Mandy Beaumont's writing is powerful, brutal, magnificent and complex. Her debut short story collection Wild, Fearless Chests was shortlisted for the 2018 Hachette Richell Prize and the 2019 UWAP Dorothy Hewett Award.
Her work has been published in Griffith Review, Cordite, Black Inc. Best Poems and The Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library Journal, and she has produced large-scale interactive text work for Brisbane Festival, Queensland Poetry Festival, The State Library of Queensland and the Brisbane Writers Festival.
Mandy is currently a PhD candidate at RMIT's School of Media and Communication.
ASTRID: Mandy Beaumont is a magnificent and quite frankly brutal writer of short stories. Wild, Fearless Chests, her first collection published in 2020, was shortlisted for the 2018 Richell Prize for Emerging Writers and the 2019 Dorothy Hewett award and individual stories in this collection were shortlisted themselves for notable prizes. Mandy has produced large-scale interactive works for the Brisbane Writers Festival. She was a poet-in-residence at the State Library of Queensland and the co-editor of ‘The Idea of Women’ edition of Overland and is a current PhD candidate at RMIT University. Welcome to The Garret, Mandy.
MANDY: Thank you.
ASTRID: I have just described Wild, Fearless Chests as brutal. I'm sorry, but I've also read others doing the same. So potentially a hard question to start. How do you feel about that and was that deliberate?
MANDY: The answer is no it wasn't deliberate and I'm fine with it. I'm very much of the headspace of ‘once I've written the book it's now yours’. Like I'm very much, I’m a bit detached from the work actually, so I'm very much like I'm really interested to hear what you think of it. So the word brutal is coming through, complex, all these words which, well great, it's touching something. So I think that it wasn't intentional but I'm comfortable. It's fine.
ASTRID: I'm very glad to say that you're comfortable because as those words were coming out of my mouth, even though I've written the question and it’s in front of me I was feeling kind of awkward. So I should say and clarify for those listening, this is a beautiful work. It's brutal in the sense that you know, it takes no prisoners, it takes you to places that you might not have gone before, you don't really, kind of, you wouldn't choose to go but you write so beautifully it just, it, it becomes quite natural. And freeing actually, it's, it's quite a liberating book to read and then to muse about afterwards. You do open the collection with a quote from Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex and I’m gonna read it to you: ‘What destiny awaits our younger sisters and in which direction should we point them?’ That made the weight of my womanhood and my age come crashing down and I thought ‘Oh my God what am I doing?’ But who is Wild, Fearless Chests for?
MANDY: As a collection that you're reading now, it's for all the women that go unheard. It's for those women who are misplaced. I'm really interested in the concept of misplacement of women, you know, the woman at the, at the bus stop who was in the wrong place at the wrong time who, you know, which I don't agree with, but, you know, those kind of concepts. The woman who was born in an age of, you know, of not the right time. So it's about us as women connecting with those stories and I’m hopeful that women do. And it's also about saying to women, you know, together let's collectivise, let's have our stories, let's share our stories. But the starting impetus for the book was the story of my Auntie Marg who the book is dedicated to. And it was, she died too young and her life was brutal. It was those things that, those stories you go ‘(gasp) is that fact, or fiction?’ So I run a fine line between fact and fiction in this book. And it was, I wanted to write her story out. I've sat down with my dad and said, ‘tell me her bloody story.’ So he did, and it was, I really wanted her to have a booming voice on the page and to be really powerful because she didn't have that power in her life. So from that stemmed the other stories. So, yeah.
ASTRID: So you just said you, you know, tread a fine line between fact and fiction and representing her story but also maybe wider stories. Answer this as personally or not as you like, because there are many layers to this question and I want to respect those but, how did you do that? Did you end up getting stuff on the page and realise you could never put it into print or did you de-identify a lot of things?
MANDY: Yeah it's, this process question is really interesting and not int—I sat, frankly I sat down and went ‘I just want to write stories that are real to me.’ The idea of the lived experience which is what Beauvoir did in her philosophy, the idea – and in her fiction – was the lived experience of women, I wanted to get down on the page. So it started from that kernel of my Auntie’s lived experience and to fictionalise them I think is a really powerful thing to do. So de-identifying in some, yes. Others, no. I mean I hardly use names or identifiers in the work because I wanted to have that collective feel and that kind of meta feel across it, but it was very much the stories that you and I tell each other, the stories that, you know, we're drunk and we cry to each other, the stories that we hear on the streets, the stories that we've heard in the news, the tragic loss of life, of women murdered by men, like all of these kind of things that collectively come together is this, this movement, this energy this you know what I mean is I really wanted to hold onto that and start doing those real stories but in fiction. So a lot of them are mash ups, a bit of a tapestry chucked in together and some like the one dedicated to Janet Frame – phenomenal New Zealand writer – is like, you know, broadly on her life story which I thought was important to tell. So it's kind of a mash up.
ASTRID: Yeah it is a mash up. I am going to come back to the fact that you didn't use a lot of names in here. I think that's a really powerful tool you had. But before we go there, I kind of want to tease out this difference between fiction and non-fiction and telling our real stories through fiction. For you what is the, what does fiction give you that a news article, that is accurately telling the facts, doesn't?
MANDY: I think there's a pure beauty in the way that you can use language, and so journalism and fiction writing are completely different things, and often when I read something in the newspaper – say against violence against women or whatever – I don't get that emotive, guttural, brutal, uncompromising feeling that the book has. So I think the language and the skill of writing fiction is really important. I mean if you look at someone like say for example Lolita the book Lolita, like one of my most favourite books, the way even the first lines of that book, the way that he uses language and the way that Nabokov can explore essentially the underage rape of a young girl. But I came away from that book when I first read it when I was so young going ‘I'm confused. That's, that's eroticism, that's a love story, that's this.’ So, the pure skill of him using language to actually turn ideas on their head, it is really exciting. So to me it's in the language. Does that make sense?
ASTRID: It's very much makes sense. Now there are about twenty short stories in this collection. Now instead of talking generally about the collection which I think our whole conversation will do I'd really like to talk about one of the earlier pieces in there, ‘On Their Wild and Fearless Chests’. Now obviously that's where you got the title from. But I found myself ruminating on this story afterwards. And it's, it's one of the ones in the collection that I kind of took with me if that makes sense, everybody will take a different one but this is the one I took.
MANDY: Great! This is what I want to hear. What do you like?
ASTRID: It just stayed with me.
ASTRID: And it's you know it's about this young girl and she is neglected horribly by her parents throughout her childhood, but her parents are also in deep grief, they did lose a child, but they don't recover in any functioning way. And she is viciously bullied, she's impoverished. They are living in a hoarder’s house and she is teased for that. She's given some cash, literally, you know, $50 notes left on the doorstep by an anonymous benefactor and she walks out of her parents’ life. And this young girl who's 17 and eventually turns 18, at this time of her life goes on to have a career and have a life and have independence and find her voice and her way. And you know it goes on and you kind of find out a little bit about what happened to her mum and her dad. It's really shocking. And I suspect that's the kind of thing that probably happened around me and I didn't know when I was a teenager.
MANDY: Right, those stories that we haven't talked about.
ASTRID: And I wouldn't have known because no one would have talked about them and now I don't know those people in my life, do you know? Like I feel like I probably sat next to that story and didn't know.
MANDY: You might have teased that girl when you were in grade one, who knows?
ASTRID: I might have teased that girl. And I hope now that I'm older and I have a little bit of experience, I hope that I would be that person who is the anonymous benefactor who maybe one day could notice. But I feel like you writing this story lets more of us notice.
MANDY: Which is the aim of the book, you’re spot on. So the real, like those stories, and I've had I've got a wild imagination as fiction writers do, and, you know, that story came from, you know, a young family who used to live around the corner and their house smelled like shit. And it was, you know, it looked terrible and everyone paid them out. And the young girl would come to school and she never looked good and it was all those kind of things and she's always stuck in my head around the idea of, like this sadness that they had around them. So as well as the shockingness of it and the brittleness of that story there's a real connection and sadness and a real beauty in her, her misplacement, finding her place and moving on from that. And I find a lot of those stories in the book are like women who are misplaced and they're kind of finding their way in the world and often they're alone like you said, because no one talks about it. So if that story connected with you, it flicked something on for you, then that's fantastic. Like that's that, again, that fine line between fiction and non-fiction.
ASTRID: So, you know, you said that this story ‘On Their Wild and Fearless Chests’ came from, you know, a kind of a girl or a family that you knew around the corner. As a writer, what is that spark for the story for you? How long do you carry these around before you get them on paper?
MANDY: Oh, some are years. That one, I mean that one was when I was 13, 14. I think I've got, I've got a shocking memory. I can't remember people's names, but I have these images and things rolling around my head and I ruminate on themes a lot and I walk a lot and I spend a lot of time on my own which I'm sure a lot of writers do. I mean Murakami wrote a book about writing didn't he? But I think that it's those ideas forming and meshing and coming together in that tapestry in my head. And it's that mash up of ideas and themes and writing it out, like seeing where that goes. And knowing now at 40, no okay I’m 42, and now at 42, the skills that I've honed being a creative writer, to start moving those ideas under that feminist lens, so I think that's yeah, I think…
ASTRID: Would it be possible for you to write a story that wasn't feminist?
MANDY: Yes, a hundred percent and I have. I just think these are the ones that are timely. And I've got a whole lot of other things and won awards for other things and all that kind of stuff. And this book, this collection, has been picked up now and I don't think it would – I'm quite certain – it wouldn’t have been picked up five or ten years ago. I think it's the zeitgeist, I think it's timely.
ASTRID: Which leads me into my question. This has been published in the post Me Too world, or I mean the Me Too is still going, amongst. We are in 2020, Harvey Weinstein has now been convicted.
MANDY: Took a hundred women to convict— yeah, great, that's a bit of numbers for you!
ASTRID: It took quite a while but that is a marker in this post Me Too, well in this Me Too age. You just said that you don't think this would have been published before. Is that because it's short stories or is that because of the content or both?
MANDY: I don't think the short story form, I think the short story form is still being published as it was before. I don't agree with the argument that I've heard that there's a renaissance in short stories. I don't think that that's true. I think literature when it's good stands up whether it's a short story, a poem or a book. And publishers and good agents recognise that. So I don't agree with that. I think it's about this Me Too movement. This, this change, this voice, and I think things like social media have a lot to do with that. I think that visionary women in positions of power help people do that. The publisher at Hachette, Vanessa Radnidge – I love you Vanessa. She is visionary and decided to take a chance on this because as women in positions of power, so things are moving but sad to say that it's a structural problem and blah blah blah. I think misogyny to be destroyed and dismantled is huge. But this is one conversation starter to have. Which is my job here.
ASTRID: It is your job. Bringing down the patriarchy is a generational, it's on the generational to do list but we all need to contribute.
MANDY: Which is that quote at the front of the book that Simone de Beauvoir: ‘where do we point our sisters?’ So the feedback I get from younger women and the book's only been out a couple of weeks, but the feedback I'm getting from younger women is gives me shivers and shakes, I’m like ‘ahh sister, that's fantastic’. So if they just, you know, that old adage, if that just helps one person that's great. So yeah.
ASTRID: Well it does matter doesn't it because that one person will go on and who knows what they will do.
MANDY: It does matter. Yeah it really does matter, it does matter to have those conversations for, you know, and it does matter for men to have those conversations. It matters for us to talk about it. And for us to be on this podcast and, you know, and be in the newspaper or whatever but it actually matters that men listen to these stories, take them on board, listening to us and going ‘oh I'm going to talk to my mate, I'm not gonna listen when he has the rape joke’. It's, we need men to come with us on this, so the good men that read this, start talking about this.
ASTRID: Indeed. Indeed. We've seen a lot of stories coming out in the last couple of years and they are finding their way into our newspapers and our TV shows and our books. But in this collection, I mean, I felt like there was almost nowhere that you didn't go. So I started writing a list and then I just kind of stopped.
MANDY: You gave up!
ASTRID: But my list is rape, incest, trauma, abuse, neglect, violence, hatred, disdain. But there's also hope and beauty.
MANDY: Thanks for putting that in there.
ASTRID: Well there is! I think that this is a beautiful but brutal collection. But my question is, you know, have you found somewhere that you just can't go yet or you can't publish yet?
MANDY: No, for me I really… No. And I don't think there should be. It's just like the policing of language, like I use little ‘fucks’ and this and that and I'm very, and, you know, I'm known for being very like that. I think the policing of our story is a policing of our language. Those things that you've just listed off, they are confronting and, you know, I've had men come to me and go ‘I'm really confronted by that’. Well great, because they're stories that, you know, you've got that list there, don't tell me that you can't pinpoint in your head different women that connect to that because that's the reality of the world.
So I think challenging those big issues and those big questions through literary form, through fiction, which isn't really a thing in Australia. You have it in some instances, you've got like Charlotte Wood who did it with The Natural Way of Things – brilliant book – but I think that it's a lot of non-fiction stuff out there at the moment but having these conversations through fiction I think is really powerful. And I think it's needed and I think pushing the envelope is about getting people angry and I think anger is really warranted against systems that have failed us forever and systems that continue to allow things to happen to women and also on another level happen to women but also those in the less privileged position like our trans sisters and our Indigenous sisters so I think that having these conversations is important and I'm happy to push that envelope. Bring it on.
ASTRID: I'm enjoying this. This is a subjective question and it will be different for every individual. But what age would be the youngest that you would give this book to someone?
MANDY: Oh wow. I had a mother who brought me up on Rocky Horror Picture Show when I was very young. So… (laughter)
ASTRID: I genuinely ask. So I was given and studied Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid's Tale in school – my final year of school – when I was 17. It had a profound effect on me, not just because it's an amazing work, but also because of my age and I was quite suggestible at the time. I've had people say that they would never give The Handmaid's Tale in schools now. And I disagree heartily. So – but this is confronting – but I think maybe a teenager would find themselves in here depending on their life experience.
MANDY: A hundred per cent. And I don't have any hard and fast rules about who and how people read my book. I want everyone to read it. I think that young women and young men have minds of their own. I think that's a huge thing. I think these things need to be talked about and it's not done there’s, you know, it's not done just for the sake of shock and horror. There's, there's a reason behind all of these stories. So, I mean, I read Sexus from Henry Miller when I was – my dad's a voracious reader – and I read that book when I was, I don't know it was in his bookshelf and I pulled it down. So the writing of sex scenes in that was like ‘woah, that's revolutionary to me!’ And I must have been 12 or 13. So people have their own choice to read things. I mean it's a hard one for me to answer that one. I would have read it at 13 and loved it. It would have shocked me and I would've loved it.
ASTRID: I'm glad to hear that. I think I would too.
ASTRID: And talking about taking books off your father's bookshelf. I took my dad's Wilbur Smith collection off his bookshelf at 12 or 13 and I would like to say, the worst sex in literature, ever.
MANDY: I also took my mum's Jackie Collins so (laughter)
ASTRID: Oh my gosh. Well you turned out a great writer anyway. Wow that went off topic. I want to come back to Me Too because it's not – nor should it – go away. But in terms of, there is a growing body of fiction that is coming out where women and previously unheard voices are coming into our literature, not just in Australia but around the world I think.
MANDY: I mean Roxane Gay Difficult Women is phenomenal short story collection.
ASTRID: It is an absolutely beautiful thing to witness. And for me as a reader to read and experience. Where do you place yourself in that?
MANDY: Yeah that's, and that's a conversation, you know, when my agent said to me ‘how do I pitch this to the publisher? and I was like, ‘oh god where do I place myself?’ so I place myself as a writer in the literary category. Because for me I can write on any theme, like I said before this is just what I'm writing now. And so literary for me is a big spot. So you know big influences for me are someone like I love Eimear McBride, I love Lolita, I love Bukowski, which is a whole other conversation. It's a whole other question.
So there's lots of influences for me and literary, as you said, it's a literary book. So it's a complex in its writing and form. And the feminism space, well I'm a white privileged woman so I place myself in that as a literary writer, but also as someone who can open up those gates for those conversations to happen for other people as well. So yeah, read my book and take from it what you will. But does that open a space for a non-English speaking background woman to come in and have that conversation? I think that’s a really nice place to be in. So that's where I kind of hope this will lead.
ASTRID: That is a nice place to be in. So this book, or the collection, was shortlisted for the Richell Prize in 2018. Now that prize is affiliated with Hachette and Hachette is now your publisher.
ASTRID: And because I have been Googling you—
MANDY: Oh god!
ASTRID: I did. Because I have been Googling you I know that you have a two-book deal with Hachette.
MANDY: I do.
ASTRID: So Wild, Fearless Chests and then a novel.
ASTRID: Random question is your novel part of your PhD.
MANDY: Look it will probably form that it's, yes, essentially yes. At the moment I'm writing it out as the PhD, what form it takes at the end of the day I don't know, but at this stage yes. So and that will be a book called My Heart is an Ocean and that leads on from this book. It's a feminist fiction so at this stage – again, could change – it is about women's revolt and it's about their revolt through nature on the land. It's a bit of a landscape Australian sort of, influences of like Gillian Mears the landscape, bit of a kind of Cormac McCarthy vibe, kind of like a bit of a brutal Australian feminist.
ASTRID: Cormac McCarthy.
MANDY: Yeah I’m going there.
ASTRID: Having just finished your collection I do believe that you can go there and it will leave us all with images that we cannot ever escape.
MANDY: Yeah. Sorry.
ASTRID: And for those of you who don't know Cormac McCarthy wrote The Road.
MANDY: He wrote The Road. Brilliant but messed with my head.
ASTRID: Messed with my head too. Well look, The Handmaid's Tale, The Road – you're really going to the… We just need to put in Charlotte Woods’ The Natural Way of Things and it’s all the disturbing books.
MANDY: Oh, what a book! What a book.
ASTRID: Going back to Hachette. So they are your publisher, the Richell Prize is a really big deal for emerging writers or writers who have already gained a reputation but haven't got a book out in Australia yet. So can you tell me about that process? Because I am fascinated by how Australian literary culture and commercial publishers look at people who win prizes.
MANDY: Sure. So for me leading up to that prize I was very, I’d won a few short story prizes like The Moth and, you know, shortlisted all those kind of things. So I'd really sort of cut my teeth on that kind of work and I put in for the Richell Prize and it didn't win. Ruth McIver’s great book won and the publisher was very keen to see the book. In that process even before the Richell was announced I signed up with Jacinta Di Mase as an agent and there was some interest coming from some big publishers and I'd been talking to Penguin for a while, yes some stuff was happening. And then the Richell Prize, the publishers at Hachette were just really … we had a few beers, I’ve got to say, at the award and there was the conversation around ‘love your stuff I want to see it’, you know blah blah blah so I got it ready. Like, you have this stuff ready. So as much as we say – I'm rambling a bit – but as much as we say, you know, ‘I was, oh it was, it was the time’ – have your shit ready guys! Email them the next day, have it ready. Do your work. So for that, the passion and encouragement and excitement that they had for publishing this book was a no brainer to go with them. And I think that comes back to that vision from the publisher and taking a chance because short stories aren't published by major publishers on the whole. There was a, I was in the uh, the Sydney Morning Herald the other week and there was a review by Carmel Bird of my book and four other short story collections – all male, I was a female – but it was the only major publisher. The rest were small publishers. So I'm really interested as well in that commercial consideration around fiction especially short stories and especially feminist. But I think that comes back to those visionary leaders in those places and moving that conversation somewhere else. So I don't think that book is going to sell a million books, it's a short story collection but it's certainly leading into that novel, that longer term vision about developing a writer's career, which Hachette have said to me and what they have I think is really exciting and is why I signed on with them because they were like ‘we see that it's a good book. We have vision for the novel and going and working a career with you’ which is very exciting for me as a first book.
ASTRID: It is thrilling. It's the dream.
MANDY: It was the dream and it was like ‘oh shit, I can't say no to this’ like this is where I want to be. So and working with them, and it's a real collaborative effort obviously because the book doesn't take just me, it's sort of editors and blah blah blah but working with them is a pleasure. So I think them being behind the Richell award is, makes a lot of sense to me that they want to nurture new talent. And they genuinely do.
ASTRID: So your second book will be a novel and it will be influenced by or come from your PhD as that process goes out. How will that work? I mean a PhD has an academic supervisor, you know a commission book has an editor in a publishing house.
ASTRID: Where do the two meet or not?
MANDY: I don't know yet! I mean the first year, I'm just coming up to my candidature so at the moment the book is being informed with its themes around the philosophy of Simone de Beauvoir – that’s the quote in the first book – and around her concept of women as other and around her use of nature in her philosophy and in her fiction. So my PhD is around that, argues that Beauvoir’s fiction matters and everyone knows her for The Second Sex but her fiction matters in terms of philosophy, fiction that explores philosophy and thinking. So broadly, even, the new book will explore feminist theory and philosophy but not in a way that makes you go ‘oh my god I'm reading a bloody PhD, academic—' it'll be, it's again using language and the skill of using literary work to make it a commercial success. So that line for me is really interesting within the PhD in itself so and look they might end up being two different things at the end. But at this stage the informing of feminist thought is really exciting for me as a writer.
ASTRID: What do you think about the term commercial literary fiction?
MANDY: Well I think commercial just essentially means how many I can sell. It's a business and I think that writers get bit disheartened about ‘oh we didn't sell this many’ or ‘I can't get a book deal’ and people actually take it really personally. I think that's a wrong way to look at your writing career. You know you get rejections, you get this and that. I think that's does a disservice to you as a writer. I think the commercial factors are commercial factors and that's what it is. So I think commercial fiction to me means selling a whole lot of books. That may mean something different to a whole lot of other people and I think literary doesn't sell like a crime blockbuster. It just doesn't. That's just the figures. Feminist literary short stories, well we'll see!
ASTRID: There's a growing market I guess.
MANDY: Sell the book!
ASTRID: I guess I ask the question because, you know, when you walk into a bookstore or, you know, when you are pitching an idea for a book, publishers often ask ‘well is it literary fiction or is it commercial fiction?’ And by that they mean is it written really well and maybe kind of go the award route but don't sell many, or – and I'm generalising here—
MANDY: A hundred per cent. I think you're spot on. Yeah.
ASTRID: Or is it maybe not so beautifully written but my goodness you're going to sell well?
MANDY: I think, I think yes. And I think mine sits in the former category. Definitely. The conversations I've had with my publisher are like ‘we want to win some awards, we’re going to get your name out there, build a career’. That same kind of thing. So I think, yes, they're thinking about that, but I think in terms of a commercial consideration they're thinking of a long game. So I think for me personally that's where it sits, that commercial consideration there. But in saying that I think big publishers have the scope and the money to take some chances and to actually contribute to these conversations and this kind of literature. And I would encourage, bring on, have those big publishers to go ‘we do have money’, and I know everyone's tight with budgets but compared to a smaller press like Affirm or whatever, there is a budget to take some chances. So you never know what may happen out there, how people will take it, who knows?
ASTRID: You don't know and I would just like to go on record here by saying I really hope that the idea of commercial literary fiction, or whatever someone wants to name it, starts because literary fiction in this country is beautiful and I wish everybody didn't get scared of it and bought lots more of it.
MANDY: Well look, I would class someone like Gillian Mears, who is phenomenal, award-winning, like, was amazing, I’d class her work as literary, I’d class Charlotte Wood’s work as literary, you know, I'd class Helen Garner's work as literary. So whilst that work is literary there has been commercial success of their work
MANDY: So that is down to the responsibility of publishers. That's how I see it.
ASTRID: So, you know, you have now, Wild, Fearless Chests is now in the world and you are in the process of coming up with your second, you know, work by a major publisher. I'm interested in what you learned or how different this whole process is than you thought it would be going in. You know I've now read your stories in one go.
MANDY: Yeah, I know, it's weird huh? I think that it's, what I've learned from it is that, from doing it on my own for so long, for doing this journey of a writing forever until – it feels like forever, because it's all I've wanted to do, it’s all I do – is I don't have control of it. I do! But it's someone else which is good. It's like a control freak like me goes ‘Oh my God’. Even the cover I struggled with for a while and I love the cover. I love it! But it was a struggle. So it's actually getting away from, that I have to do it on my own, and people are on my side.
Everyone in that sort of world wants it to be a success. So that's the thing I learned and the other thing I've learned is that like I said at the start I'm really disconnected from the book now. And it's quite, not a bad thing, but I think – it's actually a good thing because I've got other things to do – but I think that I was so connected to them and now it's kind of someone else's job to be connected to them. But that's lovely.
ASTRID: That is lovely for you. And I have to say probably really great for your mental health.
MANDY: A hundred per cent.
ASTRID: I've spoken to other writers who feel that they, they can't just disconnect themselves from the work that has just hit the shelves, and that prevents them from working on the next piece or going back into that quiet space or whatever it is that they need to create and write. And you know if they're talking about it to people they can't. Favel Parret basically has put on her next, next project on hold, simply because she can't disconnect.
ASTRID: So I'm very impressed with you right now. How do you do it?
MANDY: I think it's from years of working a day job. Working a side job. Writing. Having a home life. I think it's actually, I'm really good at compartmentalisation. You know like I, you know, I've got PhD work due today, I've got the job to go to and I'm not, I'm just doing PhD at the moment but you know having the job to go to all those I think compartmentalisation. But I also think it's just good mental health practice for me. And I would say to other people as well, to let go. It’s done, you’re done. Get on to the next thing. You've got other things to tell the world. So for me, look I know this sounds terrible but someone even talked about one of the stories in the book the other day and I went ‘oh shit, I can’t even remember what I wrote’. Which is terrible and I shouldn't say that but I was like ‘Oh my!’ So I think that's why it's, I'm really interested to hear what other people say because it's now yours. Guys, enjoy it. Go for it ,take what you will. So I think I'm mental health, good mental health.
ASTRID: Very healthy of you.
ASTRID: I have a deep love for academia and I—
MANDY: I have a love-hate relationship with it.
ASTRID: I am constantly flirting with the idea of doing my PhD and I'm really interested in this question. You’ve been writing short stories for a while. You, what does the PhD route offer you?
MANDY: Wow, that's a great question and one that I only now, nine, ten months in, you know, nearly a year into the PhD, it's actually starting to form for me why. At the start to be frank with you it was like ‘great! I want to get in, get a scholarship and I want to write a book’. Yeah that's lovely. And that's a nice by-product of it but for me it's a deep reflection on my work. So even just in terms of form and function and, you know, my style, how things influence me, a real unpacking. My work in the PhD is a conversation with Simone de Beauvoir’s fiction, so it's about reinvigorating ,have a conversation with one of the masters of fiction that I would say. So to me it's about critically reflecting on my work as a writer. And it's also about reading widely, like the excitement of reading widely, widely in a PhD is daunting but also pretty goddamn sexy and exciting.
ASTRID: It must be so fun.
MANDY: Oh my god, the things I've read in the last twelve months, things that I would not have read. So I'm opening myself up as a human being to all these new concepts that, I'm sorry, it gets me really excited. So yeah, I kind of love the academia too.
ASTRID: You are smiling. You are, you are making me want to go there and I'm going to admit that I've had The Second Sex on my bedside table because I know it's important, but I haven't read it yet, and I'm going to move it closer to the top of the pile.
MANDY: It is a confusing and heavy read and I think many scholars would agree – do agree with me – that it is confusing as hell, so unpack that and then we can talk again.
ASTRID: I'm looking forward to that! I do have, I do have, I want to change tack and ask you another question. Because I've been stalking you I know that you also do professional writing. I teach Professional Writing and you just rolled your eyes and I also roll my eyes when I meet my students for the first time because it has a reputation and it can be kind of boring. But it also has a role in life. And it's also great income source for writers.
MANDY: It's exactly where I'm at. It's an income source for me. It's, you know, I need my résumé, I need a grant application, and this kind of stuff. Because I find it very easy, like I can do it, the skill that the muscle’s been used forever, so I find it quite an easy task and it's easy money for me. But I also teach at university so I've got sort of, as all writers do, have fingers in every pie. So I'm not excited by corporate writing at all.
ASTRID: I don't think anybody is let's be honest. But it has a place.
MANDY: It has a place. In my pocket, with my money.
ASTRID: I love that. Thank you because I needed someone on this podcast to say that so I can say it to my students and be believed.
MANDY: I'll come in as a guest speaker one day, we’ll have a chat. Don’t think it's for the love of it.
ASTRID: Do it for the money.
MANDY: For the money!
ASTRID: Mandy, thank you so much for coming to The Garret.
MANDY: Thank you. What a pleasure. Thank you, Astrid.