Melbourne Writers Festival 2014: Sonya Hartnett in Conversation

Sonya Hartnett
A review by C J Dee

Jo Case begins by acknowledging the Traditional Owners of the Land then moves to introducing the incredible Sonya Hartnett. Sonya’s introduction includes acknowledgment of her diversity (she has successfully written children, young adult, and adult fiction); the awards she has won; and the fact that she has been published and acclaimed internationally.

It’s easy to see just from Jo’s introduction that Sonya Hartnett is a remarkable author. Then Sonya joins the conversation and her spunky personality enthrals the audience.

Many of the books from Sonya’s 30 year career are touched upon briefly through the beginning of the conversation but it’s clear everyone is here for Sonya’s latest novel Golden Boys.

Golden Boys coverGolden Boys is a tale from suburban Australia in the late 1970s. The story features two brothers who are showered with their father’s gifts and are the envy of the neighbourhood, but to what end? Also featured is a teenage girl who envies the boys’ gift-giving father when compared to her alcoholic father.

Sonya admits she prefers to write about a time free of social media, video games, and DVDs, when children had to make their own fun because she finds modern technology ugly to write about. She also refers to herself often as a lazy writer and finds it easier to write about the time in which she grew up.

During the course of the conversation, Sonya also admits that she finds writing about teenage girls to be very trying. She reasons this by explaining that it can be very hard to like teenage girls as characters because it is a hard time in life. However, Sonya enjoys giving herself challenges and finds it a challenge to write characters that are not endearing to her.

Sonya’s writing process was quite fascinating. She revealed that she will often spend a long time not doing any actual writing, but just working out the story in her mind. Once the writing does begin, though, it becomes the most important thing in her mind for that short period of time. Sonya shocked the audience by announcing that she wrote Golden Boys within six weeks, which she considered a long time.

Why did Sonya Hartnett decide to become an author? I’m glad you asked. When Sonya was young she loved the look of books; the smell of books; the feel of books; and owning books. She decided she wanted something so beautiful to have her name on it.

As if her passion for her craft is not reason enough to buy a Sonya Hartnett book, the reading she performed from Golden Boys sold this reviewer a copy.