Working with Words: Nicholas Jose

Nicholas Jose is general editor of the Macquarie PEN Anthology of Australian Literature. He is the author of several novels, most recently Original Face. His work has appeared in Asian Literary Review, London Review of Books, Australian Book Review, Times Literary Supplement and many other national and international publications.

He is the author of our latest Long View essay, ‘Everyday and Exotic: Australian Asian Writing’.

What was the first piece of writing you had published?

I remember publishing a story called ‘Cup with Diamonds’ that I was very proud of in a student magazine at ANU in Canberra called, amazingly, Prometheus, circa 1970. It has never seen the light of day again.

What’s the worst part of your job?

Accepting the stamina it takes to bring something to its final form. Life is short, art is long, indeed.

What’s been the most significant moment in your writing career so far?

My friendship with Christina Stead in my late twenties and her enthusiasm – in print! – for my first book of stories. Only because it links me to such a world.

What’s the best (or worst) advice you’ve received about writing?

Best: keep on going until it starts to wobble, then go back to the beginning.

What’s the most surprising thing you’ve ever heard or read about yourself or your work?

It’s strange when people say my novel Avenue of Eternal Peace foresaw the events of Tienanmen 1989.

If you weren’t making your living by writing, what do you think you’d be doing instead?

A television cooking program has been suggested.

There’s much debate on whether creative writing can be taught – what’s your view?

No, but writers can learn.

What’s your advice for someone wanting to be a writer?

Write the first sentence.

Do you buy your books online, in a physical bookshop, or both?

I do everything, but mostly I order from Imprints in Adelaide because I like to be handed the book when it comes in and have a chat.

If you could go out to dinner with any fictional character, who would it be and why? And what would you talk about?

I’d be up for dinner with the Helen of The Spare Room. We’d talk about doing laundry.

What’s the book that’s had the most significant impact on your life or work – and why?

An Insular Possession by Timothy Mo had a big impact when I read it in hospital in Shanghai in 1987, on a drip.

Nicholas Jose is the author of ‘Everyday and exotic: Australian Asian writing’, the latest in our Long View series of long-form essays on Australian writers and writing.

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