Relatively Famous

Relatively Famous

A Powerful and Entertaining Novel

Michael and Marjorie Madigan refuse to be interviewed by biographer Sinclair Hughes for his new book Inside the Lion's Den: The Literary Life of Gilbert Madigan. This is not surprising as Gilbert is Marjorie's ex-husband and Michael's mostly absent father is Australia's first Booker Prize winner, a feted and much lauded author that the U.K. and U.S. now like to call their own. Michael cannot escape his father's life and work, and at times his own life seems swallowed by it. His father's success is a source of undeniable pleasure but also of great turmoil. In a world that increasingly covets fame and celebrity, Relatively Famous subtly explores notions of success , masculinity, betrayal and loss, and ultimately what it might mean to live a good life.

Roger Averill is the award-winning author of Exile: The lives and hopes of Werner Pelz, Boy He Cry: An island odyssey and the novel, Keeping Faith. He lives with his wife and two daughters in Melbourne, Australia.

Relatively Famous
Transit Lounge Publishing
Author: Roger Averill
ISBN: 9780995409897
RRP: $29.99

Interview with Roger Averill

Question: What inspired the story of Relatively Famous?

Roger Averill: The inspiration came from having read numerous biographies of famous writers and noticing how often talented authors aren't so talented in other aspects of life, such as parenting or being a supportive partner. That got me thinking about what it would be like to be the son or daughter of someone like that. How would you escape your famous parent's shadow? Do things differently? Once I'd created the character of the acclaimed expat Australian author, Gilbert Madigan, and his middle-aged son, Michael, the story became more about what it means to live a good life than about the nature of fame.


Question: What do you hope audiences take from Relatively Famous?

Roger Averill: I hope they enjoy the read and feel for the characters, and beyond that I hope they think about that age old question of what makes for a good life. Fame is one answer to that question, and in Gilbert Madigan's case that fame is of the old variety, in that it's attached to a real talent, unlike some modern day celebrities who are famous for being famous. The book, though, suggests that real meaning lies elsewhere, as Michael tries to avoid repeating his father's failings. In this way, it also represents different types of masculinity. Unlike his old man, Michael attempts, and only partially succeeds, to treat women more respectfully, and he is deeply involved in the raising of his own children. That, though, doesn't guarantee his release from Gilbert's legacy. I want readers to think about how they're dealing with their own emotional inheritance and what it is they're passing on to the next generation.


Question: Can you talk about the research you did, whilst writing Relatively Famous?

Roger Averill: The last book I wrote was a biography, Exile: The Lives and Hopes of Werner Pelz. That entailed an enormous amount of research. One of the brilliant things about writing a novel, even one containing excerpts from a fictional biography, is that you can make the whole thing up! And that's what I did with Relatively Famous. I enjoy researching, but I also enjoy being free of it. Of course I had to check the occasional name or date of something I mentioned, but nowadays, thanks to the Internet, that takes minutes, not hours or days of research.


Question: There are several issues raised in this book. Was this deliberate or did the story evolve this way?

Roger Averill: I'd say both are true. I expected the book would raise issues about fame and family life, and what makes life worth living. And once I'd made the two protagonists men, I thought it would unavoidably deal with issues of fatherhood and masculinity. At the same time, though, I had no clear plan as to how these issues would develop as a story. For me, writing is a kind of unfolding. I have a vague sense of the destination, and usually I can make out a few markers along the way, but I write the map as I go. That's part of the fun of it.


Question: What's next, for you?

Roger Averill: I have a couple of things forming in the back of brain somewhere. One's a novel and the other's a non-fiction project. I don't like talking about them before they're closer to the front of my thinking for fear of scaring them away. It's like resisting the temptation to open the oven door to see if the cake has risen. Best to let it cook before exposing it to cooler air.

Interview by Brooke Hunter

 

Relatively Famous
Transit Lounge Publishing
Author: Roger Averill
ISBN: 9780995409897
RRP: $29.99




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