The Stella Interviews: Mandy Beaumont
Congratulations on being longlisted for the 2023 Stella Prize! What does it mean to you to be included on the list?
It means a whole lot. To be recognised by The Stella Prize, which amplifies the voices and stories of women and non-binary people, is wonderful. The talent of the Stella authors in years past is staggeringly good, so to also be a part of this esteemed group is a little surreal, but mostly bloody brilliant!
Your longlisted novel, The Furies, has been described by Carmel Bird (Sydney Morning Herald) as “a rallying cry for revolution”. What would you say are some of the central ambitions or themes of your work?
The Furies is a book of resistance and liberation, and it explores how powerful women can be when we care for each other and collectivise. Set in drought-stricken outback QLD in the 1990s, I wanted to write an Australian gothic tale of a working-class woman who feels trapped, and who struggles to transcend to her freedom. The Furies uses language and poetics to push up against the heavy and dark themes in the book; like violence against women, the visceral exploration of work in abattoirs, infanticide, loss and the feelings of isolation. The landscape in The Furies also plays an important role. For me nature has always been both beautiful and scary, the ambiguous nature of our living out on display in every changing world around us.
Are there any particular books or authors that have inspired or informed your writing?
Australian writers Andrew McGahan and Gillian Mears loom large for me. Other books that I keep close are: Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis, The Last Tango in Paris by Robert Alley, Bush Stories by Barbra Baynton and Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay. I also adore the writing of Carmen Maria Machado and Charles Bukowski, as well as poets Sharon Olds, Luke Davies and Michael Dransfield. Let’s just say I own too many books (can you ever own too many books?).
Can you tell us a bit about your artistic process? How do you write, where, when, and on what?
I think deeply on things that excite or revolt me, things that move me or make we want to shake shit up. Exercise gives me a lot of space to think about these things that percolate for a long time. So does spending a lot of time on my own. When I sit down and write I do so without any predestined story line or form in my head. The writing always takes shape as I go; new ideas building as the language does. I have to write in silence, at home, with my dog Paisley for the best company and a window view. I am not one of those writers that can get up early and write for an hour then go to a day job, or be in a writer’s group, or do it with kids running around. I bow down to those who can.
What’s on your reading pile at the moment?
I’ve just submitted my PhD (the fiction and philosophy of Simone de Beauvoir), so as much as I am sad to leave her now and move on, I’m also hugely excited to read for pleasure again. So, I’m finally going to read books that I’ve wanted to read over the past few years but haven’t been able to, starting with Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy, Lapvona by Ottessa Moshfegh, and the whole 10 binders of the Casebook Murder series (remember they were the ones you could get from the newsagent every week years ago, along with folders to put them in? Yep! I found them all in an op shop for $10. Huzzah!).
Find out more about Mandy Beaumont’s 2023 Stella Prize longlisted book, The Furies.