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Where do you write?
I work long hours in a very demanding paying job that I am fortunate enough to enjoy so I write anywhere I can. I use my laptop in the bits and pieces of time that become available—curled up on the sofa, sitting at the kitchen table, propped up in bed, occasionally in my office between meetings and emails, in classes when my students are writing, but mostly on weekends and in my annual leave. And when I’m not writing, I am thinking about it—washing dishes, driving, grocery shopping, pulling weeds, walking across campus, all the time turning over sentences and solving problems in my head, so I know what I want to write in the next fragment of available time.
Death is a subject that isn’t often publicly explored, yet it’s a very strong theme in your novel. Why did you choose to explore it in such depth?
I’m always surprised by this question. I’ve been aware of mortality since I was a young child. Isn’t everyone? I am still perplexed when I encounter individual resistance to discussing it, which is quite frequently in this culture.
Also, I don’t agree that, in this context, it is a subject not often publicly explored because this is a novel and death is historically a common theme for literature. I like Saul Bellow’s metaphor that death is the dark backing the mirror needs for us to see anything.
My own father died when my brothers and I were small. I can only speak for myself here but I don’t recall anyone ever taking an interest in my grief, talking about it with me or giving permission for it to exist, let alone be expressed. I hope things are different now but I am not sure they are. Children are too often treated as if they are somehow different to adults, as if they don’t have a complex inner life, as if they are not yet quite human, as if they will remain unaffected by trauma. How many times do we hear how ‘resilient’ children are; in my view, this is very often code for adults overlooking their shoddy treatment.
As a grown woman, how did you find writing from the perspective of an 11-year-old girl?
It wasn’t hard to place myself back there. That’s what memory and imagination are for. It was challenging to return to the bewilderment and disenfranchisement of childhood. Reinhabiting a childhood body also had its joys, however. The world is new then, and thrilling.
‘Driving into the Sun is a truly beautiful book, imaginatively dense, tender, full of respect for children and the vivacity of their inner worlds. The vision here is original and brilliantly true.’—author Gail Jones
'This is an engaging and confronting novel that explores the resounding impact of grief.'—Books+Publishing
‘It is an extraordinary, and intimate rendering of a family story, with the real potential to contribute to the rewriting of a concealed ethnic history.’—Indigo Journal
‘Polain has given us more than just a harrowing account of what happened to her people. She has told a story that is quite beautiful and poetic. This is a creative achievement.’—Courier-Mail
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