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Carrie Cox speaks to Albany ABC’s Saturday morning presenter, Katie McAllister, about love, death, family life and losing your baggage—literally and figuratively—in Fremantle Press’ first podcast.
Where did the character of Harvey Beam come from? It feels as if you know him rather well!
I deliberately created a character that I thought was a few steps removed from me, most notably male and with a (slightly) different job. I very deliberately wanted to steer away from autobiography while still hitting upon themes that I personally know very well. But it’s funny … Harvey felt like a well-worn jacket very quickly. I knew him. I knew how he would react to certain situations and what he might say. It surprised me how quickly Harvey inhabited me, or I inhabited him, and the joy of that discovery propelled the writing process.
Is the regional town of Shorton based on anywhere in particular?
The easy answer is that Shorton is every small town, every regional centre, every launching pad or endgame. But I guess the honest answer is that I had my own hometown of Mackay in mind during the writing process. It was a wonderful place to grow up, but I have a somewhat fractious relationship with it these days and that makes me sad. I’d like to fix that somehow.
How did you go about balancing the darkness and the light in this novel?
Honestly, that’s the key—the most important thing for me in this process was to try to balance those two things; to draw a line through it all that leads to a sense of hope and also maybe acceptance. Like many people who decide to tear strips off themselves by writing a novel, I’m an introspective person and also outwardly observational. I think the answers to everything lie in peeling back the pain, yet I also hate peeling back the pain. Hate it. It hurts. I gravitate to sad movies but loathe crying from start to finish. So I think my answer is to temper pain with levity. That’s how I live, what I search for and how I write.
Is there something about the relationship between men (their friendships and family relationships) that particularly interests you?
I am fascinated by male relationships, both with each other and with women. At great risk of generalising, men are outwardly simpler in their approach, less analytical, less demanding, less everything … but still waters run deep. There’s a lot going on beneath the meniscus and it’s probably through a couple of really special male friendships I’ve had that I’ve been able to glimpse those things and then, as a journalist who can’t help herself, tease those things out. Running with male friends used to particularly accelerate those insights—you get to know a lot about people when you pound the pavement with them for hours at a time. Many epiphanies are borne of exhaustion! I am fascinated by the male psyche and I love exploring it.
What’s next for Carrie Cox?
I’d like to write another novel, possibly an addendum to Harvey, possibly not. I really enjoyed the whole process, even the really tedious passages, the mental blocks, the self-doubt, all of it. I think I’m a better person for it (hopefully a better mother and a better wife) and even accounting for all the time involved—four good years—it was cheaper than therapy.
‘Cox excels at creating sympathy for her emotionally stunted lead. The rehabilitation of Harvey, a deeply flawed character, is vulnerable, darkly comic, and assembled like a well-laid fire. Careful and precise … Cox honours the source of Harvey’s past behaviour while still insisting that it’s time to let it go.’—Foreword Magazine
‘I laughed, chortled and occasionally snorted. It punched me in the gut on more than one occasion. I found myself going back to re-read a line or paragraph and uttering a “God damn, nice writing” several times. You think you know what you’re going to get, but it surprises, delights, and the prose flows out of her like fine goon into a glass.’—Glynn Greensmith, presenter of It’s Just Not Cricket, ABC Radio Perth
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