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An Interview with Suzanne Falkiner

December 1992, no. 147

An Interview with Suzanne Falkiner

December 1992, no. 147

This was an extraordinary task you set yourself. How did you decide to do it in the first place?

I was actually asked to do it. Lesley Mackay, who has a bookshop in Double Bay that I go to, was doing a bit of publishing and packaging, and it suddenly occurred to her that while there was a Writer’s France and a Writer’s Britain there hadn’t been a Writer’s Australia, so she came to me with the idea. She thought she could package the idea to a publisher and would I write it? I thought, what a wonderful idea and signed the contract, and then realised that what I was going to do was write an entire literary history of Australia, and every chapter could have been a book on its own, and probably should have been.

That’s partly why it turned into two volumes. When I started getting the material together, I had a folder full of material for cities the size of a book. According to the original concept I would have had to deal with each city in about two or three pages. I was also supposed to do it in eight months; it’s taken two and a half years. It could have taken a lot longer, and it probably should have, but on the other hand, all the time I was working on it I knew I was over deadline, so it did concentrate my attention wonderfully.

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