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at The Wheeler Centre


Tolstoy tells us happy families are all alike. Raymond Chandler’s prescription for a good story includes a man with a gun. And writing teachers everywhere will tell you that conflict is the essential ingredient of plot.

But does that mean good writing has to be depressing and difficult?

Literature shelves are predictably packed with dysfunctional families, suicides, murders and anxiety. But surely it doesn’t have to be that way. Where’s the laughter, the levity and the light side of life in the pages of our books?

Celebrations of beloved books and characters are often dominated by the doomed Anna Karenina, cursed Cathy and Heathcliff, and other characters who seriously suffer. But we should equally celebrate unlikely romantic hero Don Tillman, unlucky (but laugh-a-minute) Candide, and other fictional characters who you don’t need to recover from after reading.

Chris Flynn chats to Toni Jordan, Debra Oswald and Shane Maloney about how and why good writing can (and even should) make us smile.


Portrait of Chris Flynn

Chris Flynn

Chris Flynn is the author of The Glass Kingdom and A Tiger in Eden, which was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Book Prize. His fiction and non-fiction have appeared in the Age, the Australian, Griffith Review, Meanjin, Australian Book Review, the Saturday Paper, Smith Journal, the Big Issue, Monster Children and many other publications. He has conducted interviews for the Paris Review and is a regular presenter at literary festivals across Australia. Chris lives on Phillip Island, next to a penguin sanctuary. 

Portrait of Toni Jordan

Toni Jordan

Toni Jordan is the author of five novels. The international bestseller Addition was a Richard and Judy Bookclub pick and was longlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award. Fall Girl was published internationally and has been optioned for film, and Nine Days was awarded Best Fiction at the Indie Awards, was shortlisted for the ABIA Best General Fiction award, and was named in Kirkus Review’s top 10 Historical Novels of 2013. Our Tiny, Useless Hearts was shortlisted for the Voss Literary Prize 2017 and longlisted for the International Dublin Literary Award 2018. Toni’s latest book is the literary mystery The Fragments. She lives in Melbourne.

Portrait of Shane Maloney

Shane Maloney

Born in Hamilton in western Victoria in 1953, Shane Maloney is one of Australia’s most popular novelists. His award-winning and much-loved Murray Whelan series – Stiff, The Brush-Off, Nice Try, The Big Ask, Something Fishy and Sucked In – has been published around the world. 

In 1996, The Brush-Off won the Ned Kelly Prize for Crime Fiction. In 2004, Stiff and The Brush-Off were made into telemovies starring David Wenham as Murray Whelan. In 2009, Shane Maloney was presented with the Crime Writers’ Association of Australia Lifetime Achievement Award.

Portrait of Debra Oswald

Debra Oswald

Debra Oswald is a two-time winner of the NSW Premier’s Literary Award and the creator of the TV series Offspring. Her stage plays include Gary’s House, Mr Bailey’s Minder and Dags. She has written TV scripts, nine children’s books and three adult novels. Her new novel is The Family Doctor.


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