Josephine Wilson’s novel, Extinctions, has recently been shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award 2017. Scoop caught up with the Perth author to talk about writing, prizes and why the WA literary scene is on the up.
It’s safe to say that Perth-based author Josephine Wilson is delighted to have had her novel, Extinctions, shortlisted for one of Australia’s most prestigious literary prizes. ‘I seriously do believe that being on the longlist and the shortlist is really the prize,’ she said, ‘because you’re able to get people talking. Readers start to notice your book, but you don’t just want them to read one book on the list, you want them to read them all.’
Josephine is a staunch supporter of the arts industry in Perth. On the board of PICA, and a teacher of creative writing, art and design, it’s a wonder she finds the time to sit and write. ‘I work at home mainly,’ she said. ‘Ideally it’s better to write away from home because when you’re there, there’s always the washing machine or the clothes line beckoning for you to come and get all these other things done.’
Extinctions follows the story of a retired professor, Frederick Lothian, a man coming to terms with his past and his future.
‘I was really influenced by the whole period of the beginning of my children’s lives and the ends of my parents lives,’ said Josephine. ‘It was strange because the two things you wish would be apart came close together for me. Those issues of beginnings and ends were really in my thoughts while I wrote it.’
Previously a writer for theatre and performance, how did she make the transition from one medium to another? ‘I didn’t really give up writing for performance,’ she said. ‘Writing for performance is more collaborative and once I’d had my son, individual writing was just more possible. I also wanted the space for a longer project as well, a different kind of project.’
Josephine is heavily involved in the literary scene in Perth, but said she feels there could be more support for writers and artists living in WA. ‘I think the literary scene in Perth is really strong. We’ve got a lot happening, but more support is needed,’ she said.
‘The State Government used to run the Premier’s Prize every year for literature, but the Liberal Government reduced that to every other year. It’s really bad for the West Australian profile because new books don’t have a long shelf life. If a book that was published two years ago wins a prize, then you have to go through this whole process of re-marketing it. What we really need is for people to just read our books.’
Extinctions is out now, published by UWA Publishing. The winner of the Miles Franklin Literary Award will be announced in September. Perpetual is the Trustee of the award and the Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund is a proud sponsor. Readers can visit www.milesfranklin.com.au for more information.