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Mark Brandi on youth, families and rural realities

In the lead up to his Wheeler Centre event next week, we asked celebrated author Mark Brandi about genre fiction, writing from an adolescent perspective, and the influence of rural Australia on his storytelling. 

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After the success of his critically acclaimed novels Wimmera, The Rip and The Others, best-selling author Mark Brandi is set to release his latest work Southern Aurora in July 2023. He tells us about the inspirations for his much anticipated fourth novel which explores socioeconomics, victimisation and class through the lens of a family in a small country town.

Your previous books have gained critical acclaim from crime fiction enthusiasts. When writing Southern Aurora, did you feel pressured to write a story of a particular genre? 

To be honest, I never think about genre. The drafting of each novel begins with a character and some sense of their voice. The writing process that follows is really just my attempt to discover more about their situation.

Southern Aurora explores the weight a young boy feels to be a supportive caretaker for members of his family. Why was this important for you to portray in your writing? 

It wasn’t an aspect I was especially conscious of. But the world can be a scary place when you’re young, and the motivations and actions of adults around you are often inscrutable. For Jimmy, he takes on a protective role as his older brother is in jail and his mum is struggling – he doesn’t get much of a chance to be a kid.   

In each of your books, the perspective of youth is masterfully crafted. How do you write the ‘noticings’ of your characters whilst balancing what they don’t fully understand yet? 

I try to inhabit their world, to see things through their eyes. In doing so, I guess I develop a fairly solid sense of the kind of people they are, and their level of sophistication. It then becomes an interesting point of tension between the reader and the character – the adult reader often thinks they know more than a young protagonist. 

Many of your books feature young male protagonists and their perspective of the world around them as they grow. How much of your own upbringing in rural Victoria informs the way you write point of view? 

My memories of growing up in the country sometimes seem more real and vivid than what happened last week. Our childhood years are so crucial to the people we become, so I guess it makes sense for me to write about it. Some of my experiences inevitably bleed onto the page, but it’s rarely a conscious choice.  

What do you think city-based readers can learn from regional and rural based stories? 

I’m not really sure. Every reader’s interpretation of a book is different, and it’s important to allow space for that. That said, the experiences of those living in regional areas can be vastly different from major cities, particularly in areas that are struggling economically. We sometimes take a lot for granted. 


Hear Mark Brandi live in conversation with Sarah Bailey at the next Melbourne City Reads on Wednesday 12 July. Tickets are available now. 

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