We caught up with Brooke Dunnell, winner of the 2021 Fogarty Literary Award, to discuss her work, her writing routine, and what’s next for her. You can also read a chapter of her winning entry here:
Can you describe your manuscript in your own words? What themes does it explore?
‘The Glass House’ follows a woman named Julia, who returns to her hometown of Perth in order to help move her elderly father into an aged care home. When she gets there, she bumps into a childhood friend who starts dredging up complicated memories and feelings. Meanwhile, Julia keeps dreaming about a threatening presence stalking her teenage stepdaughter back in Melbourne. Childhood and parenthood, bullying and friendship are some of the themes that come up over the course of the manuscript.
You mentioned in your acceptance speech that you just made the age cut-off by a week; did you feel pressured to finish your manuscript or was it already fully written?
I really wanted to finish my manuscript and submit because if I missed the deadline, which was a week before my birthday, then I’d never be eligible for the Fogarty Literary Award again. It’s such a fantastic prize that it motivated me to wrap up the final draft and get it in on time.
What does your writing routine look like?
I don’t have a set time of day or amount of time I usually write, but when I’m doing a first draft of something I usually get down about 2,000 words before I peter out for the day. I listen to instrumental music and drink coffee when I’m writing, and there’s usually a dog or two snoring at my feet.
Your short stories have been published quite broadly – was writing a full manuscript a challenge for you?
It’s definitely a challenge to write a book-length manuscript in terms of keeping all the moving parts in my mind at once. When writing ‘The Glass House’ I kept notes of what I expected to happen in each chapter so that everything was in one place, but it was still overwhelming at times. But I like the idea of being capable of writing across both genres because I think story ideas tend to come with a natural length or word count, and I want to be able to attempt as many ideas as possible.
What are you looking forward to the most in the next stages of publication?
I’m really looking forward to working with Fremantle Press to refine the manuscript and make it even more appealing to readers. I’m hoping to learn some techniques in terms of editing and structuring that will come in handy for future manuscripts! I’m also very excited to see what the options are for the front cover and what themes and images end up really standing out.
Lastly, what are you reading at the moment?
I’m on a bit of an Australian author kick at the moment, which was a happy fluke. I recently finished ‘Room for a Stranger’ by Melanie Cheng and ‘Golden Boys’ by Sonya Hartnett. Both of those books were fantastic in their depiction of different generations living in the suburbs, in this case Melbourne. I’m now a quarter of the way through ‘Boy Swallows Universe’ by Trent Dalton. I’m possibly the last person in the country to read it!