Interview: Louisa Deasey, Writer

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I recently came across Louisa Deasey's memoir, Love and Other U-Turns, and immediately fell in head over heels in love, not only with Louisa's beautiful writing style, but also Louisa herself. Her first book recounts the true story of her impromptu love affair with Jim, a nomadic comedian, and their unconventional life together, traveling through the Australian outback and meeting a multitude of wild and wacky characters; all the while, Louisa is trying to build a successful freelance writing business and preserve her sanity. The story really touched me for a number of reasons: the effortless yet complicated love dynamic between Louisa and Jim, the exploration of largely unheard of places all over Australia, the burgeoning of Louisa's dream writing career and the revelation that happiness and fulfillment does not reply upon building a stable home or acquiring pretty things. 

Thankfully, the real-life Louisa is just as charming as she appears in her book and she generously agreed to answer some questions for us; about writing, her inspirations and what life lessons she has learned along the way. 

Please describe your career trajectory.
As haphazard as the trip with Jim! About ten years of waitressing, lots of writing, lots of editing, two degrees (on in English Literature, one in Professional Writing and Editing), a brief stint on a daily newspaper, many stints on magazines, and finally, enough freelance work that I could avoid fluorescent lighting and cubicles.

What do you love about being a writer?
Writing helps me make sense of my thoughts and explore all the threads that make up an idea or a problem. It’s also what makes me feel free. It helps me understand myself and the world better, to see patterns in things, and to know what/why I think certain things…!

What are you working on at the moment?
I just finished a three month contract on some newspapers in far north Queensland, and I’m returning to Melbourne to do a bit of freelancing but mainly to work on a new book. I really want to write fiction this time.

How did the experiences you write about in your memoir change your long-term lifestyle choices for the better? Do you think those changes have had a positive effect upon your writing?
Yes, I think once you’ve stretched your boundaries you can never go back, and any experience which helps you know yourself better is going to help you write better. Also, seeing more of the world, and experiencing everything, every colour of the rainbow spectrum, helps you develop empathy as a writer, and like with any kind of art, you want to convey that you understand the human condition. So all the people I met with Jim, and all the wild and wacky experiences I’ve had since then have helped me be more empathetic towards myself and others. He also showed me how useless a lot of the exterior stuff is, and when I’m grounded in myself and my intentions, then it doesn’t really matter what I look like or where I am, I can be happy and successful in any situation.

Did you tweak your writing process or mindset when you were writing your memoir, as opposed to your freelance work?
Yes, it’s like right and left sides of the brain! I went a bit mad pumping out my first draft. I didn’t leave my flat for 5 weeks, I wrote through the night, and I dreamt things I thought happened and did things I thought were dreams. My brother came over one day and it was Tuesday and I thought it was Saturday! Richard Flanagan says his wife confiscates his car keys when he’s working on a new novel, and I understand why now. You just have to totally submerge yourself to this massive project and think so big picture that the trivial stuff (such as red lights!) kind of falls away. That was my process, anyway.

Which writer do you most admire and why?
Probably Joyce Carol Oates for her prolificness. She’s written so much – and apparently all handwritten first drafts! I loved Blonde, where she got into Marilyn Monroe’s headspace.
I also love other memoirs, Sarah Darmody, who wrote Ticket To Ride, Lost And Found in America, had me laughing through the night. I couldn’t put her book down.

What inspires you?
Flowers. Frogs. Trees. Nature. My neiece and nephew. My cat. Love. Secret acts of kindness. Travelling. Generosity. People who see the possibilities where some might just see walls…

What are your writing goals for the future?
I want to continue to freelance on topics I enjoy – that’s remained the same – and I want to write a fiction this time, because I never have, so it’s a mystery to me! I also want Love and Other U-Turns to do really well because I think the underlying intention – that we focus too much on the material / physical side of things – is important to society (and especially women!) these days.

Do you have an over-arching message that you would like to communicate through your writing?
A friend of mine helped me sum up my book, and the main lesson I took from the trip with Jim: the world is the church. You don’t need a guru, a deck of tarot cards, or a stack of money or ‘conditions’ to live your dream. The church is what is inside you right now, the beauty of the here and now moment, and once you recognise that, you realise how beautiful your life can be and how much power you really do have to transform every moment / situation into something incredible.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Keep a journal every day, this really helps me find (and keep) my ‘voice’. I write two pages longhand every morning, usually before I’ve spoken to anyone. I got it from The Artists Way and I’ve been doing it for almost 15 years. It also helps you understand patterns and themes and see how/if your writing has improved!

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