Women Who Write - Michelle de Kretser

By Sandra Todorov Michelle de Kretser is back with her new novel Questions of Travel. The beauty and tragedy of life is explored through the eyes of two women: Ravi, a Sri Lankan born IT specialist and aura, a middle class Australian travel writer.

De Kretser (herself Sri Lankan born) explores the idea of what travel means to society, criticising some of the commercial aspects of it. I asked Michelle about her writing life and her start in the industry.

How many words do you write per day? Do you listen to the radio or music while you do it?

When I’m writing the first draft of a novel I write a minimum of 500 words a day. That handy little word count function on my word-processor gets a lot of use. `Still 417 to go….’.

I sometimes listen to classical music while working. Anything with words interferes with writing.

Describe your workspace.

I work at home, in a room that has a lovely Federation-era moulded plaster ceiling with lyrebirds and waratahs. There are, unsurprisingly, several bookcases filled with books. The ironing board also lives here. The mantelpiece holds photographs of my dogs and also five rather creepy little plastic doll masks that I found about thirty years ago in an op shop. There is also a standard lamp with a pink satin shade like a little girl’s party skirt; it used to belong to my mother.

What is the best thing about being a writer?

Autonomy in your work: no meetings! The great satisfaction of making something, and the joy of being able to spend time thinking about words.

What is the worst thing about being a writer?

The insecurity and self-doubt.

How did you get your first book deal?

I had met a few literary agents while working in publishing. I sent the manuscript of my first novel to one of them, a woman I liked very much and who struck me as being very good at what she did, and things went on from there.

How important is it for writers to be part of a network of creative people?

I don’t know. I have dear friends who are writers but we rarely talk about the nitty-gritty of our writing with each other. I have many friends who are readers, and that’s wonderful. We share our enthusiasms with each other, and that can lead to marvellous discoveries.

Sandra Todorov’s writing has appeared in The Seminal, The Lowy Institute ‘Interpreter’, Kill Your Darlings and Miranda Literary Magazine. She runs a consultancy from Melbourne CBD and her first novel will be out in 2013.