Award winning author Nicolas Rothwell lives in Darwin where he is the roving northern correspondent for The Australian. His new novel Belomor is about art and life taking the reader on travels from Eastern Europe to Northern Australia, from World War II to the present. Rothwell discussed his literary success and the stories behind his new novel with Australian Book Review editor Peter Rose.
What struck me most was Rothwell’s comments about how the way we view the novel is already changing and will change more so in the next decade. Rose praised Rothwell for producing innovative work stating that he should have his own genre because of the original ways he is playing with prose. Rose said that Belomor is heavily dialogue based with long exchanges between characters and while the dialogue tells the story it wasn’t static but was in fact revealing and descriptive in form.
When asked a question about what he thought about his own writing he said, “I write for the reader. Hopefully I’m leaving them with knowing something that they didn’t perhaps know before or more importantly knowing that they are not alone in the world.” He said that writers and readers tend to be more solitary people and that he felt that this was an important aspect to his writing that he can make connections with others through literature.
Rothwell features the Top End of Australia in all his writing and said that it’s the “Non European-ness of the space that allows for interesting story-telling and unique writing.” He said, “Who we are is influenced by the land as it is where we come from or where we have settled.” This idea correlates to his views on historical landmarks of which many are featured in his work such as the ruins of Dresden in Belomor, he said, “A ruin is a call to memory just as much as a place in history,” it provokes conversation, memories etc. as well as being a landmark or feature.
A thoughtful and softly spoken man Rothwell said that he felt vanity had no place in writing and raised the idea of the ‘crowded book’ where you have the opportunity to immerse yourself in many dialogues, settings etc. through writing and or reading books rather than being introspective or focusing on yourself.
Responding to another question about the differences he sees in both journalism and creative writing (of which he writes both) he said that the first is “to know and inform” whilst the second is “to speculate and explore” and that the media doesn’t like the ambiguity that is often present in fiction.