Open Page

An interview with Sonya Hartnett
April 2010, no 320

Open Page

An interview with Sonya Hartnett
April 2010, no 320

Sonya Hartnett is the author of eighteen novels, including the Commonwealth Writers Prize-winning Of A Boy (2000), which was also shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award, and Thursday’s Child (2002), which won the Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year Award and Aurealis Award for Best Young Adult Novel. Hartnett’s latest book is Butterfly (2009). She lives in Melbourne.

Why do you write?

Many reasons, some to do with justifying my place on earth. But by and large, it’s just my job. It remains an abiding pleasure, though, to create something where there was nothing.


Are you a vivid dreamer?

Yes; of frequently strickening and torturous dreams.


Where are you happiest?

Lying on the Chesterfield, with my dog within patting reach.


What is your favourite word?

It’s impossible to choose one, because any word can be a favourite if it comes to you perfectly, just when you need it. However, I have a soft spot for reckless.


Which human quality do you most admire?



What is your favourite book?

Again, it’s hard to choose one, because I remember so many of them with fondness. A Confederacy of Dunces always makes me laugh. The book I’ve read the most number of times is a collection of essays about animals and insects called The Red Hourglass, by Gordon Grice.


And your favourite literary hero and heroine?

Truman Capote, who was fabulous and startling. Beatrix Potter, who was driven and kind.


What, if anything, impedes your writing?

My ingrained disinclination to do anything except lie on the Chesterfield patting the dog. Once I get going, however, not much gets in my way.


How old were you when your first book appeared?



Of which of your books are you fondest?

I have no favourite. They all pleased me at the time of writing; they all have faults that have become evident over time. They are each little storehouses of success and failure.


In a phrase, how would you characterise your work?

Small-town horror stories interrupted by bouts of gentleness and decency.


Who is your favourite author?

If you have many moods and interests, I doubt it’s possible to nominate one writer who satisfies all the time, in every way. I like a lot of writers; but maybe I’ve never liked anyone as much as I loved Enid Blyton when I was a kid.


How do you regard publishers?

I tend to think of them as friends and business partners; and repeatedly get a shock when I realise that’s not generally how they regard me.


What do you think of the state of criticism?

Sometimes it tries too hard to be kind, or tries too hard to be tough. You don’t always get the sense of there being an even-minded professional behind the words.


If you had your time over, would you choose to be a writer?

It depends on what I had to do instead. If I could be the keeper of the giraffes at the zoo, then I would definitely choose that. But if I had to paint lines on the road, maybe I’d stick with what I know.


What do you think of writers’ festivals?

They can be fun and they serve a good purpose, but you also have to be careful about which ones you say yes to.


Do you feel artists are valued in our society?

Most people appreciate the contribution that art makes to society, even if the artists themselves are sometimes looked upon with suspicion.


What are you working on now?

I’ve just finished editing first proofs of The Midnight Zoo, my next novel for children. Not what I’d call hard work, but work nonetheless.

Open Page with Sonya Hartnett

From the New Issue

You May Also Like

Leave a comment

If you are an ABR subscriber, you will need to sign in to post a comment.

If you have forgotten your sign in details, or if you receive an error message when trying to submit your comment, please email your comment (and the name of the article to which it relates) to ABR Comments. We will review your comment and, subject to approval, we will post it under your name.

Please note that all comments must be approved by ABR and comply with our Terms & Conditions.