Q & A with John Bryson

Why did you decide to write your book?

For the most part, I write because I’m dismayed we have some important belief terribly wrong. The first book was a collection by Penguin Books of already published short stories.

Who/what inspired you to write?

My mother, I believe. She read, and was friendly with the novelist Eleanor Dark. So I hope that, somewhere, my mother is pleased. My father was nearly illiterate, and began adulthood as a New Zealand flax cutter. He fled a bad marriage to Sydney and became a chauffeur, then coach-builder, seeing the future was with the motor car, then became the inaugural importer of Jaguar motor cars into Australia. A man of remarkable vision, who could scarcely read a newspaper.  

I began writing stories while at school.

What is the most rewarding part of the writing process?

Enriching the reader in some way.

What are your top tips for writing a book?

Read. Morris Lurie decades ago told me, “I can’t teach you how to write better, but I can show you how to read better.” Morris became my reading mentor.  In his view, “A writer’s first duty is to create a world.” Mind you, I’ve also heard him say, “A writer’s first duty is to be understood.” Joan Didion said “We write stories in order to live.” They’re both right. We’re helping each other to deal with the terrors of life.

Which books/authors have inspired you?

I’ve just finished Elliot Paul’s The Life and Death of a Spanish Town (1937), so am still in his thrall. I dripped tears on the page. Inspiring are Joan Didion, John McPhee, Capote, Caro. In poetry I am in admiration of Paolo Totaro, a bilingual Sydneysider and translator. Among many.

Too many to list, but most recently Elliot Paul.

Why did you decide to self publish and why Palmer Higgs?

My backlist was insistent.

Self publishing online allows the writer to wrap together stories according to a commonality which might please the reader. Similarly with empirical pieces, like the feature journalism. The Personality of War and Islanders, Far South are examples. The date of the pieces does not matter, the cohesion of subject is more important. Size of the volumes is less important than in print because the pricing can be brought down to a few dollars.

I had heard of Palmer Higgs through the ASA, so visited the website.

What do you hope your readers get out of your book?

Emotional understanding of one another.

Would you consider writing another book?

With any luck.

Do you have any other tips for new authors (ie. book launch, research, marketing, etc.)?

One uses only about 10% of research, but the rest informs one’s judgement.