're not doing the daydreaming, I'm not sure you can do the writing. And I think that we all know now that that's what has been stolen from us. And why did we let a bunch of young dudes in their 20s dictate the very quality of our day, our hours?
So yeah, it was just a sense of I don't understand why anybody would be attracted to this. And I'm sure, I've apologised to my publishers and said, "Look, I'm sorry." I'm sure it makes their lives harder in some way. But again, it's just not a, the things that I have to say, I suppose, I can only say in this form of long-form, for whatever reason. So, I can't see what value I would be adding to the conversation in these snippets. So, I'd rather not say anything at all.
Astrid: Ceridwen, what is the worst advice you've ever received in terms of your writing career?
Ceridwen: In terms of my writing. Ah, that's a great question. I guess I would go back to what I said earlier about over and over you're told, "Write what you know." And because I couldn't do that, I just, I felt like that's terrible advice to write what you know. How boring to write what you know. I don't want, that's the stuff you've lived. Maybe that works for some people. But things changed for me when I was at a reading that Cullum McCann, the Irish writer gave in New York, and he was the one who said, "I write towards what I want to know." And what I love about his fiction is that he is always kind of cannibalising these other histories in his fiction. And I thought yeah, that's what I want to do.
Astrid: And before we end, what is one piece of advice that you would give to emerging writers who may very well want a career like yours?
Ceridwen: I think it would be around yeah, pushing back against the, what's assumed how we have to live. And just clearing that space for a kind of thinking that I think may soon become extinct. Yeah, the deep thinking, the daydreaming. Keep space for that in your life somehow.
Astrid: That is beautiful advice. Ceridwen, thank you for coming onto The Garret.