Woroni caught up with Australian author and columnist, Benjamin Law, at this year’s National Young Writer’s Festival (NYWF). He gives the low-down on researching for his latest novel, Gaysia (hint: it involves whooping cough after being stranded overnight at a Japanese bath-house); the future for Australian writers; and answers the ultimate Would-You-Rather question: would you rather be Beyonce or go to space? To find out, listen to the podcast here. While you’re at it, check out what else Woroni Radio has to offer at www.woroni.com.au/podcasts.
[W]: Can you tell us a little bit more about your latest novel, Gaysia?
[BL]: Gaysia is a book that took me to seven different Asian countries looking at seven different queer issues. I went to Indonesia, Thailand, China, Japan, Myanmar, Malaysia, and India, and each of those countries I focused on a different LGBT issue. So in Thailand I went backstage for a month at the world’s biggest transsexuality pageant. In India I looked at the queer right’s movement. Because I’m not a news journalist, my instincts are to write longer feature narratives that focus on people. I’m always curious to hear about the human dimension of these stories. If in China, gay men are seeking lesbians for sham marriages, what sort person are you to get into that situation? So a lot of it was sitting down with people and getting that human side of the narrative.
[W]: You mentioned in a panel discussion at NYWF that American author David Sedaris refuses to write about sex, because he doesn’t want his audience to imagine him or his partner naked. Is there anything you won’t write about?
[BL]: I don’t really write about sex either. I mean, I write about my dysfunctional and potty-mouthed family… but no sex. I don’t think I want to subject anyone to imagining that. I’ll talk about it on an academic level, but I don’t think anyone needs to hear about the stuff I do.
[W]: Do you have any advice for young writers?
[F]: Publishers are always on the look-out for young, new voices to turn into books. The main thing you have to keep in mind is to simply keep on writing. Writing can’t be a private act; the more you write the more people will understand 1) you’re a writer and 2) what kind of writing you do, and hopefully they will pair you up with someone who will champion you.