Interview: Susan Maushart, Writer

Category: ,

I have a Saturday morning ritual. I wake up, make myself a cup of tea (T2's French Earl Grey is a current favourite) and ravenously devour The Weekend Australian Magazine, front-to-back, back-to-front and side-to-side. Without a doubt, it is one of my most beloved Australian publications, along with frankie and The Monthly, never failing to satisfy with its cutting-edge, high calibre feature articles by such journalistic greats as Caroline Overington and Richard Guilliatt (speaking of whom, Guilliatt's latest, Justice in Black and White, is a brilliant read) and ever-thoughtful, ever-pertinent opinion columns by Philip Adams, Ruth Ostrow and, my favourite, Dr Susan Maushart. So you can imagine how pleased I was when Susan so generously granted me a lovely interview, especially for this blog.

Susan has been a columnist at The Weekend Australian Magazine for over a decade. She also holds a PhD in Media Ecology from New York University, has written five award-winning, best-selling books (the latest, The Winter of Our Discontent, will undoubtedly speak volumes for young social media addicts like me), hosts Multiple Choice on ABC radio and is a Visiting Fellow at the Institute of Advanced Studies at UWA. Susan writes about feminism, technology, Australian culture, motherhood and marriage, among countless other topics pertaining to the tricky navigation the modern world, from a fresh, female perspective. For those of you unfamiliar with Susan's work, some of my favourite of her recent columns include It's a Visionary Thing, Green Haze, Rose-Tinted Bifocals and Boys Will Be Girls (the latter even features my "genial" former high school principal). As you will be able to tell from reading her interview, Susan has a warm, engaging writing style that is easily identifiable and always entertaining. 

How did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I remember writing a passionate declaration of my intention when I was 12. How I wish I could see that now. But I didn’t really do much about it til I found myself a single mother with three kids under five. I made a leap of faith out of academia, and the safety of imminent tenure, to try my luck as a freelance writer. And it turned out I was lucky.

What is your writing routine?
When I am writing a book, it’s every day from 8 am til I reach 1000-3000 acceptable words. (It’s a sliding scale based on how close to deadline I am!)

What do you read?
Lots of stuff online; The New Yorker, religiously; I love science writing – currently reading a book about parasites by evolutionary biologist Marlene Zuk - and read across a wide range of journals; impatiently awaiting my copy of Franzen’s Freedom at the moment … like to revisit classics and keep up with literary fiction.

Which writer do you most admire and why?
I always say (because it’s true) that Walden is my favourite book, because it is like a well that, no matter how buckets you draw from it, never runs dry. The contemporary author whose books I get most excited about is probably Anne Tyler, for her humour, humanity and utter lack of hubris.

What inspires you?
Lots of stuff. My kids. My reading. Animals. Photos. Eavesdropping. WNYC. Hunger …

What do you love about being a writer?
Freedom. I have enormous freedom - intellectually, creatively, organizationally, even geographically - as a writer. I treasure that.

Do you have an over-arching message that you would like to communicate through your writing?
I see myself as a critic. I am always working to get underneath. And if I believe passionately in anything – and these days being passionate is de rigeur … - it is in fallibility: my own included.

What are you working on at the moment?
I have three book ideas jostling for attention right now – one about home, one about hair, and one about reading.

What are your writing goals for the future?
To keep making a living at doing work that engages me and speaks to others.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Read like nobody’s watching (‘cause they’re not). Write as if it were a job, not a hobby (or it always will be).

(Pictures courtesy of Random House)

Comments (0)

Post a Comment