But first, let me start the year by wishing Australia well. Here I mean all the good people speaking out, trying their best to preserve as much as they can of a still beautiful country.
I had mixed feelings about coming back. Bushfires had started and the news received in Europe was worrying. But soon we would be able to be with our daughter and her husband and not have to worry from afar hyped up by sensationlist press reports. I’d been there before, worrying from afar about how my parents were doing when there were bushfires. But this time it was different, and so I turned to story as a way of coming to terms with my feelings.
On Christmas Day we left for Sydney and on that day my micro story, A Mad Max World, was published and would later be nominated for Best Small Fictions 2020, an honour in itself for which I am grateful. Not knowing what to expect, I had bought N25 face masks for the whole family and for friends – just in case – before we left Vienna. We arrived on the evening of Boxing Day. It was hot. It was summer. There were fires, but nowhere near us. It was the smoke in the air that told us things would never be the same again.
On 3 January we drove south to Mittagong in the Southern Highlands to stay with friends on our way to Melbourne. After we left, they made preparations for protecting their property and text messages were the only way we could let them know we were thinking of them, wishing them well, as we continued on to Melbourne. Fires were raging, but we avoided the coast road where tragedies were unfolding, and needed only once to be detoured. In Melbourne, we met up with friends also newly arrived from Europe. The cities really do live parallel lives as I soon found out as we toured in airconditioned comfort what was perhaps the largest shopping complex in the Southern Hemisphere. Friends, again, were the high point of our stay and I was lucky to be able to catch up with writer Paddy O’Reilly before we left very early on the Saturday, just before the city and environs were to be blanketed by smoke.
When on my phone I saw a call for submissions from Australian and New Zealand writers for uplifting speculative stories for an anthology in aid of the Fireys, I sent of a piece of flash fiction and was thrilled to have it accepted. The anthology, Stories of Hope, is due to be launched early February.
Although I believe that even breathing is political, and just breathing can no longer be taken for granted, I will leave political utterances to my twitter feed, and here rather keep to some exciting writing news.
My novel, All the Beautiful Liars, will be published by Eye & Lightning Books (UK) as an eBook on 16 March. Needless to say, I am thrilled, and am so happy to be in the same stable as writers like Australian Ryan O’Neill, author of the prizewinning Their Brilliant Careers. And there’ll be a blog tour with interviews and reviews.
There’s already a preliminary link to the publisher’s website.
So, I’m celebrating in Sydney with my family and wishing you all, and particularly all the brave and unquiet Australians, a year where there may be solidarity, courage, empathy and hope, where egos are left at the door and we strive to be, above all, human.
As always, Onwards!