Share this
Like us on facebook
For the latest news and reviews.



Val McDermid's Kate Brannigan PI series page reading order and synopsis; 160x480

For the latest additions to the Usual Questions project, and other posts about writing see the Facebook page:


Gillian Polack

answers the Usual Questions

photograph, Gilian Polack, courtesy of the author; 220x331

Gillian Polack

Gillian Pollack says, "Sometimes I am an historian. Sometimes I am a writer. Sometimes I dabble in culinary history. The rest of me changes without warning, especially my waistline."

Has your interaction with fans, for example, at conventions, affected your work?

Fans can challenge me to write works I might not otherwise attempt. For instance, one of the reasons I wrote my time travel novel (which will be out later in 2014) is because every time I went to a SF convention people asked me "Why don't you use your history in your fiction the way you do in your other work?" and "I want to read a novel set in the Middle Ages, written by you," they'd tell me.

Every time I explained the reasons this was impossible. One day, however, I was challenged to decide on a project in a great hurry. I remembered those questions and asked "How about a time travel novel?"

Is there any particular incident (a letter, a meeting, a comment that stands out?

There is, but it was a different type of change to the one I just talked about. I couldn't see any future in being published. I was about to give up and go back to writing just for myself. I received a fan letter talking about Life Through Cellophane/Ms Cellophane. The fan told me some very personal things about their life and concluded by saying that mine was the first spec fic novel they'd read that mirrored their life. The novel is by their bedside. I didn't write it to give people validation -- I wrote it because I wanted to write it. But the fact that someone can get such joy from my fiction taught me to keep seeking publication.

Do you have a favourite author or book (or writer or film or series) that has influenced you or that you return to?

I've recently been sorting my library, so I know exactly how many books I keep on returning to. It's 541, of which I only have 198 in paper. That's awfully precise, isn't it? This is only because I was making severe decisions about my library recently. I actually got rid of 700 books and now only have 6500 in paper. Most of them I like or love, but 98 are the ones that are always there for me when I need them. These writers range from Alan Garner and Ursula le Guin to George Gissing and George Eliot. I have an anime series I keep returning to, however -- ROD -- the TV- and it's all about books and about women with wonderful powers.

Who is the person you would most like to be trapped in a lift with? or a spaceship?

I'm not good at finding a single person! I keep a dinner party list of amazing people I'll never have dinner with, but who I'd like to invite. I wouldn't mind being trapped for a few hours with these people. Actors with fine brains and senses of humour, for instance, like George Takei, or who care about the world like George Clooney. I'd love to be stuck in a lift with Ursula le Guin, too, and with Sally Morgan.

Who is the person you would most DISlike to be trapped in a lift with? Or a spaceship?

Australia's current Prime Minister, Tony Abbott. It was much easier to find someone I don't want to be stuck in a lift with than a single person that I do!

What would you pack for space? (Is there a food, beverage, book, teddy bear, etc that you couldn't do without?)

I have a little USB I'd pack. It contains many, many, many books. If there's no reader aboard, I'd pack that, too. More important even than a hot water bottle is my little USB.

What is the most important thing you would like to get/achieve from your work?

Readers (many) who understand what I'm saying and react to it. I don't mind if they're reacting to the top story level or to the metaphorical aspects or to my world-building or if they want coffee with my characters (Rose, in Illuminations, gets the "I want to have coffee with her" response a lot) I just want them to have a lively and interesting relationship with my writing.

What is the special satisfaction of your work?

Creating characters and the worlds they live in.

submitted by Gillian Polack

12 July 2014

For other answers to The Usual Questions Click here

Just the facts:
Born: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Resides: Canberra, Australia (a medium sized town in the middle of the Great Dividing Range, also Australia's capital city)
Langue[dot]doc 1304 October 2014
Ms Cellophane, 2012 Published originally as Life Through Cellophane, 2009. Shortlisted, 2009 DitmarAward for best novel
Illuminations, 2003).
Five Historical Feasts, 2011
Editor, Baggage anthology 2010 Shortlisted for 2010 Ditmar Award for best collection
Co-editor, Masques anthology, 2009
Writing Awards, Prizes include
2010 Ditmar, Best Achievement
2006 Macquarie Bank Longlines Fellowship, Varuna
2006 Blue Mountains Writing Fellowship
1982 Victorian Government Ministry for the Arts Award for a short story

Web site:
Twitter: @gillianpolack


For posts about Melbourne events, places, news, reviews, giveaways, see our Facebook Page: