Susan Johnson is an author and staff writer at Qweekend.
Susan has recently published her eighth novel, The Landing, which takes its name from a fictional lakeside community north of the Queensland capital of Brisbane, where all of the 200 or so residents intimately know each others’ business. In addition to her prolific fiction work, Susan has published two non-fiction books, including a memoir, and also works as a staff writer at The Courier-Mail’s Saturday magazine, Qweekend. I’m more familiar with her fine work in the magazine, but when we met at the News Queensland offices in mid-September, we spoke largely about her fiction writing.
Our conversation also touches on her experiences with the shrinking sizes of author advances in recent years; her early career as a cadet journalist at The Courier-Mail, and how she later found her way back to the newspaper where she began; the hostility that creative people and artists tend to be met with whenever the topic of writers’ grants are discussed in public; and how she wrote herself into existence with her first novel, after first meticulously deconstructing her favourite authors to better understand how they wrote.
Over the course of ten books and thirty years, Susan Johnson has been long-listed and short-listed for many national and international awards. Her first shortlist was for the 1991 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award (for Flying Lessons), followed by the 1994 National Book Council’s Banjo Award (A Big Life) and the National Biography Award 2000 (A Better Woman). The Broken Book was shortlisted for the 2005 Nita B Kibble Award; Commonwealth Writers’ Prize; the Westfield/Waverly Library Literary Award, and a slew of other awards, including a long-list for the Miles Franklin and the International Dublin IMPAC Award. Her last novel, My Hundred Lovers, was published in 2012 to critical acclaim. Susan is an Adjunct Professor in Creative Writing at the Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane. She currently lives in Brisbane, from ten years in London, France and Greece. She is a feature writer at Qweekend magazine, The Courier-Mail.
Show notes and links to Susan's writing discussed in this episode: http://penmanshippodcast.com/episode-11-susan-johnson/
Susan Johnson on Twitter: @SJreaders
Penmanship on Twitter: @PenmanshipAU
Brent DeBoer is a songwriter and musician.
I first met him in unique circumstances in September 2010, when my partner and I won a competition to fly to the United States and interview The Dandy Warhols at their studio in Portland, Oregon. This was a promotional tie-in because the band were booked to play at Parklife Festival that year, so we were accompanied by a cameraman for Australian website Pedestrian.TV, who filmed the encounter and cut a short video about our experience. (The entire interview was later published on TheVine.com.au). I’m a big fan of The Dandy Warhols; they’re one of the best live rock bands I’ve seen, and as a solid drummer and co-vocalist, Brent is a key part of their appeal.
Born in Portland and based there for most of his life, Brent has called Melbourne home since 2010, after he married an Australian and relocated. When he’s not touring or recording with The Dandy Warhols, he’s inevitably doing the same with his Australian band, Immigrant Union, who this year released their second album, entitled Anyway. It’s a brilliant piece of work, and one of my favourites of 2015. When reviewing Anyway for The Weekend Australian in June, I described it as “a timeless album for all moods and seasons” and gave it four-and-a-half stars.
Besides his excellent musicianship and songwriting in two of my favourite bands, though, I actually didn’t know much about Brent’s past or his path into music, so I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know him a little better during this interview, which took place upstairs at Lefty’s Music Hall in Brisbane, a few hours before Immigrant Union played three sets there on a Thursday evening in late August. Brent was jet-lagged, and spent most of the interview either staring out the window, watching the fading light, or with his eyes closed, while darkness gradually consumed the room where we sat.
Our conversation touches on how he learned to play the drums at age five; how he manifested his own destiny as a child, when he would imagine playing to a sea of people who were all there to watch him play drums; a favourite prank of his when playing to drunk fraternity crowds in his early career; how he was asked to join The Dandy Warhols in 1998 and how he struggled for a couple of years with the demands of the role; and the differences between being a drummer who sings in that band and being a singer-guitarist in Immigrant Union.
Brent DeBoer was born in Portland, Oregon, where his parents bought him a drum set for Christmas when he was five years old. By the age of 16 he had formed his first band, Spoon, with Rick Bain. Just out of college, in 1998, he joined The Dandy Warhols as their drummer. After moving to Melbourne, in 2010, he was at the iconic Cherry Bar in AC/DC Lane. It was here that he began to form a band called Immigrant Union with Bob Harrow and Peter Lubulwa, taking on the role of lead guitar and lead vocals. The Dandy Warhols will release their ninth studio album in 2016 and they continue to tour the world extensively. Immigrant Union recently released their critically acclaimed second studio album entitled Anyway.
Show notes and links to Brent's music discussed in this episode: http://penmanshippodcast.com/episode-10-brent-deboer/
Brent DeBoer on Twitter: @FatheadDeBoer
Penmanship on Twitter: @PenmanshipAU