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An interview with Craig Silvey
November 2020, no. 426

Open Page

An interview with Craig Silvey
November 2020, no. 426

Craig Silvey is an author and screenwriter from Fremantle in Western Australia. He is the author of Rhubarb (2004) and Jasper Jones (2009). His new novel is Honeybee.


Craig Silvey (Llihsemaj/Wikimedia Commons)Craig Silvey (Llihsemaj/Wikimedia Commons)


If you could go anywhere tomorrow, where would it be, and why?

Buckle up. I’m starting the day at Augusta National Golf Course and playing eighteen holes. Post round, I’ll take a dip in a Mauritian lagoon, after which I’ll stroll around the Natural History Museum in London, and finish up in a Spanish taberna surrounded by tapas and cerveza and amigos.


What’s your idea of hell?

I’m stuck in a queue that won’t move. It’s hot and humid. There are mosquitoes. There’s something perennially lodged between my teeth. My clothing is loose, baggy, and clingy. The pollen count is absurdly high. I need to sneeze, but I can’t. The only food available anywhere is okra or sea urchin. Hear that? The person behind me is chewing with their mouth open. My fingers are sticky. And somewhere, unseen, is a smoke alarm that needs batteries.


What do you consider the most specious virtue?

Nobility or elevated status. It’s hollow and illusory. Also, regularly washing your car. Just calm down, it’s really not that necessary.


What’s your favourite film?

On any given day: Paper Moon, The Apartment, Casablanca, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, No Country For Old Men, Brokeback Mountain, Rashomon.


And your favourite book?

On any given day: To Kill a Mockingbird, True Grit, The Sun Also Rises, Cat’s Cradle, Sula, Lean On Pete.


Do you have a favourite podcast?

I adore No Such Thing as a Fish, which is practically narcotic for those of a curious disposition. I love Esther Perel’s Where Should We Begin. Bear Brook was utterly compelling and superbly structured. Closer to home, I love Rachael Brown’s Trace series. She’s set the benchmark for Australian investigative podcasts.


Name the three people with whom you would most like to dine.

Muhammad Ali, Paul Newman, David Attenborough.


Which word do you most dislike, and which one would you like to see back in public usage?

‘Serendipity’. I’d like to consign that word to a Hallmark Card, set it on fire, and fling it over the moon. If I could restore one word to modern parlance, it would be ‘vim’. It’s such a speedy, sprightly, bright little word. I like a person with vim.


Who is your favourite author?

On any given day: John Steinbeck, Arundhati Roy, Zadie Smith, Toni Morrison, Miles Franklin, Mark Twain, Jane Austen.


And your favourite literary hero or heroine?

Hard to go past Atticus Finch, really. Anti-heroes are always more interesting.


Which quality do you most admire in a writer?

Sincerity. Passion. Fearlessness. Humility. Vulnerability. Wit. Economy. In that order.


Which book influenced you most in your youth?

This largely depends on how we’re defining ‘youth’, but as a young child I was enamoured with Paul Jennings, Enid Blyton, Roald Dahl, James Herriot, Ruth Park. But there was one book I borrowed on a whim from the library which always stayed with me: Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian (1981). It introduced me to a range of emotions I’d never experienced. I still remember the way that book made me feel, and it was very influential on the way I approached Honeybee.


Name an early literary idol or influence whom you no longer admire – or vice versa.

Probably Charles Bukowski. I just don’t have room for that kind of bitterness in my life. We might have to add Norman Mailer to the list too. The Naked and the Dead is a brilliant book, but it’s hard to ignore that Norman really was an insufferable dickhead.


What, if anything, impedes your writing?

Everything, outside of being seated at my desk in my office, is an impediment to my writing.


What qualities do you look for in critics, and which ones do you enjoy reading?

The answer in both respects is ‘unfettered praise’.


What do you think of writers’ festivals?

Writing, for me at least, is a protracted, solitary undertaking, so I love any opportunity to connect with readers. Writers’ festivals are a teeming, enthusiastic hub of like-minded people, and it’s always a thrill to be involved.


Are artists valued in our society?



What are you working on now?

I have a number of film projects in various stages of development: a western, a survival thriller, and a family film. I’m nibbling around the edges of a new novel, and I’m quietly determining how I’m going to adapt Honeybee for the screen.

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