Liadhen / My Boyfriend’s Father
At age 18 I gave up my dreams of rock stardom and set out to write a novel. Luckily for me, my dad was a writer, and he turned me onto arts funding and short story contests and small magazines, just when I would otherwise have been forced to concede defeat. So I wrote fiction and grant applications and found a niche as Adelaide’s young so-called “grunge” writer, even though at first my writing was about as grunge as Frederic Chopin. Along the way, with the help of two editors and seven redrafts (which inevitably both diluted and helped focus the finished product), Liadhen was born, a sub-Lynchian Boys’ Own Detective story set in a fictional Australian small town which isn’t quite of this world.
Following Liadhen, and – I’ll admit it – in a hurry to earn some money so I could follow my then-girlfriend overseas, I cooked up the idea for My Boyfriend’s Father, drawing on (somewhat sordid) autobiography in a manner I was sure would appeal to grunge fans. It’s the story of a family’s break-up due to alcoholism and post-sixties countercultural pipe dreams, slightly transformed via the medium of a young woman narrator. It was cynical, I came to think later, but partly heartfelt, and it didn’t hurt my critical reputation. (In 1996 My Boyfriend’s Father was shortlisted for the NSW Premier’s Christina Stead Prize for Fiction, and I became the youngest ever recipient of an Australia Council Fellowship for Literature, facilitating both my European travels and six months in Tasmania in 1997.)
I dined with agents in Sydney and was named a Cleo eligible bachelor, but all was not well. Weary of both the promotional circus and the editorial compromises – which I felt had not paid off richly enough – I determined to do exactly as I wanted with the next book, a psychedelic multi-genre metafictional concept which later became known as COQworks, a concept which the Sydney agents sadly didn’t get at all.
And besides, I was tired. I wanted to rock out, go dancing, get wild. At which point my mainstream publishing career went up in smoke, and the box full of manuscripts which made up COQworks went into storage. But that’s another story.