The Secret Life of Writers is a series of rambling conversations with some of the world’s most interesting and visionary writers and creative icons about how they got where they are, what they’re working on now, and how they balance art and life. These warm and personal interviews take you behind-the-scenes of the writing world. Hosted by Jemma Birrell, formerly of the Sydney Writers' Festival and Shakespeare & Company in Paris, and now the Creative Director at Tablo. Subscribe to hear a new episode every second Thursday.
For writers, readers and anyone who loves great life stories.
Nikki Gemmell on writing with audacity, her new poetic thriller and surviving financially as a writer
Featuring: Living in London, a fierce love of Australia, juggling work and family, bringing unspoken things into the light, strong headstrong women, on Nikki's book After and her mother’s suicide, the importance of cherishing loved ones, memories of getting published, the women in publishing who lifted Nikki up, getting outed as the writer of The Bride Stripped Bare, the pleasures of editing, and the writers who excite Nikki today.
Charles Yu on writers' rooms and Westworld, his National Book Award-winning novel Interior Chinatown and a love of short stories
A wide-ranging conversation throughout the' universe of Charles Yu, featuring: race in America; using humour as a compass; the roles we play; the early years coping with rejection and the benefits of having low expectations when starting out; television’s writing room etiquette and servicing a story; the editorial process; what he learnt from Wong Kar-wai; the tiny surgical cuts that lift a manuscript; and the challenges of adapting your own novel.
Andy Griffiths on the wild ride from punk band to rockstar children's author
Featuring: wonder, silliness and how Andy has made millions of kids fall in love with reading. He talks about the early days figuring out what kind of writer he was; dealing with initial rejections; the algebra of comedy and fiction; his characteristic too-much-information detail; the joy of collaborating and the genius of Terry and Jill; the endless rewrites and hard work alongside many laughs; how deadlines are useful; why the Treehouse series went ballistic; the art of performance; working with The Indigenous Literacy Foundation and what books are coming next. There are also loads of book and film recommendations.
* You might want to listen to this interview in a few sessions as it’s much longer than usual (everything Andy said was gold so I didn't edit it down). He’s incredibly humble, generous and funny (forgive my excessive laughter) and his life story is an inspiration. Enjoy.
Melissa Harrison on nature writing, taking risks, advice for new writers and learning birdsongs
Featuring: Melissa’s novels and non-fiction; advice to new writers; her hit podcast that has been a balm for so many people during the pandemic; connection to place and becoming more attuned to the natural world; life in a rural village; a fascination with England; the authors Melissa reads now and read as a child; defining moments in her writing life; a love of dance music; and the dark side of nostalgia.
In this interview Melissa also discusses her new children’s book 'By Ash, Oak and Thorn' that you can now find at your local independent bookshop. The interview took place at the end of 2020.
Janine di Giovanni on reporting war, love, responsibility and her calling to write
Featuring: Giving a voice to the voiceless, observations of America today, from war zones to living Paris and New York, the concept of moral injury, ghosts from Bosnia and living with injustice, Syria and the mass exodus of refugees, investigating human rights, the nature of ‘evil’, how foreign reporting has drastically changed, the anchor of faith, and Janine's new book ‘The Vanishing: The twilight of Christianity in the Middle East’.
*Some of the content in this conversation is disturbing as we’re talking about the reality of war.
*The film Janine recommends is ‘Quo Vadis, Aida?’ A 2020 Bosnian film written, produced and directed by Jasmila Žbanić.
Jenny Hewson on her role as a literary agent, looking for a distinctive voice and how rejection is often part of the process
Featuring: How Jenny started out; learning from the iconic British agent Deborah Rogers (who represented authors from Ian McEwan to Angela Carter); championing writers; the importance of trust and rapport; choosing the right publishers for authors; the art of contracts; and working for Lutyens and Rubinstein. This interview took place at the end of 2020. The title of Jenny’s last book recommendation is ‘Love after Love’ by Ingrid Persaud.
Love this podcast!
Great guests and interesting conversations! I’m learning so much about how to “make it” as a writer, and sooo many good book recs!
Relaxed and illuminating conversations