Award-winning Port Fairy author, Jock Serong writes with a gripping narrative and a pace that urges you to read quicker. Reviewers describe his novels as adventure fiction, crime novels, murder mysteries and political thrillers, and although each release covers a vastly different theme, all four are linked by unexpected plot twists, strong characters and sharp writing. A keen surfer with a background in criminal law, Jock is currently studying his PhD in creative writing, evaluates funding applications from other writers works as a peer assessor for Vic Arts and The Australia Council, and supports local authors through writing workshops and hosting book launches.
His latest novel, Preservation was released by Text publishing in 2018. Set in 1797 and based on the true story of the wreck of Sydney Cove, Preservation is tale of terror and treachery, shipwreck and survival as a contingent of sailors make their way to Australia. The plot dips in and out of present and past tense as it tells of a journey from India with a fortune of rum on board, the survivors’ trek across unmapped Australian coastline, their slow adaptation to the brutal environment and encounters with the indigenous Australians, and the disparity of their stories when they finally arrive in Sydney.
The perspectives shift from a young and ambitious lieutenant and his British wife as he tries to assert law and order in the infant colony, back to the three shipwrecked survivors, who are hiding more secrets than they reveal. The cross-country expedition scenes had a hint of the 1954 William Golding novel ‘Lord of the Flies’, showcasing the lengths people will stretch to ensure their survival. An intensely themed book with harsh but beautifully-drawn landscapes, Preservation is a thrilling page-turner.
Short and sweet questions
Current book on your bedside table: About forty, but the one I’m reading is The Commandant, by Jessica Anderson.
Where do you do most of your writing? At an old kitchen table in the front room of our house.
Favourite Australian holiday destination: There’s so many that I hope never to repeat one. I just love road trips.
What’s your preferred drop? Australian reds.
Guilty pleasure? Scotch, procrastination, and I would say surfing, but I feel no guilt.
Pet peeve: Leaf blowers and garlic. Particularly when combined.
Favourite fictional couple and why? Ruth Cracknell and Garry McDonald. Or Max and 99.
If you could pack two non-essential items for a deserted tropical island, what would they be? Are there powerpoints on the island? Probably not. So I’ll say a board and a block of wax. I’m imagining this island has a fringing reef.
Name an emerging author to keep an eye out for: J P Pomare. Very, very talented young Kiwi/Australian.
Established authors who inspire you? Robert Gott, Gregory Day, Clare Wright, Tim Baker, Janet Malcolm
Best thing about being a writer? Writing. You put it off, you carry on about it, but when it’s good it’s completely wonderful.
Worst thing about being a writer? The food in the keyboard. I read somewhere it’s filthier than a toilet seat.
Do you prefer music, podcasts or silence when writing? I actually use a blend of many types of music, and silence, depending which stage of the process I’m working on. Sometimes it needs to be very loud and chaotic, sometimes blue and sombre, and sometimes not at all. At the moment it’s a mixture of Ty Seagal, Shigeto and The Cowboy Junkies.
Favourite perfume/cologne: The smell of rain.
TV/film crush: Robin Wright in The Princess Bride
The best non-writing related prize I won was… Fifty bucks for a project on gravestone erosion in the Year 10 Science Talent Quest. I assume there’s a statute of limitations on their fifty bucks, so I’ll admit it now: I made the whole thing up.
Top three tips for aspiring authors? Believe in yourself but be prepared to take on criticism, and brush your teeth, even if you’re working alone. People drop by…
What theme do you hope shines through in your writing? It’s very hard to draw a line through my books because they’re very different to each other, but perhaps the idea that there are other versions of Australia out there, besides the ones we’re fed by politicians and advertisers. Kinder and crueller Australias, wilder Australias and ones that don’t conform to neat white/European stereotypes.
Proudest author moment? Reading my own novel to my daughter and feeling like maybe it reached her somehow…
Three fun facts:
1. I’m a husband and a dad to four children – I drive more miles than I type.
2. Surfing is the only physical exercise I engage in, and even then, I’d do it if it wasn’t good for you.
3. I can make coffee and bread. I would claim bolognaise as a culinary strength, but too many men think this is commendable. Seriously, if you can’t make bolognaise…
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From country show baking to raising orphaned lambs, bestselling author Maya Linnell writes about the life she lives and loves. A keen bookworm, former rural journalist and radio show host, Maya is also an ambassador for the digital library app Libby OverDrive. She lives in rural Victoria with a menagerie of animals, sweeping gardens, three bookworms and the odd tiger snake or three. Her latest novel Kookaburra Cottage is out on May 30 with Allen & Unwin. Find her online @maya.linnell.writes or mayalinnell.com