Favel Parrett has an extraordinary command of the literary form. Her first novel, Past the Shallows, received the Dobbie Literary Prize and was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin. She herself was awarded Newcomer of the Year at the Australian Book Industry Awards. Her second novel, When the Night Comes, overcame all the challenges a second novel often faces and was shortlisted for a host of prizes and longlisted for the Miles Franklin. There Was Still Love is Favel’s third novel, and in 2020 it was shortlisted for the Indie Book Awards and longlisted for The Stella Prize.
ASTRID: Favel Parrett has an extraordinary command of the literary form. Her first novel Past the Shallows, received the Dobbie Literary Prize and was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin. She herself was awarded Newcomer of the Year at the Australian Book Industry Awards. Her second novel, When the Night Comes, overcame all the challenges a second novel often faces and was shortlisted for a host of prizes and longlisted for the Miles Franklin. There Was Still Love is Favel’s third novel. The awards season hasn't quite kicked off yet, but already in January 2020 the novel has been shortlisted for the Indie Book Awards.
Favel, welcome to the garret.
FAVEL: Thank you so much for having me.
ASTRID: I sat down over the weekend and read all three of your novels in the order that you wrote them.
ASTRID: I have so many questions for you. But firstly, you’ve published three novels. You have crafted these stories, these characters, these settings, that can take your reader into different worlds. Have you noticed… how do your readers respond to these worlds that you've created?
FAVEL: Well firstly, Past the Shallows. My first novel, you know, that difficult novel to get published. I was completely unknown. Luckily I eventually did get it published, and then it seemed to go quite well. And people have… Readers have really resonated with it, with Tasmania and with these two boys. It's still selling as many each year as it did the year of publication.
ASTRID: That is very rare, well done.
FAVEL: It is very rare, and it's it just sort of it's one of those books that keeps selling, and now it's on the HSC list in New South Wales, which is fantastic. So, I've got this brand new audience of 17 and 18 year olds. I often go to schools and speak to them, and that is so fascinating listening to their take on this book, and how angry they get about what happens to these boys in this novel.
ASTRID: So, for those people listening who haven't read your first novel, Pass the Shallows it's set on Bruny Island off Tasmania, a very small, intimate story of a family, child protagonists, brothers.
So, how did these… how do the students have such a different take?
FAVEL: Just the violent passion, like they're so angry with me. I won’t give some spoilers away, but they're just so like, ‘How could you do that? How could you write that? I'm so angry’. But they're so passionate, like students will read and burst into tears when reading a passage. And I get students who are not readers and they hate books say to me, ‘I didn't hate it because it was short and I could get into it, the language allowed me to get into it somehow’. So, that's always great to hear.
ASTRID: I have to say congratulations for being a young contemporary writer and getting your book on the curriculum. It doesn't happen enough.
FAVEL: Yes, I know. And look, teachers try really hard. They're the ones that have pushed this and got it on the curriculum. And they would love to have contemporary books every year, they love teaching them and the students relate to them more. And I'm not saying we need to drop the canon because we definitely don't, we need to have both modern and great canons of literature taught in Year 12, I think.
ASTRID: Oh, I could not agree more. I get disturbed when I look at a curriculum and it's the same as I was taught in the 1990s, which is the same as what was taght before.
FAVEL: Same! And you know, it put me off books, Year 12, and it shouldn't be doing that. And English teachers don't want to do that, they're trying to encourage people to write and read, and they're doing the best they can with the lists they have. But yeah, I'm so grateful to be on the HSC list.
ASTRID: So, as a writer who is continually telling stories – because you also write short works as well, but I'd like to talk to you predominantly about your novels – when you notice an audience that is so engaged in something you've created and is having violent passionate responses, does that seed ideas for the future? Does that change how you approach a story that you might create next?
FAVE: It somehow validates the time and effort and emotion that I felt while writing, and how much that can really be all consuming. And Past the Shallows is... it has horrific sadness in it, and I felt all of that times 10, and grief. And the second novel, I dreamt about this ship all the time. And it would come to me most nights and I would wake up and realise that this ship is now gone and I would often cry. And this book, my last book There Was Still Love, is… I was with my grandparents again and it was a real passion piece. So, when people, for example with this new book on tour, people will come up to me and start talking about their grandparents and sometimes just burst into tears.
FAVEL: And it's not that I want to make people cry, but I feel like oh my goodness, I somehow got something right in this even though I didn't really know what I was doing. Just following passionately character and voice, and it's so lovely to hear that people can feel that passion and then they give it back to me by telling me their stories or their reactions. So, it validates all those years of just sitting there not knowing what you're doing and thinking what am I doing with my life I should be doing something more important than this. Honestly, I’d be better off picking up rubbish on the street because at least it would be doing something for the world.
ASTRID: So, I disagree there…
FAVEL: I know. What I mean in the daily… sitting there with all the unknowns, not even knowing if this is ever going to be a story that will be readable or publishable or how is it going to come together? When people are emotional and talk to you about the characters like they're their characters, like they know them, it validates what I do, which is a mad thing.
ASTRID: Inventing worlds.
FAVEL: Inventing worlds, talking to imaginary friends, sitting in a room not being present in the real world a lot of the time, which is weird.
So, after I finish in a novel it's always nice to come back to the real world. And then I don't want to go back down the rabbit hole again. Not yet, like I'm not ready. [Laughter]
ASTRID: Okay, two questions. Firstly, I'd like you to talk me through your process. How you do you know sit there? Cut yourself off from the world and create?
FAVEL: Yeah. The last novel, There Was Still Love, is the hardest that I've ever worked. I wanted to be with the work all the time. I needed to become a real recluse this time. So, that's been hard for people, friends, family even. I needed to just get up, go for a surf, go to work – meaning go into my port and sit with the work for five hours a day. And that was seven days a week.
So, it's amazing it took me so long to write that book, because you'd think that that's a long time. But some of it is just sitting there with the work, or researching, or looking at photos of Prague, for example, because half of this novel set in Prague in 1980.
ASTRID: So just to confirm, how long did it take?
FAVEL: It took me a year and a half to write.
ASTRID: Every day about five hours?
FAVEL: Yeah. But like I said, you know, it's a slim novel. I wrote four or five times more than is in it. But I drafted really heavily, so every scene in this novel had a minimum of 12 full drafts. So, because this was from my grandparents and they were in the room with me, it had to be perfect. I became this insane perfectionist, so that the drafting process was just like full on. And I kept a record of where I was at, how many drafts I was at, and I couldn't move on until the scene was perfect, and then I was able to move on to the next thing.
ASTRID: So, did you… The book itself is not chronological, but did you write it in the way a reader reads it, or were you all over the place?
FAVEL: I never write in order. I don't know the story; I write completely out of order so the energy… For example, I might be looking at some old pictures of Prague and there is a photo of a white swan on the river surrounded by soot and dust and industrial mess. Instantly I've got this boy thinking he wants to go on the river, but the river is full of rubbish, how did the swans even survive? And so this is a scene. I've got this person, it's a full scene, but I don't know where it goes in the book. But if it comes like that I've got to write it, and it usually fits into the book, although not always. And then afterwards I've got to put them all together in a way that makes a story, and that's the hardest bit.
ASTRID: So, explain how... Where do you find the voice from if you're… if you feel scenes and you feel compelled to write them?
FAVEL: Yeah. This one I already had the little girl which is me really remembering my grandparent’s flat. So that was came very easily. And I thought it would just be the Melbourne side, I didn't expect to write about communist Prague or have another character, but suddenly there he was just running into the room, running the streets of Prague. And he was like joyful and electric and just a joy to be with. And then I knew there was way more here to this novel, this story, there was a whole other side. And how am I going to write that because I didn't live it? How am I going to give myself the authority to write communist Prague from a young boy's point of view? Luckily my cousin grew up in communist Prague, and he got in touch out of the blue while I was writing this book. I asked him if I could ask him some questions and he said, ‘Yes please’. And every day we just messaged back and forth. After my writing day, so when I was you know having a beer or a cup of tea at the end of the day we'd message. He gave me the authority to write that character, and you know, really write communist Prague.
ASTRID: That's interesting because your first two novels both set in Australia. You know, Tasmania and a bit of Victoria. Obviously that is your own childhood, you know, friendship networks, family experience, holidays, all of that. And Prague is different.
FAVEL: It is.
ASTRID: And I wanted to ask, you know, have you been to Prague? And because you are a writer of place, you evoke a place like not many writers can do.
FAVEL: Yeah right. Thank you.
ASTRID: I wanted to know how you did it.
FAVEL: So that's really interesting. I had to surround myself with 1980s Prague. So, I mean I covered my whole studio walls in black and white photocopy photos of communist Prague, and then I coloured bits of them in fluorescent paint. I know this sounds insane, but it was really important to the process because the book is black and white and fluorescent to me, with fluorescent edges of life. So, these photos came to life on my wall. And the characters are on the wall and scenes I had to research… I had to watch documentaries about 1980s Prague, I had to watch 1980s TV from Czechoslovakia, listen to the radio for the songs that were playing, read the magazines and the newspapers, talk to my cousin every day. And you know, that was questions like, ‘What did you eat for lunch? Why did you eat for dinner? What did you have for breakfast? What did you have for school lunches? What would you do if you found 20 cents?’ You know, real daily life, what a kid would be focused on.
I went to Prague in 1992, and I didn't want to go back for this book because it's so different now. In 1992 the wall had come down but it was still… not much had changed yet. So, there was no McDonald's, the tourists hadn't like really kicked off. It hadn't been cleaned up, it was still a dirty, smoggy, you know, with soot on all the walls, pigeon shit everywhere, holes in the pavement, broken buildings, raw city. And now it's been restored to its grandeur, you know, and that's great because it is a very beautiful city, but I knew that going there wouldn't help evoke that. So, I had to just work from memory and then talk to my cousin.
ASTRID: You used the word ‘authority’, the phrase ‘authority to write’ before. Obviously not having grown up in Prague you didn't have, you know, the memories and experience to draw on. But authority is quite a loaded word. I mean, did you think it wasn't your story to tell?
FAVEL: Yeah, that is a loaded word. And I'm not one of those people that believes that you can't write anything. You can write anything, anyone is free to write anything they want. You can write from the perspective of a dog if you want. Someone's written a brilliant novel from the perspective of a galah. You know, the sky's the limit. But for me, I didn't want my Czech relatives to say well I had to get it right for them and for my grandma and granddad. So, the authority had to... That's what I mean by authority. Not so much what the reader would think but my family would think, because, I mean Czech people are pretty direct.
In one of the drafts I had chicken schnitzel with potato dumplings, and my cousin was so angry, like I mean, irate, because he'd never have dumplings with chicken schnitzel. And so, I knew I had to get things right. And what's been lovely is Czech people coming to events and telling me that I got it right. And so that's really nice.
There is one real man in this novel, Jiri Srnec. He was the director of the Black Light Theatre of Prague. He's still alive. I sent him the novel a month ago, and I am very nervous about his response. So, we'll see what happens there. I hope he's okay with it. I don't make him out to be horrible in this book, he's just this magician. This little kid is a little bit afraid of him because he thinks he can read his mind and he's disturbed and excited by his artistic vision. So, we'll see what he thinks.
ASTRID: That will be fascinating. I wonder if he’ll get in touch with you.
FAVEL: I know. I'll send you an email or I'll put it like on you on the blog somewhere.
ASTRID: That would be amazing. Now, as I often do I read your works before this interview and I read them in the order that you wrote them. And it struck me by doing that that your characters have aged in a sense. I mean, in your first book you start with the viewpoint of just young, quite young, siblings. Boys. In your second work you still have a child protagonist, a young girl Isla, but also an older male protagonist as well. And in the third and final novel again, child protagonist still there, but also adult viewpoints in there. This potentially is a silly question, but are you aware of the growing age of your characters?
FAVEL: I haven't, but people have asked me, ‘Do you feel like your next work might depart from the child voice?’ And that's interesting. I think it might. I think that's where I'm heading.
So, it's like the three ages of me that I had to work out, even though none of the characters are me really. But if you know what I mean, like working out stuff about my own life. And maybe I've done that, and maybe the next one is an adult voice. But yeah, there are more adults in this latest novel than I've never been done before. And yeah, the siblings, I'm fascinated by siblings.
ASTRID: You are.
FAVEL: It's the longest relationship you have in your life, if you both survive to a normal age. I mean, we forget about that. That's something.
ASTRID: That's true, actually. I have never thought of my siblings in that way.
FAVEL: You share so much. Even if you don't get a long that well you share the joy, the madness, the not understanding what's going on and what are adults doing, trying to work life out. It's a very unique relationship.
ASTRID: So, for you as a writer, as a novelist exploring, you create these worlds and obviously any successful story has narrative drive, it has impetus, it has a bit of tension.
What is it that you find in the sibling relationship that provides that for you?
FAVEL: It's a great question. There's… if we take the last novel and these two sisters that were separated, there's all this longing and wanting and just looking forward to seeing each other and love. And then there's also underneath that jealousy, resentment, all of this anger underneath. So, it's all happening at once. It's so complex.
And the other thing is memory. You can't think you remember something, and your sibling will be like, ‘It didn't happen like that’. You have completely different memories of the same situation. That's fascinating. I'm very close to my brother, and he's a sculptor. And we talk every day, even though he lives in northern New South Wales. So yeah, we're really close. But we, you know, we have different memories… He'll read these books and be like that didn't happen like that. I don't know. He did ask not to be in this book. Not that he's really in any of the others either, but you know, the essence of him is or our relationship. And I found that interesting because then I had to write from an only child, and that was uncomfortable and challenging, giving this little girl no one else, no ally, just grandma and granddad.
ASTRID: Okay, so I don’t want to get all, I don't know, Freudian or psych on you, but you wrote from an only child's point of view, but then you invented another child in Prague at the same age on the other side of the world.
FAVEL: I know, and they share so much but they never met. And in fact they won't meet for a very long time, if you know, if you can imagine it won't be till they're adults both of them that they might potentially meet and share these stories, these crazy old ladies that lived in the same flat, one in Melbourne and one in Prague. So, they it's almost like they can sense each other these two. Yeah, you're right. Because she can sense him, she even dreams about him.
ASTRID: They see photos, in the same parka.
FAVEL: So yeah, I have made it… but this time it's an older brother, so that's nice isn't it?
Yeah that's interesting. I didn't think about that. [Laughter]
ASTRID: That’s what happens when you read a writer’s body of work in one go. So, I want to come back from the craft element and how you write as a child protagonist's voice because it is different than an adult. And it is, I imagine, quite technically hard to do because so often as a reader I find myself reading child protagonists that sound like adults and they just happen to occupy a certain age range.
ASTRID: But yours don't, yours feel very alive at that age of seven or ten or twelve.
FAVEL: Thank you. That's an interesting one. I think firstly you have to be... You have to take out the try in that. It has to be real. So, voice is hard to find and it comes with the writing, and it might come four or five months into the writing, of writing every day and trying to find this voice. So, it doesn't this come like that and it's perfect, and the drafting helps with that.
My actual voice and my actual vocabulary and my actual writing is simple, which helps. Like, I'm a high school graduate. I was a remedial English student and then I was employed as a postman. and then I luckily found my way to CAE Tafe and started doing professional writing and editing, which I never finished but I started this novel along that journey. So very lucky.
I think that helps though, my straightforward writing like that. It's not flowery. It's pretty simple, my writing, but the drafting maybe brings the complexity or the depth.
I think… and then part of everyone is still a child. So, I reckon we could all access that child voice. It's about going into memory. How did it feel to be this small? What was it like to have no control over where you lived or where you went to school or what you were doing or what you ate? You write that kind of thing, trying to remember what it was like to try and work out what adults were doing. Everyone's got that potential to remember that. So, it's about putting yourself back in there. And then you sort of become the character but also the characters, they're in the room. So, it's a bit of both. But you have to be with the character as much as you can. So, if you can't get to work every day, as much as you can you have to try and be with that character whenever you can, even if it's five minutes a day.
ASTRID: You just mentioned memory. You do play with time a lot. Your books are not linear. And your viewpoints change, sometimes in the present sometimes the viewpoint itself is in the past. That strikes me as potentially quite complex, regardless of the order that you write, but you know putting them all together in a way that is a beautiful experience for the reader. So, talk me through how you approach time and memory.
FAVEL: Yeah, that's really the most difficult part for me. Structure. Because I don't write in order and I don't write the storyline.
You know, there's a million ways, there's too many ways structure can go. Third person, first person, who's speaking, who's point of view are we in? Or are there going to be multiple point of views? Are we going to start from the middle and work around or start from the end and work backwards? Start from the start and just go ABCD? There are a million ways, it’s really difficult.
In There Was Still Love I kept my tenses, they kept changing all through the first drafts, and it was really frustrating and uncomfortable. I was like, ‘Wow, this is terrible, I’ve just changed tenses three times in this. It's all over the place’. But I decided to just let it go, see what this is doing, and then a pattern emerged that the memory wasn't going to be a story of someone telling me, telling you all this happened, it is actually going to be happening in present like memory does. You feel it, it's like you're seeing it in front of your eyes again or feeling it is the present. So, I felt like that can work even though for a while it felt very uncomfortable. This is probably the my most complicated book, even though it's such an easy read and it's so small, short. I mean, the craft at the time, yeah it's 1970 to 1980, it jumps all over the place. It's got so many different voices just telling you little snippets. And then somehow it comes together in the end, and you get the full story going back and forth through time.
Yeah, I was proud when it held as a structure, because sometimes it doesn't. And for a while it looked like it wasn't going to, and I didn't know how it was going to end. When I started to put the adult’s little sections at the start of each big time chunk, then it made sense. But that's just trial and error, trying different things, moving things around, trying to put… Do these two these two pieces go together? Yes, I think they do. What is that saying, what would come next? What does the reader need to know here or what fits? So, playing with things and finally it holds, oh my God.
ASTRID: So, what's your archive like? I mean, you know, Favel you said that you wrote four or five times what ended up going in the book. Do you discard that? Do you have notes everywhere?
FAVEL: No, I keep everything, I keep everything. And especially this is what I want writers to hear – keep your raw draft. Absolutely keep that one, even if you get rid of other drafts. That one has all the energy and feeling. It might be the worst thing ever. Like with me I have heaps of repetition, overstating things, telling. All this stuff. But it's got this raw intensity, and if I edit too much I can go back to this and get that feeling back, put the feeling back in if I've overdone it. So, I keep every single draft of every scene. I keep all my notes. I keep everything, it's ridiculous.
I keep a journal every day of what I've done and where I was at, so that the next day or the next time I go to work I know exactly, I can drop straight in. I don't have to think where was I yesterday, what was I writing? I'm like okay, I'm working on this scene. So, I'm up to this draft and it needs another draft, let's go.
ASTRID: That's a good tip.
FAVEL: Yeah, a ridiculous amount of organisation, but very messy organization, like all over the place. I have stuff everywhere, but yeah I keep everything.
ASTRID: So, talk me through your editing process. Obviously it involves a lot of drafts, but I mean do you edit your own work, up to twelve drafts? When do you bring other readers in? How do you know when you're ready to share?
FAVEL: Yeah, with this one I didn't want to share at all. I didn't think this would be published. I had to write it for me, once it started. So, I was really nervous about who I'd send it to. I sent it to a reader before I sent it to my publishers, but it was pretty good at that stage. So, I'd done all the drafts, I'd worked it out. It was sitting and holding as a whole world, and not much changed after that. And it's a reader that I trust, she's an editor. She's helped me with all of my novels at this stage. And she seemed to think it was good but also she was worried. She's like, ‘I feel really protective over this. I don't want a publisher to just steamroll over it’. And I know what she means.
Luckily my publisher is just brilliant and she's also a friend and she liked it too. I was surprised. It's the first time ever that the CEO of Hachette has ever called me to say how much she liked the book. Like you get an email from her, she'll give you a card, she’ll tell you in person. But when she called, I honestly thought that actually she was saying, she was going to say this book's not right, we're not going to publish it, thanks Favel, it's been a nice journey with you. I honestly like, I knew who the number was I was like, ‘Oh my goodness, this is Louise’. And she's like ‘Favel, this novel’. And they really got behind it. So, I was surprised.
ASTRID: Louise Adler?
FAVEL: No. Well, she does work for Hachette now, but it's Louise Sherwin-Stark, who's the head honcho, a lovely person who… We're the same age, but you know, she's got this massive important job.
ASTRID: You have the important job too, you’re writing the stories.
FAVEL: Yeah, but you know what I mean.
And I was surprised. And because I'd edited it so much it was pretty clean. It was a quick edit after that, and Hachette sat on it for a year because they wanted to put it out in September. ASTRID: Talk me through that. So, you know, publishing with one of the big houses, you know, it's a commercial enterprise obviously, if they want to release it in September there are reasons. But walk me through how that impacts you as a writer and the obligations it puts on you?
FAVEL: In one way it's great because September is these big blockbuster time. I was nervous about that, I was thinking it won't be able to compete with the amount of big blockbusters out in September and October, I'll just get completely lost.
And also, it's this big pause button on your life, because going on tour means I still have to be in this book. I'm still holding this world, I'm still in it, I have to be emotionally in it. So, I know I'm going to have to carry it for another year or you know nine months or whatever, and I can’t give myself to a new project then. I can do little things, but not a lot. I can't go down into a novel yet. That sounds like an excuse not to work on something else, but it's actually true. I need to be still in this book to be able to go on tour and talk about it every day to people, to readers. But it's all been fine.
It's been great actually, that was the biggest tour I've ever done. It was a full Australia tour.
ASTRID: Not every writer gets a full Australian tour.
FAVEL: No, I'm very lucky.
ASTRID: So, what does that involve, for those who've never done it?
FAVEL: It's pretty intense. It's a couple of things every single day, and I was on the road for a month. So, when I say a couple of things, that might be… Say I'm in Sydney. I've got Richard Fidler’s Conversation Hour, which I'm really nervous about so that's all I can think about, and I haven't slept the night before. And then that's over and I feel relief, and I've got a couple of hours and then I've got an event. Then it's maybe 9pm, you get back to the hotel, you’re sort of wired but tired, you wake up in the morning, you might be going to the airport, to another place where you might be doing other stuff in Sydney. Sometimes you'll be doing four things in a day, two events and a couple of media things. It's really busy.
Don't make plans with friends. I did on my first tour with Past the Shallows, all these people that I know around Australia said, ‘Let’s catch up’. And you get there and you realise, you know, you might be going to eight bookshops and then doing an event. So, you know, just meet and greet, meet booksellers, sign some books. So, you are kind of kidnapped, driven around a city you don't know, and then just delivered to the event and you haven't even checked into the hotel yet. So, I know this sounds silly to complain. It's also great. You get to stay in great hotels, I've seen more of the country, you yet fed amazing food often, you get to meet booksellers around the country and they're like some of the best people going, and you get to meet readers around the country. So, it is fantastic. It's just quite different than sitting at your desk for a year and a half being a recluse.
ASTRID: So, while you're on tour, or even before and after you have been on tour, what responsibility do you feel to engage with readers, whether that's through social media or you know making yourself available as such?
FAVEL: I like to make myself completely available. Meeting readers is one of the nice things. So, some of the media stuff is just nerve wracking, like live radio. Occasionally you might have a journalist that's going in hard about something, trying to get a personal story out of you, although that's very rare. Most journalists are really lovely. Or you might have a photo shoot, that's always so uncomfortable. You just feel like a fraud the whole time. But engaging with readers is the nicest bit of it. So, doing events in bookshops or wherever around the country is actually really heartening. You meet some fantastic people. And I try to make... I try to say yes to everything, you know, because I do get something out of it, absolutely. It's lovely connecting with people. And it's amazing that people speak to you. But yeah, it can go on. I'm about to go on the road again just quickly, just Canberra and some of the south coast of New South Wales that's been affected by bushfire. There's a couple of bookshops there who are like, ‘Please come’, because they're doing it really hard. Their summer was wiped out, that is their time to make money, they’re a tourist town. So that's going to be really interesting. I'm really happy to be doing that. So yeah, I say yes as much as I can. I rarely say no actually, I probably should.
ASTRID: Saying no isn't a bad thing. As you mentioned before, you know, you went to CAE a and didn't finish your studies, which clearly has not had any impact on your writing. You are a stunning writer at the sentence living. But how did you find your way into the literary industry, because that's hard.
FAVEL: It's so hard. It feels… the whole time I was at CAE it felt like that was impossible, actually. I kept this tiny little bit of hope, the door slightly ajar. So I'd go to these classes called Industry Overview and publishers would come to talk to the class and basically tell us that they read one page on the slush pile, and if it's not great they just throw it away, and how hard it is, and how many books they get. And I remember I wrote it all down, everything in these classes, but I mentally decided that none of this is important right now, it's not important until I have a product. So, what I need to focus on is none of this, I need to focus on writing.
So, I decided to just go part time. I got a studio with some other writers in the next building, and that helped me take it seriously because I felt like I was going to work. I know that sounds crazy, but leaving the house, not doing the dishes, not getting distracted, going to an office with a desk, I felt like this is what is going to help me take it seriously. And I started to take it seriously, and you know I did that for a year. I had a skeleton of a novel. And then this manuscript development program was advertised at CAE, and I thought there was no way my book would enough to get in, but a teacher said, ‘I think you should’. You had to put 50 pages, what have you got to lose? You don't have anything to lose if you don't get in you just won’t hear. And so, I did. And I kept working on it and then I did hear, and I got in.
ASTRID: And this was the Hachette and Queensland Writers Centre manuscript Development Program?
FAVEL: It was. For about an hour I was really excited and then I was terrified. So, then it was like, ‘Oh my God, I'm a fraud. I'm going to get there they're going to read the rest of the novel and say you don't belong here this is awful’. I nearly didn't go. So, we had to go away for five days to Queensland. I’m glad that I did, I met my publisher there. She said, ‘It's not ready. Go away, work on it, email me when you're done, and it's not it's not a guarantee but I'll read it’. So, I did that. I actually sent her... I took another year and I worked really hard. I think I gave up TAFE actually at that point and just did this. And I sent it back and it probably took another year then to publish and I think I got it through, just.
ASTRID: You did get it through, and onto some impressive lists.
FAVEL: But what I'd like to say to the writers is there's lots of ways in now, you don't have to sit on the slush pile. There is the Richell Prize with Hachette, there's the mentorship thing that I got with Hachette and the Queensland Writers Centre, Text have a prize, I think, many publishers do now, and they're finding a lot of new voices. Not just the winner, they're publishing other entries. It's definitely a way in, and putting your work out there is a big part of being a writer. It's the hardest bit. I still get rejected. I've been trying to find an agent and I've been rejected like eight times in a row this past couple of months. It's a long story, but it's fine. But you still do. And you feel terrible for a couple weeks. Anyway. I'm very surprised.
ASTRID: It is complicated, I'm sure it is. You're waving at me.
FAVEL: But no, I just mean it's the market is hard at the moment. This book's already out so some people don't want to take me on until I've got something new. So, if I had a manuscript done, I would be able to get an agent straight away. But I want some... Anyway, it's a long story. Rejection is a lifelong thing being an artist. But put your work out there, just keep putting it out there whether it be short stories or a novel or whatever, poetry, nonfiction whatever it is. Try and find those pathways in and just keep knocking on the door, because it's possible. Like, if it's possible for a high school graduate that wasn't good at English, it's really possible for anyone who is going to put the work in. It's hard work, but yeah it's possible. And you've got to know it's possible because otherwise I don't know if you'd do it. Yes, it is possible.
ASTRID: It is possible. Can you tell us what you are working on or thinking about starting to work on?
FAVEL: No, I just haven't. Oh gosh… I'm six months late on a short story for a filmmaker, because I've just been… I don't want to go back into the writing room. It's ridiculous. I don't want to go back down. But I’m starting to get agitated enough that I am going to go back in. I just cleaned up my studio the other day, which was just a good sign. Oh my God, it was like chaos in there, because like you know this was published I just left it how it was. It's a good sign.
I've got some sort of… my brain is looking at things and asking questions. For example, I've got this painting of this beautiful woman wearing yellow gloves and she's drinking champagne, and I just keep thinking about this painting. And I'm like that's how things start. So, it might just be nothing. It might be just a writing exercise, but when your brain can't stop thinking about an image and won't leave you alone, it's like knocking on the door and saying sit down and start writing. So yeah, it is soon. Probably tomorrow. [Laughter]
ASTRID: Well good luck, and I look forward to reading what you produce next.
FAVEL: Thank you so much.