Set in the Blue Mountains, The Precipice is the diary - sardonic, moving and revelatory - of cantankerous retired headmistress Thea Farmer, whose career ended years earlier in a scandal. After losing her dream house in the financial crash, she is a resentful observer of the vibrant young couple who move in, together with their solitary twelve-year-old half-Vietnamese niece.
Her initial hostility is diffused by the young man's flirtatious charm, and the reclusive 77-year-old Thea develops an unexpected attachment. But this is soon derailed by an obsession of a very different na-ture, with potentially devastating consequences.
Virginia Duigan worked as a journalist, broadcaster, editor and screenwriter. She was a regular feature writer on The National Times, and contributed documentaries to ABC Radio. She was a freelance contributor to The Bulletin, The Age, The Australian, The Financial Review, Cinema Papers, and in London to the The Observer and The Times. She was Literary Editor of The National Times, and a theatre, book, film and restaurant reviewer, and wrote the screenplay to the movie The Leading Man. The Precipice is her third novel, after Days Like These and The Biographer.
Random House Australia
Author: Virginia Duigan
Question: You're have had a successful career in broadcasting, editing and screenwriting - what do you love most about writing books?
Virginia Duigan: I love the fact that it is you alone and no one else on earth is involved. The portability, the solitude, and the confronting, enlightening journey a novel takes you on.
Question: How did you go about setting the book in the Blue Mountains?
Virginia Duigan: For some years we have had a small weekend cottage in the Blue Mountains and much of the book was written here. I love the potency and power of this landscape. It is a primeval, majestic wilderness on Sydney's doorstep, and I have always been conscious of the valleys and ravines as keepers of secrets. In the novel they are a constant presence rather than a character, and they play a central role.
Question: How much of your inspiration comes from real life and real people?
Virginia Duigan: Real locations are crucial for me, but real life and actual people are another matter. I think as I write more I am becoming less dependent on real people and events. More on the mysterious resources of the imagination and the strange resonances of the subconscious. Which is not to say that these are not derived - somehow, somewhere - from experience....
Question: There are several issues raised in this book. Was this deliberate or did the story evolve this way?
Virginia Duigan: The way I write, it seems that a novel finds its themes in ways I had never envisaged, starting out. From the outset I knew the beginning and the end, but not how to arrive at the end. Once the characters begin to assert their own reality, they impose themselves on a novel and lead you into a labyrinth of issues. It is like real life in this way, I think. You don't know where you are going until you embark on the journey, and this is what is so irresistible and potentially shocking about novel writing, as well as life.
Interview by Brooke Hunter