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Carrie Tiffany
What made you want to become a writer?
I'm not sure if there is such a thing as becoming a writer, or being a writer. For me there is just the act of writing. Each sentence feels like it is the first and that it could also be the last. More than anything I wanted to become a reader and I'm pleased to have achieved that.

In my early twenties I worked as a park ranger in Central Australia. I live in Melbourne now and work as a farming journalist. I started writing fiction ten or so years ago. I don't remember any momentous shift, just a hankering to make some sentences of my own.
Where did the inspiration for MATESHIP WITH BIRDS come from?
I was interested in the connections and the partitions between the animal and the human world. I was also reading Sigmund Freud Ė in particular his case studies of women experiencing sexual repression. I wanted to explore the subject of physical isolation and how we salt away desire in our bodies Ė including those people that are deemed undesirable.
You clearly appreciate, love and respect the Australian landscape - your novels are steeped in place. How do you translate this into words on a page?
I can't answer that, I really don't know. I do know that I like to drive through the many small towns in rural Australia and I like to walk in the bush. I donít need to know the name of every bird and plant. Thereís a thrilling sense of unease that comes from being somewhere isolated and realising how tenuous a hold we have on that place. Knowing that if I keeled over an eagle would soon arrive, hungrily, is bracing.

And of course I wonder what it might be like to live in different places and to be different people. I notice things.
MATESHIP WITH BIRDS deals predominantly with sexual desire and longing. Could it have been set in any period or did the 1950s seem a particularly suitable decade? Iím thinking particularly of Bettyís story as a single mother with two children with (different) absent fathers.
I wanted Harry and Betty to come together because of circumstance and proximity (they are neighbours) rather than speed dating or the internet. And I wanted their sexual attraction to not be coloured by the sexual revolution of the 1960s. I imagine Betty would have been less burdened by her desire, better able to express it, in more recent times. Rural communities in Australia are wonderfully contrary Ė they are conservative, but at the same time somehow elastic enought to embrace people in all their natures.
The book is very graphic and pragmatic (e.g. in terms of bodily functions - both human and animal!) yet it is also very poetic and lyrical. How do you combine these seemingly incompatible characteristics?
I donít want to read writing that turns away from life, actual life. I think the bodies of people and animals are lyrical and poetic. Iíve been surprised by descriptions of the book as graphic. Writing is an intimate act.
The close relationship with nature is fundamental to the book and is wonderfully evoked. Do you think the majority of us are missing something by not having that link?
Iím not sure I have that link, whatever it may be. Iím suspicious of eco-holidays. The idea that you can take something from the landscape disturbs me Ė even if this is supposedly a sense of wellbeing. Iíve always liked to be around animals and I like to walk in the bush.

The most beautiful thing Iíve ever seen is the light thrown from a coke can in a small plane flying from Ayers Rock to Alice Springs just on evening as the sun was setting over the desert. The rays of the sun came in the porthole windows on one side of the plane, hit the coke can on the tray table of the seat in front of me and bounced off, filling the white tube of the plane with glorious amber light.
Who would you invite to join your fantasy bookgroup?
Nina Simone, Louise Bourgeois, Susan Sontag and Sophie Calle. Richard Ford would be permitted to recline on a chaise and read to us.
Carrie Tiffany

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