Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Being Australian and Writing Fantasy

Posted by: Jenny Schwartz
As an Australian author writing for a predominantly American audience, there are a few challenges. The first of these is not slipping into Australianisms when I'm writing my American characters. Phrases like the laconic, understated approval and encouragement of "good onya" don't necessarily translate that well. And then there are more subtle things like the way Australians talk of kitchen benches, and Americans call them counters. To me, counters exist in shops, not homes. Ah well. The funniest was when I wrote about pot plants ... no, I didn't mean marijuana! Potted plants are called pot plants here (although we have the other kind of "pot" plants, too).

With my contemporary romance novels and short stories, I published them with Harlequin's Australian digital publisher, Escape Publishing, and I didn't have to worry about my Australian oddness. [If you're interested, the collection of short stories is Love, Coast to Coast].

What I'd really like to do is write a fantasy that draws on the rich cultural heritage of Australia's indigenous people. I thoroughly recommend The Dreaming for an overview and links for further reading. The challenge for me as a non-indigenous Australian is referencing Aboriginal mythology and history without cultural appropriation. It can be done, but my writing and publishing schedule at the moment is so crammed, I just don't have the time. But it nags at me.

I hope indigenous authors break out internationally, generously enabling a wider audience to appreciate the wisdom and endurance of their ancient culture. I feel a deep gratitude that when I look overhead, Aboriginal astronomy ties me to the land of my birth, and that walking or even driving, I'm aware of people travelling the same country for tens of thousands of years (Nourishing Terrains is a pdf on Aboriginal Australians' connection to country). In fact, Aboriginal star maps underlie some of Australia's main highways.

I guess this post is me saying - look at this amazing world view! It's one of the world's oldest living cultures. As a novelist, I default to exploring issues through my writing, but Aboriginal culture is celebrated in so many other ways. Whether you enter via paintings, music, stories, movies or current affairs (there's a push for a treaty recognising the First Australians), your life will be richer for it.

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