Meet Robbie Arnott

Robbie Arnott is the author of Flames and The Rain Heron. He lives in Hobart.

How are you looking after yourself during this time?

I’m drinking too much. I’m running too much. I don’t know – I’m not sure I am looking after myself. I’m eating a lot of chickpeas and broccoli, which are apparently healthy, so maybe that counts. I’m letting my cat sit on me. I’m wheeling my neighbours’ bins in for them after the truck has come by. Whenever I see a native bird, I get all excited, especially if it’s a currawong or black cockatoo. Recently I saw a grey goshawk circling above Knocklofty Reserve. I think about it all the time.

Can you speak a little about your creative process while writing?

I probably wouldn’t call it a process – it’s a giant mess, and I don’t know what I’m doing, and then the book is finished. With The Rain Heron, I wrote in the mornings and then after work most days, and a bit on the weekend if I could scrape together the energy. Whenever I didn’t know what to do with the story, I went on a bushwalk. It’s strange to think about, now. I knew what I wanted to achieve with the book, but didn’t know if I was capable of doing it. Now it’s out, I’m still not sure.

Has the pandemic changed the way you approach your art/writing? Are you creating or absorbing, or both?

I’m trying to write, which is going okay now, but for the first three months of the pandemic I was useless. I didn’t really create or absorb anything, even though I read a lot. It just washed over me. It’s great to have gotten through that period and feel productive again. I didn’t want to be around myself while I couldn’t write.

What are the most important literary and non-literary forces that shape your writing?

Literary: Annie Proulx, Richard Flanagan, Denis Johnson

Non-literary: My family, the Tasmanian wilderness, how hungry I am at any given moment

Which artists are you most intrigued by at this current point in time?

I think everything Ottessa Moshfegh has written is fascinating. The same thing with Elena Ferrante – she’s a genius. I’m also really intrigued by what Jane Rawson, Ryan O’Neill and Catherine Lacey are going to write next.

And, lastly, on a lighter note, what’s your favourite book-to-TV / book-to-movie adaptation? Or is there a book you’d like to see adapted into a TV show / movie?

I adored the recent TV adaption of His Dark Materials – I thought it was fantastic. And the perfect escapism I needed this year.

Listen to Robbie Arnott in conversation with Jan Carson and Angela Meyer at MWF Digital.