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Q&A with Tara June Winch

Tara June Winch's profound novel The Yield has won three NSW Premier's Literary Awards prizes this year, including the Christina Stead Prize for Fiction, the People’s Choice Award and the Book of the Year

We had the pleasure of asking Tara a few questions about her life, work and hopes for the future. 

What does it mean to you to win the Christina Stead Prize? tara_june_winch.jpg

Of course, it’s an honour above all, and in some small way I can say, ‘It was worth the time it took.’ But every other response is to the symbols — the symbol of time gifted, the symbol of fellowship in the writing community, even the symbol that Christina Stead passed away the year I was born, that she was an expat, a novelist and short story writer — it makes me think of her life deeply.

Was there something in your childhood that sowed the seed for you to become a novelist?

I don’t really know! That I wanted the attention of my older siblings, that I’d tell them long tales, that my parents were both talkers … My mother worked in a supermarket and pubs, my father would go away to work fruit-picking when I was very little and came back with great stories, later he was a taxi driver. I think my parents both brought characters home and brought me into the fabric of those interesting worlds. Also, First Nation writers just know how to tell a yarn, it’s a birthright.

 How does living in France help or hinder you in writing about Australia?

I think what happens is that everything that makes it onto the page was burnt in me in some way, it was very important. I couldn’t walk outside and be distracted because there is none of my country in France. I had to remember.  

Was your process of writing The Yield different from your previous books (the novel Swallow the Air and story collection After the Carnage)?

No different — all sleepless and painful and damaging to the body.

How do you think about the relationship between history and fiction in your writing?

They dance with each other, they complement each other, they speak when there is no understudy to say the thing and then they are silent when the story must move forward, when the novel is for the reader. I wanted to tell the story of a historical artefact — language — that is still alive and beating with a pulse! The decade it took to write The Yield was mostly consumed with how to really convince the reader that the land they live on is speaking if they would only listen. I needed to convince the reader to love their history, which is ultimately a black history.

Who inspires you?

The usual — family, other writers, artists. But really the person who truly inspires is the writer themselves at a younger age, when they were hopeful and naïve and wanted to say the thing they thought only belonged to themselves. I think I’ll write all my life to try to say that essential and impossible thing.

What will you do next?

A book set here in Europe because this continent has become a part of me also. The novel is about eternal love, class, the ‘meaning’ of one’s life, set in a remote part of the Swiss Alps. It's a thriller. Afterward, I will write about Australia again, always. 

The Yield is available online through the Library Shop.

Photo by Tyler Freeman Smith.