The first author in our summer interview series is J.C Burke. Author of The Things We Promise. Thank you so much for joining us
You have quite a back catalogue of work. Is there a particular book that stands out all the highlight of your career so far?
I’m very proud of PigBoy because it was a challenging book to write. Damon the narrator is not always likable and yet I had to ensure the reader cared enough to keep reading.
How are you finding the transition from writing books to writing for film and television?
Hard! I don’t think Im very good at it.
Can you tell us about any upcoming projects that you are working on?
I’ve started working on an ‘adult’ novel. Told in the voice of a woman my age. It’s a bit of a family saga.
Before you started writing, I read that you worked in nursing and specialized in oncology. What made you decide to change careers?
I had glandular fever and was off work for a while. That’s when I started playing with some stories. It was the first time I’d ever written. It was thrilling.
If you could tell your younger writing self, what would it be?
Don’t compare your work to anyone else’s. All voices are unique. All stories have a place.
How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
It gave me the confidence to find and tell more stories.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
Probably lying on the floor of the living room, playing music and reading the lyrics on the record cover. That’s when I really felt their power.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
It really depends on the book. PigBoy was extensive research, culminating in gutting a pig with my bare hands!
My latest novel The Things We Promise is set in 1990 during the Aids pandemic. Research varied from cultural references, to the progression of the disease, the reaction of the community and media as well as nailing the jargon so it was specific to that exact year.
What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
By me? PigBoy.
What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
Writing the first 50 or so pages. That can be excruciating.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
My planning notebooks.
How do you balance making demands on the writer with taking care of the reader?
I try not to think too much about either. I want to just listen to the voice. To hear the character and tell their story as truthfully and authentically as I can.
Lastly is there anything you would like to say to your fans?
Keep an open mind with The Things We Promise. It’s a tough read and an ugly reflection on our society. But history is important and must be told truthfully however uncomfortable it is to read.
J.C. Burke has published a number of acclaimed books for teenagers and young adults, including CBCA Notable Books White Lies and The Red Cardigan, Aurealis Awards finalist Nine Letters Long,The Story of Tom Brennan, Faking Sweet, Starfish Sisters, Ocean Pearl, Pig Boy and Pretty Girl. The Story of Tom Brennan won the 2006 CBCA Book of the Year, Older Readers and the 2006 Australian Family Therapists Award for Children’s Literature and it is currently on the NSW HSC syllabus list. Pig Boy won the Ned Kelly Award for Best Crime Fiction in 2012.