Posts tagged ‘Gillian Polack’

Guest Post – Gillian Polack ‘The Places of My Novels’

Today I have a special guest post by Gillian Polack.

Gillian is going to be touring us through the wonderful places that her novels are set in. Get ready to travel!

The places of my novels

Gillian Polack

I love novels where place is a character. Where I can walk the street in my mind and see what the other characters are seeing. This means that I try my best to write that kind of novel myself.

In The Wizardry of Jewish Women, this was a bit harder than usual, for there were four places and they were all important.

Sydney was the home to one of my major characters, Judith. It was where she had moved when she had to run away for her own safety. I had to build the Sydney that a woman with a child would remember and then build a new life on. Judith is someone who built new lives for herself and for others, so her Sydney is inner city and she works close to home. She and her children have favourite places, and I chose just one of them to represent all of them.

sydneyTo build her Sydney and to create her home, I asked my Sydney cousin for help. She knew that part of Sydney, even to how loud one had to be to be heard upstairs and how narrow a house became towards the back.

How well did we create this locality? A couple of years ago I visited some Sydney friends and stayed with them. As I walked down the street I recognised it. It was a street I half-remembered and had used for Judith’s story. A cosy street, close enough to the city and the university and to Newtown for a feminist to live and grow and create a new life. They didn’t live in the same house as the one I created for my characters, but in one just down the road. I walked up their stairs and felt “I got this right.”

Canberra was easier. I live in Canberra. I had to give it a character that fitted two of my major characters, however, not one. They don’t live near each other and neither of them live in my corner of Canberra.


There were three tricks with writing Canberra.

The first is to make it come to life. Canberra has its own stereotyping in Australian culture, and it’s regarded as a dead city. Boring. A blemish on the face of Australia. Pretty, but dull.

I’ve said often that Canberra is a palimpsest city. It has so many stories and colours underneath that plain surface layer. What I do when I write Canberra, then, is look under the surface and bring out what lies beneath. It’s only boring if the characters find it boring.

The second was to avoid what I’d written in other novels. I’ve based several novels in Canberra and am likely to use it again, because its palimpsest nature makes it wonderful as a setting. I can be true to it and still make the Canberra in each novel quite different to the Canberra in the novel before. I do this by looking at my characters and seeing how they would live in Canberra and what aspects of that palimpsest they would interact with.

The third was writing the big events. So many of the Canberra parts of the story used real events. I had to be careful to be accurate and not to hurt the people who’d suffered from some of them. I had to make sure that the events themselves were seen from inside and not from a newspaper’s report.

Melbourne was easier. It was seen through the eyes of one character. Her Melbourne was the place she left when she ran. This means she experienced a city from about fifteen years ago, through the eyes of someone who’d seen it fifteen years before and whose memory was laden with tears. The character of Melbourne pretty well wrote itself for this novel.



The last place was Ballarat. I built this city’s personality bit by bit.

I’ve never lived there, unlike the other places. I visited there often when I was a child, and my mother and I did a research trip to see it as a potential setting. I have a photo album that I used, and a lot of history that I’ve read over the years. It was all done externally, however. I examined a range of things: streets, buildings, archives, statues, stories about the city and had to ask myself “What character does this place have? How can I get my characters to see it?” The answers to these questions led to the part of the story set there. It’s not the Ballarat I remember as a child. It has its own flavour. This is what I was after. It’s what I’m always after when I write places into my fiction.

Gillian Polack writes, edits, researches and even teaches in in Canberra, Australia. The Wizardry of Jewish Women, Ms Cellophane (both novels) and History and Fiction (definitely not a novel) have been shortlisted for awards. The Wizardry of Jewish Women is being re-released by Book View Cafe in August 2017. She has edited two anthologies (one of which was also shortlisted for an award) and has seventeen short stories published (one of which actually won an award and four others of which were listed as recommended reading on international years’ best lists).  She has a PhD in Creative Writing and one in Medieval History. URL: Facebook: Gillian Polack Twitter: gillianpolack

All photos are copyright of Gillian Polack

Book Launch – Gillian Polack – The Wizardry of Jewish Women

The fantastic Gillian Polack is releasing her new book ‘The Wizardry of Jewish Women’ at Readings, Hawthorn on the 5th of September at 6:30pm. A delightful, poignant novel that details the lives of Jewish women in Canberra. Mystical, memorial, and cheeky – come and experience the launch of one the next talked about spec-fiction books to be released this year. There may even be pink tutu’s involved.

Gillian Polack Launch Picture

Interview with Gillian Polack

I interviewed Gillian Polack as she celebrates soon the release of her new book The Time of the Ghosts.


Someone has to write this down.
Someone who has seen it all.
Seen the ghosts.
Eaten the food.
Even washed the dishes.

Ghosts trail after us. They are our fears and the shape of our hates. We bring them into our lives and into our homes.
A fairy – variety melusine – tells of her private ghosts in unreliable fairy stories. She handles her own haunting.

Some years our fears and hates are so strong that we turn our ghosts tangible. Instead of trailing after us forlornly, whispering “Believe in us, or you are damned,” they fracture our landscape. Poltergeists and the spirits of drowned girls; malicious presences and portents; cat vampires and roaming bushrangers.

These ghosts haunt Canberra. These ghosts can kill.
It takes four women, one cup of tea at a time, to deal with Canberra’s haunting.

1) – I was reading Mary Victoria’s interview with you and saw that you went to Aussie Con! I can’t believe I missed out on meeting you in the flesh at World Con in Melbourne. Where were you hiding yourself?

I wasn’t hiding! I was, though, a bit busy. Baggage was launched there (and now has a US edition) and I was on a few panels. Wherever I went, I ran into people I knew. I remember going down an escalator and waving at all my friends who were going up.  I was so impressed by how many people I knew who were there that I sat down with the members’ list and counted and I knew well over 200. It was my first big convention (the biggest I’d been to before than had 500) and it was amazing. So much to do! So many friends! My only regret is that I couldn’t do more and see more people. I needed to clone myself. If only I were a scientist, I’d have been a contender…

2) Tell me a little bit about yourself?

I live in Canberra. I’m younger than most of my characters in The Time of the Ghosts, but old enough so that five year olds hug me sympathetically for being so old (five year old friends are very sympathetic towards middle age – they also laugh at my jokes). I enjoy cooking, chatting with friends, most things to do with science fiction and fantasy, being a historian, being a writer, teaching and research. I do not enjoy housework.

3) – Can you describe your new book in three words?

Haunting, Canberra, fairies.

4) – What is the basic premise of your latest book?

The Time of the Ghosts has two premises. The first is that elderly women can do exciting things without the rest of society knowing because we tend to leave them to themselves a lot of the time. This is why my novel contains superheroes who are female and beyond menopause. Two of them are very far beyond menopause. The second is that the fears and hopes and despair we carry can manifest themselves and can be really, really dangerous.

5) – Who was the worst character to write and why?

The worst character was Ann. She’s a nice person going through very hard times and I wanted to talk about them and show how nice she was. Instead all the less charming bits of her showed because of what she was going through. She’s your next best friend, really. It’s just that many of us are our worst selves when life goes wrong. Ann wants to be as extraordinary as her best friends and thinks she’s a failure. We’re not seeing the thirty years when she was there for everyone, but the few months when she lost herself.

6) – Tell me more about Little My. Where did it come from and why? index 

Little My is a character from Tove Jansson’s Moomin books.

I went to Finland last year as part of my GUFF experience (I was representing Australasia at the world SF convention and got to meet fans in England, Ireland, Finland and Croatia as part of this) and I came back supporting the world convention in 2017. The convention organisers gave me a Little My soon after. When I visited Sydney, I gave her some adventures. Then there was a science fiction convention in Canberra and she had some adventures there. She absconded on the last day (to the disappointment of fans who wanted their picture taken with her) and was last seen flying over the Northern Territory. You can follow her adventures by looking me (Gillian Polack) up on Facebook and going to my photo albums. Little My is very social and got to know a lot of writers during her adventures, so you may well find pictures of her with your favourite writer. I remember she posed with Isobelle Carmody, for example, and scared Sean Williams.

7) – Why should people buy this new book?

Because it’s a lot of fun and just a little scary. Because the food side of it is amazing and I want to attend all those dinner parties myself. Because it will make you look at little old ladies with a lot more respect. Because it’s not the Canberra everyone thinks they know.

 8) – How many more books have you got coming out this year?

None! I had three and they’re all out!! The three were The Art of Effective Dreaming (a novel about making dreams come true), The Middle Ages Unlocked (written with Katrin Kania – loads of useful stuff about medieval England) and The Time of the Ghosts. I have another three coming out next year. Two novels and a non-fiction book again. I had a huge backlog of books sitting in various publishers’ in-trays and they were all signed up at once and are now magically appearing. I don’t actually write three books a year. I write about one every two years. What’s emerging now is fifteen years of very hard work.

9) – What is your favourite flavour of ice cream?

Chocolate. Dark and rich and streaked with other flavours.

10) – Lastly, what inspired The Time of the Ghosts?                                                                                                                                                                                                                           index2

I was giving a lecture on the Middle Ages to a huge crowd of elderly women. One of them was my mother. I had a sudden idea and asked them (after the lecture) whether their families knew just how much they did with their lives. No. It turned out that they asked their families what they did, but their families assumed that their elderly parents/grandparents lived in a kind of limbo, waiting for younger people to turn up and tell them about living. 

I asked my mother on the way home (she drove) if she wanted to be a super hero or a villain. 

“Why do you want to know?”

“You’re fit and healthy and have a steady income. You do a lot with your time. And no-one asks you about it. You could plan to take over the world and people would just assume you were waiting in limbo.”

At that moment I started planning a novel. If enough people buy it, I’ll write another one. Elderly women make the best protagonists. Dark secrets and long lives and strong opinions!

Gillian Polack is an author at Satalyte Publishing and has many other fantastic books. Check out Gillian here

You can purchase the books through Satalyte here

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