'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Tuesday 13 February 2018

12 Curly Questions with author Penni Russon

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you. 
When I was a child, I broke the glass window of a caravan that was abandoned in a field, by throwing a brick through it. It was a pure anarchic act, that I instantly regretted but could not take back. I lay awake at night listening for the ghost of the caravan to find me in my sleep, until I confessed to my parents. My mother told me the man from the caravan was not dead as I’d thought, but lived in a psychiatric hospital (in retrospect that makes sense; the caravan was filled with a strange collection of things and had the air of belonging to an unresolved life rather than the dead). She said she would take me to him so I could apologise, and I was even more terrified! But she never did.

2. What is your nickname? 
Well, my real name is Penelope, so Penni sort of is my nickname. But for a long time I was Nellup on the internet, and some people still call me that. I couldn’t pronounce my name as a baby, and called myself Eppie, my mum hoped it would stick. I’ve also gone by Eglantine for a long time online.

3. What is your greatest fear? 
Someone I love being hurt.

4. Describe your writing style in 10 words. 
Poetic and dreamy, but grounded in realistic characters and places.

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer. 
Curious, observant, reflective, funny, experimental.

6. What book character would you be, and why? 
Ramona, from Beverly Cleary’s books, because she is little but fierce and loyal, creative and resourceful, and she has an amazing capacity to love and be loved.

7. If you could time travel, what year would you go to and why? 
My father’s childhood, in a seaside town in North Yorkshire. He always had such a strong affinity with children and childhood that I would like to meet him as a child.

8. What would your 10-year-old self say to you now? 
Why do you complain so much that writing is hard? Writing is fun!

9. Who is your greatest influence? 
My 10-year old self!

10. What/who made you start writing? 
My father was born in the twenties and fought in the Second World War. My mum was born in the forties in country Tasmania. My grandmother, born just after the turn of the century, lived with us when I was a teenager. They all told me stories about their childhoods and young adult lives, and I loved listening to those stories and feeling my own life connecting up with a bigger sense of history – in that sense, stories are inherent to my belief system, what makes me me. Writing is a way of attending to the world around me.

11. What is your favourite word and why? 
Eleventy-squillion, because it is an indefinite hyperbolic numeral (like umpteen or zillion), and they are cool.

12. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life, what would it be? 
The answer to this question is probably always going to be whatever I am reading at the present, which is M Town, by Patti Smith. I hate it when books end, it’s always a grief. 

Penni Russon is an internationally acclaimed, award-winning writer and academic with an enduring interest in childhood and adolescence. Penni lives in the bushy outskirts of Melbourne with her partner, three kids and a schnauzer called Swoosie. See www.allenandunwin.com.