Sharon Kernot worked as a community support worker in a child protection agency in the northern suburbs of Adelaide for eleven years. She has a masters in Creative Writing from the University of Adelaide and a PhD from Flinders University. Underground Road is Sharon Kernot’s first novel. It was shortlisted in the Unpublished Manuscript category of the Adelaide Festival Awards in 2010. Sharon is also the author of a collection of short stories, In the Shadows of the Garden, and one of poetry, Washday Pockets. You can find her website at www.sharonkernot.com.au.
We asked Sharon a few questions about Underground Road.
Would you be able to identify a high point during the writing of Underground Road? And a low point?
When I was writing the Underground Road I had no idea how it was going to end because I’m not a plotter or planner and my writing practice is a bit chaotic so I don’t always write scenes (or chapters) in chronological order. I didn’t know if all the threads from each character would tie together. This wasn’t a low point as such but it did provide quite a bit of anxiety along the way. The high point came in the end when everything fit together neatly despite my concerns. I’ve just finished a draft of a new novel and while I was writing I had to keep reminding myself to keep writing because even though I had no idea where it was going, it’d all work out in the end.
Can you tell us about what you’re working on next?
As mentioned above, I’ve just finished the draft of another novel; it’s tentatively called Remembering Faith. The story revolves around Faith who has issues with her memory due to a serious accident when she was younger. Throughout the course of the novel she tries to uncover her past and discovers that her life was nothing like she thought. The story is set in two different time periods – the mid-2000s and the 1960s – the 1960s scenes are written from a child’s perspective. It’s really quite different from Underground Road but there’s still a lot of tension and suspense.
Who is your favourite Australian author?
I don’t have a favourite as such but I do love Tim Winton’s books and I’m currently reading his latest, Eyrie. I went to listen to him read at Elder Hall recently along with about 600 others. I love the fact that he’s so down to earth and unpretentious. Chris Tsiolkas’ new novel, Barracuda, is next in line. I enjoyed The Slap particularly for its multiple viewpoints and structure, so I thought I give this one a go too.
I admire Helen Garner’s writing for her brevity and precision, and her courage to write about difficult issues as in The Spare Room and Joe Cinque’s Consolation. I also love Sonya Hartnett’s novels – Sleeping Dogs, Of a Boy and Butterfly; the late Dorothy Porter’s verse novels particularly The Monkey’s Mask and What a Piece of Work, and Cate Kennedy’s short stories.
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you choose and why?
When I was in my early twenties I lived on the Greek island Hydra for a short time. I loved it and have always wanted to go back. It’s quite a famous island in the sense that a lot of writers, artists and musicians have lived there over the years – George Johnson, Charmian Clift, Sidney Nolan and Brett Whiteley to name a few. I think Leonard Cohen still has a house there. Ironically, at the time of staying, I had no idea who might have been living there. It clearly had a vibrant artistic community but what I loved most, apart from the stunning views, was the fact that there were no cars only donkeys, bicycles and boats for transport. I’d love to go back and live there for a while, perhaps a year … and if Leonard Cohen’s there – all the better!
What are your favourite Wakefield Press titles, aside from your own, and why?
I’ve just finished reading Margaret Merrilees The First Week which I really enjoyed. I could empathise with the main character, Marian, as she struggled to understand why her son has done something horrific. Mothers, I think, tend to blame themselves when things go wrong for their children, and Mag captured this beautifully. She also writes evocatively of the Western Australian landscape and how it has been ruined by farming. Jude Aquilina and Louise Nicholas’s poetry collection Woman Speak is an old favourite – it’s funny and rude and obviously quite different from The First Week but I love these two talented South Australian poets. I also have a copy of the Tadpoles anthology of poetry which was edited by Jude; it’s full of wonderful children’s poems by South Australian poets including the late Max Fatchen. I’d recommend it to teachers or anyone who has children or grandchildren