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INTERVIEW: Ashley Hay, author of The Railwaymans Wife

Thursday, May 23, 2013

I'm very happy to welcome Ashley Hay to the blog today.

A guest at the Sydney Writers Festival thsi week, Ashley is also the author of four books of non-fiction, The Secret: The Strange Marriage of Annabella Milbanke and Lord Byron, Gum: The Story of Eucalypts and their Champions, and Herbarium and Museum with the visual artist Robyn Stacey.

 Ashley's first novel, The Body in the Clouds was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize 'Best First Book' (South-East Asia and Pacific region) and the NSW Premier's Literary Awards. Her new novel is The Railwayman’s Wife.

Ashley is appearing at the following session at the Sydney Writers Festival:

Ashley Hay: When ‘Where’ Becomes ‘Who’
A Character Called Place
On Craft: The Oral Tradition
Ashley Hay’s Pep Session: Dodging the Dumps, the Blocks, Black Holes and Dead Ends
Stella Prize Trivia
The Art and Pleasure of Reading

What is your latest novel all about?
My husband says "The Railwayman's Wife" is about love and loss, people and place - and I like that description.

How did you get the first idea for it?
I borrowed an accident and a recompense from my father's life and asked if he'd mind if I imagined a novel from them. My father's father was killed in a railway accident; my father's mother became a railway librarian after that. I heard my father talking about the job she'd had in the small library in which she'd worked - quite a few years ago now - and as he spoke, a train surged along the tracks just outside the window. It had never occurred to me before that this job that she'd taken on when she became a widow had made her work so closely to the sound of the thing that had killed her husband. I think that was when I started imagining the story.

What do you love most about writing?
I love the moments when you can feel a new series of sentences unfolding, somehow just ahead of your imagination. And I love stories - I don't think I'm much of an oral story-teller, but I love working with the shapes and sounds of words on a page. 

What are the best 5 books you've read recently?
Richard Powers' Generosity
Krissy Kneen's Steeplechase 
Stephen Edgar's new book of poems, Eldershaw
Amy Espeseth's Sufficient Grace 
and I've just re-read Annie Dillard's The Writing Life, which is always wonderful.

What lies ahead of you in the next year?
I'm working on another draft of a new novel, which I think is about Brisbane, and doppelgangers, and the tendrils that run out from the options we didn't choose. 

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