Weekly Online Interview Magazine
close
Brooke Davis: Need to make your grief a little lighter? Start writing!
All - Books + Stories

Brooke Davis: Need to make your grief a little lighter? Start writing!

The author of the best selling novel ‘Lost & Found’, Australian Brooke Davis explains how her grief helped her becoming an internationally famous writer.

You had a year-long round-the-world trip experience. When and where were you happiest?

– I think I have to say a train trip I took from Vancouver to Toronto in the Canadian winter. It took five days, and I saw mountains and frozen waterfalls and elk families. And I met a one-hundred year-old lady who told me the secret to long-life was to ‘just have fun’. I’ve been trying to do what she said ever since.

Did you grow up on writing?

– I’ve kept journals since I was quite young, and there’s a line in one when I was eight years-old that says, pretty precociously, ‘I’m determined to become a writer.’ When I was nine or ten, I wrote this nonsense poem in the style of Roald Dahl in primary school about my little brother called The Pest (it obviously wasn’t overly complimentary!). My teacher asked me to read it out loud in front of the class—my classmates laughed in all the right spots, and I was urged to do a sequel. The sequel was terrible and didn’t have the same impact, but I remembered the feeling of my writing giving people pleasure. I wanted more of that feeling.

I’ve always written and was always going to, regardless of whether or not I got myself published. I assumed I wouldn’t get my novel published for years, if at all—it really is difficult to get published in the current climate, and working as a bookseller, I’m so aware of that. There are so many good books in the world, and they often take such a long time to find the right person. I wanted to set up a life that I was happy with if I didn’t ever get anything published, so I work at a beautiful bookshop in Perth called Beaufort Street Books, and sometimes teach at Curtin University, also in Perth. I’ve traditionally been pretty hard on myself, particularly in the academic context, so to be okay with myself and my life if I didn’t achieve the one thing I’ve always wanted to achieve—it was very important for me to get to that point.

Where did the idea for Millie Bird’s story come from?

– Millie is the sort of kid I wish I was growing up. She’s brave and resourceful and always says what’s on her mind. As a kid, I was painfully shy and passive and never said what I thought. But we’re both interested in people, and death, and in thinking deeply. And Millie and I definitely share an imagination. We both love asking ourselves ‘what if’ questions and seeing where we can go—I love the fact that the space between my ears is the only place on earth I truly have all to myself and that I can think whatever I like in there. I had so much fun writing from Millie’s point of view.

I spent five years writing Lost & Found as part of a PhD at Curtin University in Perth. I wanted to spend time thinking deeply about what it meant to grieve, and what it meant to live with the knowledge that the people you love will die. I was particularly interested in the concept of grief not as a process that begins and ends and is only about sadness, but as a part of life. As something that we have to work out how to live with, in among everything else there is—the good, the bad, the indifferent.

I think I’ve always wanted to write a novel, but I felt like I needed to have something to say before I wrote one. When my mum died, I felt like I had the thing I needed (and wanted) to say. You’ve decided to write your debut novel after your mom loss.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Brooke Davis

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Brooke Davis

How does life changes after grief?

– I think I really needed to write Lost & Found for myself so I could take the time to come to terms with what had happened. It was of course difficult at times: I had to read so much about grief and death. Novels, memoirs, academic papers on the psychology of it, historical books, newspaper articles, anything I could get my hands on. I talked and listened to anyone who wanted to talk and listen. My research was mostly about trying to understand how we all grieve. It was a great challenge; I’d cry every now and then at my desk. I’d read about someone else’s personal experience, or I’d write a section in my novel that came from a place of my own sense of emotional truth, and I’d just bawl. That part of the project was hard. But grieving is hard, and writing a book is hard. And having so much emotion tied up with what I was doing made it all the more important and real for me, so I accepted the challenge of it. And through sharing, listening, creating, and trying to understand, I think this has all helped to make my grief a little lighter. Your debut novel made you an globally famous writer.

What does it mean to you being an internationally known writer?

– It’s all very overwhelming and I can’t quite believe it. My life feels like an out of body experience, where I’m sitting across from a girl who looks like me and I’m thinking, ‘Well, isn’t she having a nice time?’ I’m learning so much about an industry I love. I’m meeting people who I might never have met and going to places I might not ever have gotten to had I not written a book. Having said that, it’s so strange to suddenly have an audience; to suddenly have your writing subjected to expectations from strangers. My entire life I’ve written because I wanted to, and I’ve written for myself and my family. But now there are complete strangers saying, ‘Looking forward to your next book!’ And I remember I won’t just be printing my next book out on my home printer and stapling it together as a cheap Christmas gift for my dad. It’s a whole new, terrifying, exciting landscape for me to be writing in.

Grieving is hard, and writing a book is hard. And having so much emotion tied up with what I was doing made it all the more important and real for me, so I accepted the challenge of it. And through sharing, listening, creating, and trying to understand, I think this has all helped to make my grief a little lighter.

Who is your perfect reader?

– Someone who laughs at all my jokes!

What books might we be surprised to find on your bookshelves?

– I’m going to say a book that hasn’t been published but that means a lot to me. A few years ago, my dad started writing a few notes on his life. He was a pretty successful athlete and a sporting academic, and he wanted to write down the things he had learned. He ended up having a lot to say—which is not at all surprising to those who know him!—and asked friends to contribute, and included old photos and newspaper articles. He gave copies to my brothers and I as a surprise. To have that kind of insight into your dad’s life is such a gift. It’s very special to me.

What is the last thing you read that made you laugh out loud?

– A short story by my older brother. He writes these original and imaginative and profound and very, very funny short stories. He’s currently putting together a collection and is about to start submitting it to publishers—cross your fingers and toes for him!  (Revised, and re-edited from an interview by Ali Tufan Koc)

Cover photo credit: Courtesy of Brooke Davis


COMMENTS ARE OFF THIS POST

INSTAGRAM FEED

Follow on Instagram