INTERVIEW: Goldie Goldbloom author of The Paperbark Shoe

Goldie Goldbloom will be in Perth for the Perth Writers’ Festival and a special author evening at Christ Church Grammar School on 2 March 2010.

What was it like writing a book set in WA from Chicago?

Well, I travel home to Western Australia every two years, so it’s not like I’ve forgotten my homeplace. And the landscape that really sings to me has always been rural Western Australia. All my favourite memories of growing up are set against that landscape. Of course, there were some things that I frantically emailed my cousin about in the middle of the night, like precisely when is the first rain in Wylie?

How are you feeling about being part of the Perth Writers’ Festival this year?

I am incredibly excited and honoured to have been asked. And really excited to meet all these really smart writers who are going to be talking about the directions they are heading and the risks they are taking in their own writing. Oh man! That is going to be fabulous!

You’ll be visiting Wyalkatchem, where the book is set, while you’re here. What do you hope to do while there?

I am excited and a little nervous to meet the townspeople and talk about the book with them. Obviously, my Wyalkatchem is fictional and theirs is real, but I am still really curious to see what the areas of commonality are. Oh, and the areas where folks get all riled up and annoyed at me and say, “You got that soooo wrong.”

I am also looking forward to seeing Paul de Pierres, the town historian, a writer and just the nicest gentleman you’ll ever meet. He helped me research the novel and was incredibly supportive.

And hey, I love the country, and in particular that region. I am just going to be walking around, being happy to be there.

And last but not least, my Mum is buried up in the Wongan Hills cemetery, and every time I come home, I go to visit her. Best Mum ever.

Have you had any responses from Wyalkatchem locals about your book?

The best names tend to be real ones that I scrounge from here and there. I just wrote a story about a man called Marvelous Lemonjello, and I scrounged that last name (which is so outrageously perfect) from an orthodontist in America. I mean, names can be so delightful.

I keep these little books where I store away unusual or funny or somehow perfect (to me) names that I might later use in a story, and I’ve heard from a couple of people that two names in The Paperbark Shoe were inadvertently similar to family names of folks in Wylie. Yikes! Completely unintentional. One of the surnames came from this list of old English names that I like to browse. I think Dickens and J.K. Rowling browsed the same list.

What do you enjoy most about coming back to WA?
Lots of things, but chief among them would be seeing my brother and my other relatives, seeing the ocean … the smell of lemon-scented gum trees, lamingtons (oh man! I could say a lot about that!), the sound of peoples’ voices, the twenty-eights, being familiar with the place and loving it in this huge memory-tied way.

While in Perth, you’ll be at several events. What kinds of questions are you expecting?

I was interviewed a while back and the journalist asked me right off the bat how much of me is written into the book. Answer: Every writer writes themselves into the book, otherwise there can’t be any kind of emotional honesty. They write about emotions which they are dealing with in some way. But are the factual events things that happened to me? No. And will all my cousins please sit down now and be very, very quiet.

I can think of some really funny questions, but I am going to leave it to the audience to surprise me. If it’s too surprising, I will blush, and that’s worth twenty points.

Has there been much variety in responses to your book? If so, how?

I was initially told by an agent in America that my book could never sell because there was too much dialect in it and no one could understand it and everyone hates sad stories.

I, for one, am very partial to sad stories.

And I really love the way Western Australians speak, especially people who didn’t grow up speaking Uni English.

Books Editor at The West Australian, William Yeoman, will host a free evening with Goldie Goldbloom at 6.45pm on Tuesday 2 March at Christ Church Grammar School. To book your place contact or 08 9430 6331

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