Erin Gough is a lovely person, and I know this because she once sat and chatted with me on the floor of the Melbourne Arts Centre during lunch at Reading Matters, and she happily ignored that fact that bits of salad were dropping off my plate onto the carpet near her foot.
No but really, Erin is a long-standing writer of talent: her 2015 book The Flywheel won the Hardie Grant Egmont Ampersand Prize and was listed as a White Raven International Youth library title, and prior to that success she wrote for Best Australian Stories, The Age, Overland, Southerly and Going Down Swinging. She has spoken for Stella Schools and at a number of writers festival around Australia – in 2019, Little Brown will publish Amelia Westlake in North America.
Erin has been kind enough to answer a number of our messy questions for bookclub, so I reckon she is a pretty good sport – and if you enjoyed Amelia Westlake, be sure to chase up The Flywheel!
Why this book? Why this story?:
The original idea came from a hoax I did with two of my school friends when we were in year 12. That hoax was the best thing about high school as far as I’m concerned, and I thought it would be fun to revisit it in fiction. As I began writing the story – about three years ago now – I realised it was developing into an exploration of power and privilege. As it happened, those concerns were becoming central to the cultural conversation as well, and we’ve since seen them culminate in the ‘me too’ movement.
Your book has been the basis for the development of a themed party. What’s the party like and what’s on the menu:
Everything about the party is a hoax. The hosts: a pair of blow-up dolls. The venue: a glittering hotel that halfway through the night, when the backdrop collapses, turns out to be a dusty warehouse. On the walls: fake Picassos. On the menu: rubber chickens and mock turtle soup. And carob for dessert.
One curious or unusual thing about you that most people don’t know:
When I was 20, I won $10,000 on a Channel Seven gameshow called ‘Hotstreak!’ Despite what it sounds like, the gameshow involved word games, not actual streaking, which is probably why it got axed after only one year.
Two of my favourites are the “opposites attract” trope (which I use in Amelia Westlake) and the “getting the band back together” trope. This is where characters who were once a team are reunited to undertake one last robbery, or to save the day one last time. Think RED, think The Muppets, think Oceans 8. I haven’t used this one yet, but one day I hope to!
While researching your book, you found out some crazy stuff, and it was this:
I love this question! How much weird stuff is there on the internet?? While researching Amelia Westlake I found out about a bunch of crazy hoaxes that have been perpetuated throughout history. In 1951 at a famous dinner party the host pretended to serve his dinner guests prehistoric sloth meat. In 1998 David Bowie and his friends made up a fake artist called ‘Nat Tate’ and published his supposed biography, fooling much of the New York art world. I also found out that there are a lot of people on the planet who think AUSTRALIA ITSELF IS A HOAX.
Erin, thank you for joining in with us on bookclub! Folks, stay tuned for our discussion post of AMELIA WESTLAKE, coming early next week.