Last week we reviewed Emma Viskic’s Resurrection Bay – a thriller of substance.
Today Emma joins us to discuss her path to publication.
BLBR: Congratulations on the release of your debut novel ‘Resurrection Bay’ Emma. One of the great successes of this book is the originality and authenticity of your characters.
I understand you underwent training in Auslan as part of your research – what was that experience like? For someone with your musical training and skillset, the scenario of a soundless existence must have been particularly confronting?
Emma: It was confronting at first. As well as learning Auslan, I spoke to people in the deaf community, and spent a lot of time walking around with plugs in my ears. As a classical musician, sound is central to my world. I felt lost without it, separate from both myself and everyone around me.
Learning Auslan, on the other hand, was a wonderful experience. It’s a beautiful language: part dance, part gesture, part expression. Because Caleb is so determined to live in the hearing world, I began learning Auslan still unsure if he was going to use sign at all. Ten minutes into my first lesson I knew he had to. As well as giving Caleb an opportunity to be at ease, I realised that it would be a way of showing his closeness with people. So he speaks English most of the time, but signs with those he loves.
BLBR: I note you’ve had Auslan interpreters at some of your in-store appearances. What has the response to this novel been like from the deaf and hard-of-hearing community?
Emma: It’s been very positive. Caleb is Caleb, not a representative of the deaf community, but I was very aware of the dangers and responsibilities that go with writing from outside your own experience. Thankfully, people have embraced that, and I’ve been truly overwhelmed by their generosity and support.
BLBR: In casting a character with a disability, or any identifiable minority characteristic for that matter, there is always going to be the risk of tokenism. Was this a particular concern for you?
Emma: Yes! I agonised about this at first. Luckily Caleb’s character soon took over and his deafness became just another trait, like his stubbornness or sense of humour. He doesn’t regard his deafness as a disability, but as a part of who he is.
BLBR: Caleb’s traits are far from the only source of originality/diversity within this novel. Your ensemble cast is one of the more representative and credible that I have read in some time. Do any of the characters within Resurrection Bay particularly embody the traits of people close to you?
Emma: I’m lucky to have a wonderfully diverse family and circle of friends, including people of different races, abilities and football teams. It would have felt strange not reflecting that in my novel. But I didn’t set out to make a point about diversity; I just wanted to write about interesting and believable people.
BLBR: You have achieved notable success in the short story form over recent years (e.g. your 2014 Ned Kelly Award). How have you found the transition from the short to the long form? Would you recommend this route to publication for aspiring writers?
Emma: It was more a transition from long form to short. I’d written a couple of novel-length manuscripts before I wrote my first short story, but I wish I’d started earlier. It got my work out there, gained me some industry recognition, and, most of all, taught me how to hone my writing. Novels are unwieldy things, but a short story will reveal your strengths and weakness in a single read.
BLBR: I was pleased to see this title listed as ‘Resurrection Bay (Caleb Zelic Book 1)’ in an online retailer’s catalogue. Are you able to confirm this title is indeed the first in a planned series, and can you give us an indication how long fans of Caleb may need to wait for the next instalment?
Emma: Yes, I’m working on the next book in the series. The manuscript is still in its early stages, but I’m working hard: I’m eager to find out what’s going to happen to Caleb and his friends, too.
BLBR: It’s always interesting to hear what authors enjoy reading for pleasure. Can you share with us a recent favourite novel, and/or a title you are particularly looking forward to?
Emma: The question on my mind every morning is, “When is the next Peter Temple coming out?”
Emma Viskic is a Melbourne crime writer. She has won two of Australia’s premier crime fiction short story awards: the Ned Kelly S.D. Harvey Award (2014) and the New England Thunderbolt Award (2013). She has had stories placed and shortlisted in numerous other competitions and been published in Award Winning Australian Writing. Find out more at Emma’s website, on Facebook or Twitter.