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Sunday, 25 June 2017

Basil Eliades: Renaissance Man

Basil Eliades is certainly a Renaissance Man when it comes to the arts. He's a painter, as well as a poet, performance artist and most recently an author of travel fiction. Speaking in Tongues is his most recent IP title. His previous poetry with IP is 3rd i and 50IV

Assistant Editor Imogen Sloss caught up with him as he was packing his bags for the Venice Biennial.

IS:  Basil, how would you best describe the nature of your book? 

BE:  Possibly because of my strange life, I tend not to see what everyone else is seeing. And I guess I'd prefer not to! Speaking in Tongues is a collection of short stories about the weirder aspects of travel – the kind of journeys you may read about, possibly dream about, but rarely experience. It is (hopefully!) intense, funny, sensual, and always offering a kind of heightened experience.

IS:  In your writing, how do you choose what should remain factual and what can be fiction? How important is the truth

BE:  Given that these are all fictional stories grounded in fact, it's pretty easy to choose what should remain factual – virtually nothing! Fiction allows enormous licence. But I have to say, life offers more bizarre experiences than I can invent. You can begin a story from any single point you choose – John Marsden famously gives character-writing lessons beginning with a single button. So on the road any one fact can be the basis for a whole story, but one relies on the real world to ground the rest of the story, to keep it located in time and space.

IS:  What sparked the inception of Speaking in Tongues?
Basil Eliades

BE:  I've been very blessed with opportunities to travel, and I have always written, and always written whilst on the road. It was inevitable that the stories would come together at some stage.

IS: What was overall the most interesting place you've visited around the world?

BE:  I think the interesting bit is inside our heads! Nearly everywhere I go I am thrilled and mesmerised by newness.  I don't know that any one place is intrinsically more interesting than any other. But despite all that... Venice Venice Venice for the light, the feel, the stonework, the water. Paris because it's Paris. Japan because it's amazing, and Jane shared it with me. For sheer interesting-ness, however – India!

IS:  As a painter and writer, what is the difference in recording your experience in images or text?

BE: Text allows me more room to play over time, to evolve subtle images through suggestion and play. Painting for me is more about an internal experience, less about the external world. But the images I draw whilst travelling might feed into a story, and equally they might evolve into a painting.

IS:  What is your #1 piece of advice for someone who wants to reflect on their travels through writing?

BE: Do it!

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

A Sweet Tooth for Australia

Lois Shepheard is the author of several IP titles, including The Rag Boiler's Daughter, Memories of Shinichi Suzuki: Son of His Environment and Black McIntosh to Gold. An accomplished music teacher based in Melbourne, Lois has researched and written extensively on the migrant experience from Scotland to Australia.

Assistant Editor Imogen Sloss interviews her here about her latest book, The Sugar Doctor, which provides fascinating insights into 19th century Australian society and the foundations of the sugar industry.

IS:  You have an interest in stories of migrants – what first drew you towards writing about Dr Skinner in particular?

LS: Dr Skinner brought my great-grandmother to Australia from Scotland. He himself arrived in 1839 and became the 62nd medical doctor to be registered in New South Wales. I was intrigued as to why he had come and interested even more when I found him listed in government records as buying quantities of land. He is documented as having lived in the Philippines and again I wondered why.

IS:  Other than the Sugar Doctor himself, in this book, who was your favourite character to research and write about?

LS: I don’t have favourite characters! I have stated historical facts and tried to envisage what life would have been like in Dr Skinner’s varying circumstances.  

IS: What was the most surprising discovery you made while researching 19th century Scotland and Australia?

LS: In Dr Skinner’s case, it was research into his first wife’s background which led me to understand why he was interested in sugar-growing. He was already documented in some books on early New South Wales – as a doctor, never as a sugar grower. It was more a confirmation than a surprising discovery that all our early settlers came here for a reason and that we have to be very careful to research all available data before we write ‘historical’ facts.

IS:    How have Dr Skinner and his actions impacted Australia as we live in it today?

LSThe energy, vision, forethought and planning of such settlers as Dr Skinner laid the foundation of today’s Australia.  

IS:    How do you think attitudes towards immigration have changed from the 19th century to now? 

LS: Most Australians are the descendants of migrants. When those migrants arrived, this country welcomed them as much as it could. My own father came, with his parents, brothers and sisters, because of lack of work in Scotland. My grandfather quickly found work in New South Wales. I feel so sad when I think of today’s migrants who have fled difficulties in their own countries and are not welcomed here.

IS: How would Dr Alexander Skinner rate as a businessman compared to other nationally successful entrepreneurs of today?

LS: One could say he doesn’t rate highly beside a businessman of today  - given that he moved from place to place and from profession to profession, seemingly without due thought to circumstances. Today’s businessmen would be sure of the financial consequences of their actions. But Alexander Skinner lived at a time when there was no financial security. The very fact that he boarded a boat in the north of Scotland and sailed 10,422 miles to an unknown land proves how courageous he was and how convinced that he could make his vision a reality. If he had lived today, he would doubtless be a very wealthy entrepreneur.