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Amazingly enough, two years ago to the day a wee novel called BODIES OF MEN came into the world. I started writing it in 2014, when I was a writer-in-residence at UNSW Canberra, and eventually – and rather miraculously, it must be said – it saw the light of day in May 2019.

What a marvellous ride it has been since then.

Thanks to all the kind folk who have engaged with the novel. Only this week, two wonderful people got in touch – one sending me the first picture, of the book at Berkelouw’s in Berrima, the other saying they had recently read the novel for the second time, because the first time they had rushed through to find out what happened to dear James and William.

Yes, it has been a ‘ride’, but in a way that is not the right word, because it is all about readers, and I have been so fortunate that so many have engaged with the story. The award listings have been lovely, but there is nothing like a reader saying how much the characters and their story resonated for them. Even just this morning, when I posted something similar to this piece on Facebook, a kind and generous reader wrote, ‘The ending is perfect, as it makes your mind explode with hope.’ That sort of response is almost literally gold. No, scratch that. It IS gold.

Big thanks to all the incredible booksellers. Imagine a world without them.

Of course, thanks to Hachette Australia, and all power to publisher Robert Watkins and Gaby Naher from Left Bank Literary for making everything happen.

Sorry about the photo in which I look like a cross between Oscar Wilde and that bloke from Spandau Ballet.

Finally, I have been fortunate to appear recently on two terrific podcasts: Words and Nerds with the incredible Dani V, and The Dead Prussian with Mick Cook, an Australian war veteran. Wonderful conversations both. A print interview can be found on Triclinium, the blog of Australian historical-fiction novelist Elisabeth Storrs. Having the opportunity to discuss BODIES OF MEN in such depth and detail is really very special.

Thanks again, everyone.

Love,

your old Goulburn mate x

In a couple of weeks I’ll be LIVE ONLINE talking all things Writing War with the very wonderful Melanie Myers, Simon Cleary, and Cass Moriarty, who must be one of the hardest-working people in Australian letters.

The panel, which was organised last year by Avid Reader Bookshop in Brisbane, was originally scheduled to be held in person in the store. However, things have changed a lot since then, haven’t they. It’s been a tough year for so many, a heart-breaking year, a tragic year. The writing community has had to rethink how it does things, with events either cancelled or moved online. Thankfully the Writing War discussion will still be happening, thanks to the wonders of the internet and the tenacity of folk.

Who knows what we’ll end up talking about, but we’ve already decided that we won’t be shy about heading into the contentious (and increasingly frightening) world of Australian military history. Why is it so hard to talk about war history? Why are so many scared about having a point of view?

Have we really reached the point where it is impossible to have an alternative or creative view about Australia’s military past? Is it now impossible to critique it, even in a respectful and informed way? Why is it that people have lost their jobs – indeed some have even been kicked out of the country – if they have tweeted criticism about Anzac Day?

It will all be happening at 6.30pm on Monday 20 April. The tickets are just $5. It’ll be via Zoom so it’s open to folk anywhere in the world.

It’d be great to have your company.

Booking information here. Big thanks to to Krissy Kneen and the amazing team at Avid Reader Bookshop.

As luck would have it, BODIES OF MEN continues to adventure itself into the world and, sometimes, I get to tag along. As many other authors have noted, there is an element of letting go when a novel is published: what happens is essentially out of the control of the person who dreamed it into being. Some of us worry – some of us worry a lot – but that’s largely unproductive. The novel has to have its own ride.

Here are two things that have happened lately, and one that’s about to happen.

Last month there was a review of BODIES OF MEN in the Australian Book Review. Although it’s rather unbecoming (and possibly dangerous) to focus too much on reviews, this one, by Patrick Allington, did offer a bit of a shot in the arm:

BODIES OF MEN offers a thoroughly humanising depiction of Australians during World War II. In telling the story of two soldiers, William and his childhood friend James, Featherstone reflects upon the brutality, drudgery, and absurdity of war but also on the two men’s love and regard for each other. He weaves a compassionate tale but one that contains multiple layers of tension. It is also persistently surprising, as if the author has found a way to keep the ground beneath the characters – and readers – constantly shifting. Although William and James dominate the story, Featherstone draws upon a range of intriguing, deftly drawn characters; his characterisations of women are particularly rich and complex.’

Speaking of Australian literary journals, one of the gutsiest and hardest-working, Verity La, published an interview with me this week. I thoroughly enjoyed the conversation with Tamara Lazaroff, who asked incitement questions. While we’re talking about gutsy, I understand that shortly Verity La will be running a crowdfunding campaign to keep the journal going. If you can, please swing them a few dollars.

 

 

Finally, next month I will be in Sydney doing a double-headline gig with the very fine  Holden Sheppard. Born and bred in regional Western Australia, Holden’s debut novel, INVISIBLE BOYS, won the 2018 City of Fremantle Hungerford Award, and will be published by Fremantle Press next month. Our joint gig, in which we’ll be chatting to each other about our books and related topics – sexuality, masculinity, intimacy, maybe even love – will be held at Better Read Than Dead Bookshop in Newtown: 6.30pm, Thursday 10 October. It’s free. More information here.

Thank you to all those who have sent me messages or emails saying they have read BODIES OF MEN and enjoyed it. The other day, at a writing event in Canberra, someone came up to me and said, ‘I read your novel, I was absorbed into the world of the novel, and I have kept thinking about James and William.’ That’s all a novelist really wants: to have someone engage with the work in an open way. I do appreciate it. Really.

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