Let the first rough draft be really loose and wild, Kerouac style. That is where the juicy bits appear. Wait till you have a good section of your project down before you begin to closely edit.
Dr Rachel Matthews is a Melbourne author, lecturer and teacher. Her debut novel Vinyl Inside received strong press reviews and was highly commended by the Australian Vogel Award judges. Siren, her 2017 novel was part of a PhD at Victoria University exploring sexual violence in Australian football. Never Look Desperate, a tragi-comedy set in Melbourne, is her third novel. Her short fiction has been published in EQ magazine, educational and writing journals. She has over 15 years’ experience as an educator within a diverse range of learning environments, including lecturing in RMIT’s Associate Degree in Professional Writing and Editing, ACU’s Bachelor of Creative Arts, international settings, the RVIB and in student welfare at Virtual School Victoria (the largest gov school in the state). Rachel is also a contributor to news media.
Why do you write? To contest and understand the world. And I love the electricity of creative practice.
What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? Photography, another way of capturing moments.
What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? With my first novel, Vinyl Inside, it was a lack of knowledge about the industry and how to manage approaching publishers.
How involved have you been in the development of your book? Did you have input into the cover? Transit Lounge are great to work with as they involve the author in the final editing processes and the selection of the cover.
What’s the best aspect of your writing life? Being around other writers. I love my classrooms and the lessons from my clever students.
—the worst? Wishing I had more time.
What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I feel like I am always starting out and learning, it is a lifelong craft. In the writing of my first novel again, I would educate myself more about the industry.
What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? That you might lose a relationship when you write a book.
What’s the best advice you were ever given? ‘Write the hard stuff’. The late Olga Lorenzo, an important influence on my writing as a mentor and teacher at RMIT’s Professional Writing and Editing program.
What’s your top tip for aspiring authors? Let the first rough draft be really loose and wild, Kerouac style. That is where the juicy bits appear. Wait till you have a good section of your project down before you begin to closely edit.
Write about what matters to you and try to not compare yourself to anyone else. Consider the subjects that people can’t speak about. Join writing communities and organisations. Consider a writing course, to refine the craft and share feedback in workshop groups. Get over your own ego and let the characters drive the story.
How important is social media to you as an author? It is a reality that writers need to access these tools. For many writers, it is not a comfortable space. But the flipside is being able to reach a wide audience and have some control.
Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? Not really. I think the concept of ‘writer’s block’ is just the attempt to control the very early version of a story and kill the fun. If you don’t apply any rules for a first draft you never know what you might discover.
How do you deal with rejection? It’s human nature to feel that sting if someone doesn’t like your writing. I try to keep focused on what I’m going to next.
In three words, how would you describe your writing? Honest, playful and character driven.
If you had the chance to spend an hour with any writer of your choice, living or dead, who would it be and what would you most like them to tell you about living a writing life? Helen Garner. She is quoted as saying that she lost a husband with every book she has published. I’d like to ask, on reflection, would she choose the books or the husbands?
Never Look Desperate is Sedaris meets Fleabag, a tragi-comedy romance set in Melbourne 2023. It features cremation bling, pineapple underwear, grief and vaccinated cruise ships. The central characters Bernard, Goldie and Minh are everything TED Talks tell you not to be. The story tackles the absurdity of despair in a recovering world, the liberation from isolation and the wild frontier of middle-aged Tinder.
‘Matthews’s voice is funny and wry and heartbreakingly honest. She has empathy for everyone – even those of us who, like Bernard, are a little bit hopeless but not entirely without hope … ‘Toni Jordan, author of Pretty if She Smiled More and Addition.
Buy the book here.