J.P. Pomare is an award winning writer. His short form work is published in Meanjin, Kill Your Darlings, Takahe and Mascara Literary Review. Joshua's first novel, the literary thriller Call Me Evie, became an instant bestseller. He is also a podcaster, and has hosted On Writing since 2015.
ASTRID: Joshua Pomare's fiction has appeared in Meanjin, Kill Your Darlings and Mascara Literary Review. 'Call me Evie' is his debut novel, and what a debut it is, immediately published in Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States. Joshua is also the host of On Writing, a monthly literary podcast. Welcome to The Garret.
JOSHUA: Thank you so much for having me.
ASTRID: Can you explain for me the genre of the literary thriller?
JOSHUA: That's a tough question and begin with. I think... it's I mean for me it's just basically a thriller. But I think the literary tag is now being used to basically say the writing is not horrendous. I think that's the only way I can sort of explain it. I know...
I mean it's it shouldn't be required, and I think people take issue with that because they think there's the suggestion that other crime is in some way inferior, which I don't think is the case. I think it's just they wanted to... I think in this case my publisher wants to make a statement about the writing and the craft side of it a bit more. And you can sort of interpret that however you like, but I know that was that was a bit of a focus in the pre publication stuff. But yeah, I can understand why this might be a bit contentious and what it might suggest about other crime novels. But I don't think crime novels require that, you know, I don't think they need to be... I don't think the audience needs to be told that it's literary. But I think there was an idea to try to capture some of the more literary readers as well.
ASTRID: As a reader picking it up, that as a genre title intrigued me, and I have to say it did deliver. So I can tell you as much as that. Now you strike me as quite a strategic writer. Can you give me the elevator pitch for 'Call Me Evie'?.
JOSHUA: That's the one thing I'm not that good at. I guess what I would say, or what I've been encouraged to say, and what sort of how it's being pitched is a psychological suspense novel about a young woman who finds herself in a country she's never been with a man she's not sure if she can trust, and she's called upon to sort of remember an event, and she's not entirely sure if she can trust the way she remembers it, or what actually happened. And so she sort of has to access her memories but also survive in this new land with this with this man, and try to work out what happened basically.
ASTRID: And that's where the suspense comes in, as the reader - and of course your main character - tries to figure out what did happen.
JOSHUA: Yeah, yeah. I mean a real focus for me and writing this was trying to sort of push the reader trying to push the reader via my character into these uncomfortable territories. And lots of the issues concerning memory I did research a lot, but I also wanted to make sure that it wasn't one of those books where the reader knows exactly what's happening but the characters don't. I think that for me the reading experience is so much more fun when I so sort of comprehensively inhabit my characters, or the characters, that I have no choice but to experience the world the way they do, instead of being this clever kind of outside observer.
ASTRID: As you write, are you always thinking about that end reader?
JOSHUA: I think I'm thinking about - actually this going to sound strange, I'm thinking about my mother in law.
ASTRID: Do explain.
JOSHUA: So like my my thing is first and foremost I'm always thinking what I'm competing with. And I don't think about other writers or other books necessarily as much as I think about things that distract readers and things that people have the choice to consume instead of books. So, I'm thinking about sort of Netflix, and I'm thinking about ways I can write fiction that will make it easier for someone to stay within the story and not be distracted by social media and Netflix and things like that. So, when I'm thinking about the end reader I'm thinking about my mother in law and how I can keep her engrossed in the story, but also how I can try to incorporate all the elements that make fiction great. And I'm not saying that's what I've achieved but that's certainly what I set out to achieve.
ASTRID: Brilliant. It's often said that a writer's first book has the most of them in there. Now, you were born in New Zealand and a substantial chunk of the action in Call Me Evie is in New Zealand. How much of you do you think there is in this debut?
JOSHUA: I think I mean, the New Zealand element certainly, that's really obvious. Even the Melbourne element, you know, I've lived in Melbourne for eleven, twelve years now.
And also the character of Kate / Evie... I mean there's so much about it that's me, that's classic - as far as my friends are concerned - classic J.P., like her neuroticism and the way she's so so anxious to keep everyone onside, but also you know has this sort of an internal world that's a little bit sort of hidden. There is so much about her that makes... that doesn't make the story autobiographical because of course it can't be. I'm not I'm not a young woman. But there's so many elements of her personality that that that would be very sort of seminal, parallel are my own. And yeah the New Zealand elements for sure. Maketu is one of my favourite places on Earth, which is where it's largely set, and that's been a lot time there.
So many of her experiences are really similar as well, like some of the encounters with the locals, which is quite you know... so much can be interpreted, can be interpreted in one of two ways, as really sort of like intimidating and almost dark. And another was just people just trying to sort of have some effect and get to know you, like there's this weird thing in small town New Zealand. And so for me when I went there I was always thinking the latter, like I've always thought there was these people just wanted to be noticed, you know. But I think that can also be interpreted as a more sort of sinister thing as people trying to scare you and stuff.
ASTRID: You certainly create that impression for the reader. Now, I really did want to talk to you about Evie / Kate. As you mentioned she is a young female teenager, which you clearly are not. How did you go about writing her particularly her experiences? So you know, she experienced psychological abuse and is a victim of revenge porn.
JOSHUA: I mean it's a good question, and it's one I have got I do get a lot, because it's never seen to be a criticism but there is this thing where when I'm writing someone else's experience in a way. And historically it's been done so poorly, men writing woman, in particular a young woman. So for me it was the most important thing was that I got it as right as I could or I got it right. And so for a long, long time I was reading mostly first person female books. I was reading also books that were about similar experiences. So, like I think one book that really springs to mind is 'Girl Is A Half-formed Thing', which is completely different, but also it just sort of gave me so much insight as well. So when I was writing, you know these were... I was just trying to make sure it was reasonably authentic and to sort of access this experience as much as I could.
And the other thing I did was I really involved my wife, who's just been incredibly supportive in general, but in this particular case I tried to sort of tap into her own experiences to some extent, and tried to make sure I was always asking and having these conversations about her, with her, because it's even growing up, I mean even growing up as a young woman, growing up as a young woman in a reasonably insular kind of private school environment... These these are things that I just couldn't ever in a million years fully understand without that sort of insight. So I was working really close with my wife.
And finally I think the other thing that really helped was most of my editors are female in the UK, and the US certainly, and half - well, I have my publishers now, but my editor who I work closely with is Briged Mullane, who's female, and she was incredibly helpful. And they were all sort of you know involved, and one of the things I was always saying was, 'If it's wrong, tell me'. Like I'd rather know I don't want it I don't want to miss them. So in that regard it was just I mean it was just acknowledging that I couldn't possibly know that their insights was the only thing that's going to make it anyway approaching authentic. And and so I was just making sure everyone was there and those conversations were happening as well. Because there is a risk, you know.
ASTRID: I think there's always a risk when you publish anything. So 'Call Me Evie' is going into three different markets. Did you get different feedback from any of those about the female character or the topics?
JOSHUA: Yeah, to some extent. I meano the big one was the title, there was lots of conversations around the title. It was originally 'In My Skull' before that it was... I think at one stage it was 'The Survivor'.
And then there's a few different titles that sort of happened, but when it was 'In Skull' we had sort of half the people loved and half the people hated it.
ASTRID: And I've really been googling you - 'In My Skull' was the title at the time when it was auctioned.
JOSHUA: Yeah yeah. And I think these conversations happened before people agree to publish the book. They say we want to but here's our vision, and publishers did - not in Australia but in the UK and the US - said are you open to changing the title. And I said well I guess so. And yeah, so what happened was we just had always awful kind of suggestions, just months and months of you know... it was probably the most contentious part of the editing process. Well you know part of the process from signing the contract and publishing the book was working out the title, and it was just one of those things when we achieved a consensus we were all so exhausted that we were like 'that has to be it'.
And ultimately you know I was happy. I think it is a better title. It suits the book better. I think there's all sorts of connotations with like the idea of a skull that suggests horror and almost like a whole other story. So I was fascinated by the psychological elements of the skull as a motive. But I was also you know, I thought it sort of suggests that there is a horror, sort of thriller element to it which is the case, you know, so I really liked it. But I think when people are putting sort of resources into a project like this you have to take on their feedback, and I think we were all pretty happy with 'Call Me Evie'. Other things, I mean, there was lots that US like... We killed a couple of dogs originally, and then the dogs died...
ASTRID: You can't do that in the US.
JOSHUA: Yeah, you can you just can't do it. And like I saw the logic in that. And if it's a case of something that's not that significant to the story, changing and potentially making the book so much more accessible for so many readers... it made the decision itself really. You know it wasn't it wasn't like 'Marley and Me', you know it wasn't like a book about a dog. The dog was it was a sort of part of a subplot that inevitably kind of faded into the background anyway. So there were a few things that the US were really quite keen on, the UK as well was always probably - I don't think they'll mind me saying - probably always skewing things slightly more commercial. So I think they want to really place books in the UK, that they've got these sort of micro genres and they want to make sure it fits in snugly. And this one was probably one that was pretty hard to place, particularly before the editing process started. So yeah they everyone brought these their own sort of ideas and at times it was an arm wrestle but you know it's...
My philosophy with edits now is if they, if this, if they pull something up and they point it out there is probably something that needs attention, but they will very rarely have the answers. So it's a sort of a 'this isn't quite right situation' as opposed to 'this is what you should do'. I mean, even when it is 'this is a suggestion', the suggestions from my experience generally aren't the way I would normally would go. So that's the way I sort of view edits. And even now that I'm editing my book two, I't sort of looking at notes and thinking, okay, I have to trust that it didn't work for them, but the reason why it didn't work and their suggestion I have to I can be critical about it and I can come to my own conclusions.
ASTRID: I'm interested in what you're doing with book two, but I just want to say on 'Call Me Evie' for the moment. Yes, it is a thriller and I couldn't quite guess the ending - which is not always the case, so well done - but can you tell me about your technique? How did you build the layer upon layer of suspense?
JOSHUA: Yeah. I mean, it happens through... I have a real sort of problem solving approach. So my first draft or two is pure exploration. So sort of like... I say exploration but it is more like excavation. It's like I'm kind of just dusting around and digging up and just seeing what's what's down there. And you know, when I am writing early drafts - I can say I am because I've done a couple of times now - but when I'm trying to work through a couple of early drafts and trying to get a story I've got just direction, like I'm like it's heading this way, this might happen, it might not, but that's what I'm sort of... And then you just get distracted and it ends up being 100 or 150 thousand words, you just cut and then you try to find the story from there, and then it's problem solving. 'I just think it'll be cool if this happens. Is it possible with the pieces I've got? What can I change?'
Before I try to apply any of the literary polish or anything like that I've learnt you quite often,, you create you get too close to certain characters and plots or certain scenes. If you just, you know, if you just polish them up and it's... and it makes... it so much more brutal when you have to cut them and then eventually, you know you have to cut so much. So early on now what I'm doing is if these little gems do come I'll put them in and I'll really like them, but I'll be really prepared to cut them, and also I acknowledge that I'm just exploring, and the story has to come first. And then yeah, and then I just sort of problem solve and try to find a narrative that really works, that fits with the characters and everything. And then I'll go back through and just keep redrafting and redrafting.
ASTRID: How many drafts do you do?
JOSHUA: A lot. Yeah. I mean I guess for book two I've probably done, I've probably done about seven or eight. And I've just sort of started structural edits with my publisher, so I think with 'Evie' I would have done more, probably. Yeah, probably about ten to twelve before we started with structural edits.
ASTRID: Now you mentioned the phrase literary polish before. Explain what you mean.
JOSHUA: So what I mean is going in and... I'll race through scene sometimes, you know, and I know I have to come back and fix it. Or I'll put a character in and I don't really understand that character that well yet. And what I'll do is I'll go back through and I'll focus on the language, I'll focus on not - I'm not really at line edits at that stage - but I want to make it still for the next person who reads it I want to make it fun for them and enjoyable, so I'm just trying to find ways to I guess make sure the crafts there, make sure it's something I'd be prepared and happy to submit. Yeah, it makes sense. You know like it's I imagine someone else reading it at that stage.
ASTRID: Now there is a backdrop of toxic masculinity in the novel. You know, we have a character who is jealous and releases a sex tape of an underage girl. We have a former football star who is questionable on so many different levels. What drove you to explore that?
JOSHUA: So there's... I mean, what I will say - and this has been a real kind of gut punch for some... for me - just seeing the reaction, because some people I know are really kind of identify with certain characters.
ASTRID: That could be awkward.
JOSHUA: Yeah. Yeah. And I'm like, that is not really the point. But that's that's totally fine. And you know, this sort of tells me a bit about them, of course. But I guess I wanted to write about the social and societal pressures on particularly young men, and the sort of shapes that forces them in, and how they internalise that, and how that might manifest as an attitudes or behaviours towards woman.
So I think Tom's probably, you know, probably the best example in this book of all the forms of toxic masculinity. He's operating in an age where people sort of think feminism is done, you know. So they sort of think that we're, we're at this place of equality or whatever. So, the interesting thing is he's grown up in a house of really sort of classic left wing kind of parents, you know, sort of artists, and their idea ideologies are sort of you know would would align with what you would think would be progressive. But he still grows up to be someone who views women in a certain way. And the interesting thing about that was that it's just the sort of culture of putting pressure in groups of young men, putting pressure on each other and closing in and sort of how we handle this squeeze to be a certain shape. Like I said, that's what toxic masculinity is as far as I'm concerned.
And then you have a generation earlier you have a completely different form that's more kind of overt, more sort of obvious and typical in that society of protecting young women and removing their agency and controlling everything and looking at woman as sort of filling a role or filling a certain criteria or space. And so I did like the idea of comparing those two and putting them side by side and letting the reader decide who is the villain, and you know...
ASTRID: Throwing Willow's dad into the piece as well.
JOSHUA: And then there's one other character who's just...
ASTRID: He's just extra. Tell me why you made Jim a footballer. That means that something specific in Melbourne.
JOSHUA: Yeah... I mean so... He plays rugby, which I mean he plays rugby league, and the reason he plays rugby league is because footballers in Melbourne are too famous. He could be famous, so he's experienced that outside of Melbourne and the public gaze. But I think, yeah I think he just had to play rugby, but he had to be an athlete because I think athletes have historically - particularly in Australia, but also New Zealand - have this real awful track record. And I think there was this... I think the cool thing about Jim was he was, you know, he wasn't this typical St Kilda footballer you know. He wasn't, he wasn't really typical from the outside, you would think he was as good honest sort of man that got married. Like there's still so many tropes surrounding around the role of men or woman that you can easily explore just by looking at the fact that he would be considered a good bloke because he got married and raised a daughter and so on and so forth. And that's just really given, you know like he should do that anyway as far as I'm concerned. But it's this idea that he's somehow... Somehow bound by it. I wanted to subvert that, that form of control and and that form masculinity is somehow better than the other forms that are exhibited in the book. This kind of womanising with Willow's Dad, you know, there's still things that are wrong and things we can talk about and explore.
ASTRID: I thought you did a very good job. As someone who remembers being a teenager and in the 20s I felt... Yeah. Yhose situations that felt real. What is your goal as a writer?
JOSHUA: Good question. These are really tough questions!
JOSHUA: So my first goal as a writer - and this is like, people might hate this but it's true - my first goal absolutely as a writer is to get to a place where I can just support myself and I can... because I love it so much. If if I ever have an opportunity to do it as a viable full time career that's that's exactly what I'd like to do. And that'll be fantastic. So I don't think I'm disguising the fact that that is a real ambition, but of course you know when I first started writing and and in my heart a big part of it is I want to write about what fascinates me the most, and most that sort of things to do with the brain and psychology and how we sort of react, so what influences our sort of behaviours, particularly in public like in a sort of public environment or in a social environment, I'm fascinated because I am really I'm sort of have this sort of inner dialogue, I'm criticising my behaviour in certain social events and that's really crippling.
And so I'm quite interested in my own behaviour, but I'm also interested in how other people deal then. So much about psychology has always fascinated me. So I guess that's what I want to write about because that's what interests me. I never want to be sort of didactic. I never want to write in a way where I could regret it. You know I don't want to... I don't want to necessarily be overly political, because my position changes so much that I think I want to make sure I really fully understand something before I wade into that territory. So, although there are definitely elements like politics in there, I don't want to write an overtly political work. So, I think it's first and foremost it's about... Yeah, just about writing what interests me at the time I'm writing it because it's required writing a book and I think that makes it a lot easier as well.
ASTRID: It is quite hard writing a book. I am so glad that you said that your ambition is to be a financially viable and successful writer. So many writers don't say that in Australia, and I think we should all work together to kill the idea of 'the starving artist in the garret' - which is where we got our name. You know, that can be a goal that we should have.
JOSHUA: Yeah and it's the sad thing is, there's this real attitude that's quite I think toxic in the creative set at the moment, particularly in Australia, where like I don't know... Heather Morris and Graeme Simsion and these enormously successful... Jane Harper... these enormously successful writers shouldn't be celebrated because this success. You know, like there's this real... in New Zealand there are so few writers that can they can even support themselves as artists as well as having a full time job. Like, it is so tough that you know when Eleanor Catton wins the Booker she's just... Everyone gets around her and everyone's sort of proves that it's possible. Whereas I think there is still - and it might be me living in Melbourne - I'm not sure but I think there is just a touch of snobbery around what is art and what we should be funding, like what should be successful and what should be making money. And it's a real shame that... you know, we as artists, we should all be, you know, I think there should be more funding absolutely for the arts, but I think if people are reading, if people are sort of accessing this art form via any writers I think that's a good thing. And I think we should, yeah, we should totally be able to say this is my ambition I want to be a writer. I don't want to have to have a day job.
ASTRID: I love the idea of commercial fiction. Now, tell me about the auction for your book. You went with Hachette, but it was a six way auction. Now for a debut author that strikes me as unusual.
JOSHUA: Yeah I think it is. I mean, you know what, I happen to know that one's happening right now, because I'm friends of the person who's going through it. But it is really uncommon. It's... it's also one of those things that only happens if you happen to be at the right place at the right time. Most writers are going to take - particularly if they are not agented or they don't have... They're not like fully savvy to the industry and they don't sort of understand how how these things work - they might leap at the first offer. So a publisher might read a manuscript and just go, 'we want this' and make an offer, and then the writer might accept it and then you've never got the opportunity to go to auction. So it's not a case of there's anything better, you know, in terms of the actual quality of the work.
But I would say definitely presents a sort of strange kind of balance where you are no longer pursuing publishing houses and they're sort of pursuing you and it's really weird, but you know extremely privileged position to be in. And like I said, it only happened because I was agented, and my agent could make... submit this work to a load of different publishing houses, could put it on their desk and say, 'read this', and they'll read it straight away all sort of concurrently, so that she said, 'By this time next week I want to know if you are going to offer'. If you go through the slush pile, if you're lucky enough to get read, you get read in probably three to six months time. So the fact that the week it gets submitted it is getting read by all these different publishers, that's the only way this thing sort of sort of happens. So yeah it was cool but it was very very very lucky.
ASTRID: So thinking about how an emerging writer can get the attention of an agent or a publisher, what helps? Is it your track record of publishing short fiction in Meanjin...
JOSHUA: Yeah. I think there's... probably the most important thing to get attention if you're not famous or if you don't have a literary magazine or if you don't have a really interesting story, particularly if it's non-fiction, I think the only way to really get attention or to get to to climb to the top of the pile - because again agents get dozens of submissions, hundreds of submissions every week. So they are... it's not as though you're going to be the first port of call when you submit your manuscript to them. And so what I always believed and I guess I subscribe to the idea that it will happen if you do all these sort of steps, and if you make sure that you aren't moving on to the next one until you've kind of achieved some sort of level of validation at the previous step. So those things like, I really wanted to make sure, because you don't know...
I think you can sort of reflect and say - if you're self-aware enough as an artist - you can say, 'My work's not as good as X's work, which I really like'. And if you know that, you know that you need to sort of get better as a writer. And then you can say, you can read short stories and magazines and say, 'Well I'm not there, but I'm not perhaps not as far away from there as I am from the novel'. So you think if I keep writing and I keep working and I keep growing as a writer hopefully I will get a short story looked at. And you'll get a few rejections. And then that's all just points of validation. So for me I think when you do get a short story published, that signals to a prospective agent, this is... I can write it. You know, you're saying, 'I have done these steps. I have got this validation from someone else within the industry. My work might be worth reading'. And so the more publishing history you have the better.
I was also like, 'Well if I get five things published and Kill Your Darlings that is not as good as if I got one thing in Kill You Darlings and one thing here', because I was fully aware of how even that would look. You know, sending in 'I've had work published in Kill You Darlings'. I'm not going to say 'I've got five articles', I'm just going to say I've got work. Whereas I can say, 'I've had work published in Kill Your Darlings and The lifted Brow or whatever'. So I thought, I really thought about how this would be perceived, before I submitted to the agent anyway. But when I was writing short stories and stuff it was just that validation, just getting to the next step and making sure I was always growing as a writer.
ASTRID: I noticed praise from Robert Lukins, who has appeared on The Garret before, and also Suzi Fox, who I taught at RMIT - although I have nothing to do with her brilliant book, 'Mine'
JOSHUA: I'm friends with both of them, that is why they're on my book.
ASTRID: Well, I wanted to ask how do you go about asking other writers to give you that recommendation? And is it different in the overseas editions?
JOSHUA: Yes. It's funny because Sarah Schmidt is... Got us a blurb but it's been used in the US but not Australia, which I thought was quite interesting. I don't know why, I can't tell you why they choose what they do. Buy I do know I've gotA. J. Finn on the cover, and given that recent scandal that's something that I guess I just have to live with. I have asked on any future editions, if I'm lucky enough for that to happen, to possibly change that, but for the time being I guess I have to live with the fact that this con man is on the cover of my book.
But yeah, when I approached Robert... I mean first and foremost I wanted... I was terrified of people like Robert. Robert Lukins reading... likewise, you know Sarah Krasnostein, even Sarah Schmidt. All these writers that wrote books that were so so well-written and like, books I really adored, I was just like, 'They're going to hate it'. So part of me was like, 'I don't want you to read my book, but if you're going to I want you all want me to give you a copy'. So the first thing I did was - and any publisher will always want you to do this anyway - I said, 'Hey, I'd love for you to read my book'. And then I said, 'If you like it and you want to say something nice that'd be great, but please don't feel obliged, because honestly I don't want you to rush to reading it. I thought you've probably got a whole bunch on'. So I just was pretty honest and said, 'Look it'd be great if you had something nice to say but if you don't that's fine too'. And then I just organised for books to get sent out, and then I just didn't chase it up or anything because I was terrified, like they're going to hate it. So Robert Lukins sent a really nice email to me, and I was like, 'Do you mind if I send that to my publisher or whatever'. And likewise Susie Fox and Sarah Schmidt. Lotsof people even just sent nice messages but didn't blurb... like Mactiernan. So there's a few writers... A ew writers that are just again deeply admire that just they're just saying they didn't hate it. That meant the world to me, more than a blurb. And then when we got the A. J. Finn one that was like, 'Cool, we've got the title or cover one, we can sort of stop'. You know there's no point in pursuing anymore or sending any more copies out, that'll do sort of thing, which I can now say I regret, but you know, these things happen, so yeah.
ASTRID: They do. Now you're working on your second book, which was part of the two book deal.
JOSHUA: Yes that's correct correct. Yeah.
ASTRID: So what have you learned from 'Call Me Evie' that you're bringing to the second work? So
JOSHUA: I mean this I've learnt I don't know how much I learnt from 'Call Me Evie' and how much I've just sort of learnt since, because, because this was... you know we sold this book like a year and a half almost maybe more ago. And I was ready to go out to publishers and like the middle of 2017. So it's been it's been a long time. So I've learnt a lot about the publishing industry.
And I think the biggest thing was the editing process. I don't think that's uncommon for debut authors to be just really naive about what you can leave on the page and how tight things need to be, because it's that thing you being so close to work you can't objectively view certain elements of the text. So yeah. So my agent was the first person read book two, and she was obviously first person in the industry to read 'Call Me Evie'. And when I sent book two to her she said, 'Oh my God, this is so much better than 'Call Me Evie' was', and I was like 'Oh'. I was really grateful. But she said, 'You've just learned so much from the editing process'.
ASTRID: What feedback to get.
JOSHUA: Yeah, yeah. She's just like it's so much tighter and you know, you've got - because when I sent 'Call Me Evie' to her it was this really bloated, super ambitious kind of literary, more literary work - but then so much happened that it just didn't make sense, there's too much plot. And with this one I sort of I guess when you know where you sit in the market and what your publisher expects from you, you're not just blindly walking around trying to find the story you know, you know that it has to be gripping, you know that has to probably be twists, you know that the characters have compelling and have real voice and so on and so forth. So certain rules that you have after, and if you know what your audience you're writing for, if you know sort of what direction you're heading in from the first page, if it's not an active exploration then... then you can just sort of write with so much more clarity, I guess.
ASTRID: So will book two be a literary thriller?
JOSHUA: I don't know. I don't even think it will get the literary tag with this book.
ASTRID: Drop that for book two.
JOSHUA: It's again... It's suspense. It deals with psychological elements. It's a, it's a cult book. So I got working with the same psychologist I worked with for 'Call me Evie'. I got a bit of access to... I got an interview with a former cult member, and that was really eye opening. I was just so inspired. And I already had done a lot of research into The Family cult, which is in Victoria. So very very loosely based on The Family, but it's I think it's... I mean I like it more than 'Evie'.
ASTRID: You are smiling now.
JOSHUA: I'm sick of 'Evie', but I do I do I actually like it more. I think the twists are bigger. I think it has more of the classic kind of suspense elements you... you've... you've got more of a grip on the story because the character - and this is the first person narration again - the narrator is a lot more aware of what's real and what isn't than Evie was of course, and so you... you've got a lot more perspective on what's actually happening. But yes, it's just been so fun to write thinking.
ASTRID: Thinking about your writing career, hat is the best investment you've made?
JOSHUA: I think... I'm going to. You are at RMIT, right?
JOSHUA: Okay. I'm going to give my friend a plug here. So I did a master class with Anthony Young. And so, I think you know I can talk about that in particular, though I'd prefer to talk about this general idea of meeting other writers at the same stage and same level as you. So, I think creative writing programs for me aren't necessarily conducive to creativity as far as how I work because I'm quite sort of solitary, but I do really appreciate the idea of meeting people, getting this quality feedback. I think that's so important.
So feedback in general, you know, if you can get involved... So creative writing programs are great, or just a writers group, or if you can sort of even if you can get a mentor or something like that you know. It just... You want feedback, but you want it... You don't want people to be too nice about it. You want people to be removed enough from the work that they can be reasonably objective, which doesn't happen from family members or your best buddy or whatever. You sort of need almost not quite a professional arrangement necessarily, but you want people who genuinely want to help you. And I got that from that, in particular, this masterclass. And it was a case of I guess working in a closed sort of environment with a few people and then afterwards for the last couple of years I've been really good friends with the same group of people, and we we still meet regularly and we still give each other great feedback. So yeah, that's the most important thing if you are close but feel like your needing still work. You know you needed to get better. I think that's the best way to do it.
ASTRID: Now you're also the host of On Writing, another literary podcast. Why do you think people listen to podcasts about literature and writing?
JOSHUA: I don't know why people listen online. Mine is more sort of a kind of rambling podcast, I think. I think it's the idea of access. I mean, in a broader sense I think podcasts are great because you can just listen to me anywhere and it's the sort of grassroots and anyone can do it basically, it hasn't got a really high sort of level of entry. But I think it's for me... literary podcasts particularly in Australia, I think it's the access to these writers. For me, you know I often wonder who out there is actually listening to me, like people are listening to it but who? Who are you? Because for me when I started I might have been interested in listening to it, but now for me it's just the fun of meeting other writers. I'm still kind of interested, I still ask what interests me, but I get to sit across from people. I'm having fun I don't. The people listening, I just assume it's because there's these people that they you know sort of aspire to be like or want to know more about, and I think that's just that access. Yeah.
ASTRID: So from the writers that you've interviewed, what have you learned? What is the best piece of advice?
JOSHUA: I've had some really crappy advice. I mean I always ask for non generic advice, because most people have heard most of the good stuff already. You know, like show don't tell. Like everyone has heard that. So I always ask non generic, because then people... usually it's an anecdote or whatever.
But for me, the best piece of... I mean it wasn't advice it's just this idea that came from interviewing writers I wrote again and realising they're all different but realising they have one thing in common, and that's that they just.. they didn't stop, they didn't give up, which is just really cliché, I appreciate. B ut all these people were... that's the only, one and only thing they all had in common was that they just kept doing it, however they could. So they all found their own sort of methods and found their own sort of approach and lots of people had full time jobs or kids or families or whatever, but they just kept doing it and they stuck at it and they found time and places to write most days. And eventually you know if you do that and if you're always willing to grow and learn as a writer then you know you've definitely got a really good opportunity and a really good chance of breaking through.
ASTRID: That is excellent advice. Thank you so much for coming on The Garret.
JOSHUA: Thank you so much.