Tuesday, May 19, 2009


We don't get a lot of brawling amongst authors in Australia, certainly no good knife fights at the writers' festivals, or blaring headlines about Tara Moss slapping Thomas Keneally into a blithering heap at a double-booked Dymocks instore, and we are a poorer literary nation for it. When was the last time you read about two Australian novelists smashed out of their minds on borboun punching the effluvia out of each other? It must be decades.

So we must settle for this violence-light, envy heavy online exchange between John Birmingham and Nick Earls.
Birmingham :

I've been on a book deadline for about four weeks now, I think. I have another two to go.

Oh sure, I could be like those suck-ups and panty-waists who get their manuscripts in on time, or even early, with minimal fuss and a daily regimen of cold showers, birch-whip floggin's and a steady, metronomic rhythm of a thousand words a day, every day, for as long as it takes. Yes Nick Earls I'm looking at you. But those Playboy Bunnies up on the hovercraft's pool deck aren't gonna chop their own lines or massage each other's buttal regions with extra virgin olive oil all by themselves you know.

Earls : Wish I could help JB. I sympathise with you, locked away in that cage, your every pore pumping out the ugly deadline pheromones. But what can I tell you? I got my manuscript in about a year early, and everything feels very mellow right now in the hot springs in which I'm luxuriating on my pre-book-tour junket in the mountains just outside Taipei. They brought the laptop over to the edge of the pool in case I could contribute, but the screen's steaming up faster than I can type. I'd like to at least say I feel your pain but, you know, right now I don't think I'm feeling any. Might have to go - I have a sudden rush of nothing to do, and all day to do it in.

Birmingham :
Damn you. Damn you to hell, Earls!!! It's just like kindy all over again. Always turning up with finished forts and castles on box construction day.

John Birmingham, now a self-confessed airport novelist (and a damned good one), has been using Twitter to detail exactly what it is like to punch out thousands of words a day of action-fat novel as a hovering, shadow-heavy deadline twists his ears and repeatedly rams his head into the desk to keep those words flowing. It's been very interesting, funny and fascinating to follow.

Birmingham should publish a selection of those twoots at the end of his new book, so readers can see a bit of the process behind it, the airport novel equivalent of a DVD extra.