Published May 19th, 2015


With the act of writing and being a writer becoming increasingly accessible and exponentially popular, (all you need is an opinion, laptop and ADSL line), what does it actually take to become and to be a writer? Sam Nichols spoke to Emerging Writers’ Festival participant and writer Oliver Mol, who recently made the jump from wannabe writer to published author with his debut novel Lion Attack!(which we snapped the launch of here). Freshly home from an international tour, we speak to him about his history, the Emerging Writers’ Festival and what it takes to be a writer.
SPOOK: So Oliver, When did you make the decision to pursue a career in writing? What drove you to keep going?Oliver Mol: When I was in Sydney and studying Spanish I saw the RMIT creative writing program. I did it for a while but I never took it super seriously. I told myself if I got in to RMIT I’ll move to Melbourne – and I got in, so I said if I don’t have a book done by the end of university then I’ll probably keep doing it but it’ll show I didn’t take it that seriously, but I became obsessed with it. It was like how I’d imagined heroin to be. I’m always chasing that feeling and it was quite special to me and now I’ve got the book and it’s a whole new thing and I guess I’ll keep doing that until I die.What was your first ‘big break’ writing-wise? Probably getting published in Voiceworks, which opened up the Melbourne writing scene for me. The story they published, “cunt angel”, I read in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, and then I read at Young Writers’ Festival which introduced me to Pip Smith, who then opened things up to meet up with other people, and then I got asked to be an editor for Voiceworks. So yeah that was first big break for me. The hot desk fellowship was really good for me because it gave me time where I could sit and write in a really devoted way which I’d never done before. The Scribe prize was pretty big. I don’t think anything was more important but everything led to something.

Did you choose writing or did writing choose you?

I think I chose writing. I remember when I was in Brisbane and all my friends were doing cool shit like music, fashion, photography or skating and I’d always just played basketball. So I started writing… it was so awful (laughs). I stuck with it and it became a compulsion. I don’t need to write to live – I think that’s bullshit – but it’s a coping mechanism. It allows me to enjoy whatever this is a little bit more.

“Don’t be scared of the Internet. Don’t be scared of old things. Don’t question yourself. Just fucking do it. Don’t worry about experience.”

What are the ideal writing conditions for you?

I normally don’t write after the sun goes down, just because that’s time to see friends and have fun. I usually write in the mornings and afternoons. I can write just about anywhere. I wrote the book all over Melbourne in so many places. Some people might need some special conditions, but, I mean, I wrote half the fucking thing on my iPhone. I can mostly write anywhere.

Is there anything you want to achieve with your writing?

I want to put out a lot more books; I want to be financially independent with my writing which is a real tall order in Australia/the world. I want to write stuff that means something to me. I want to write stuff.

Where to from here?

I want to put on a much larger work. I want to look at Australia from the outside in as opposed to the usual of inside out. I want to travel. I want to become Australia’s greatest author (laughs), whatever that means…to myself I don’t care what other people think. The next book loosely is four novellas all within one larger work largely influenced by people like Chilean authors Roberto Bolañoand Alejandro Zamba, but also influenced a lot by people like Stacey Teague, Mira Gonzalez. And so loosely the four things are – the first one being I’m considering going to mines for six months and looking at the country from there, the next will be about living in America in Chicago. Australians and Americans have a lot of similarities and a lot of large differences.


For the other novella I’ll going to Germany. My grandfather was in a concentration camp and for some reason they let him go and he rode his bicycle all the way back to the Netherlands and he also wrote a memoir about that experience so it’ll be interviewing him and using original text of the memoir and looking at where we’ve come from with him and to varying degrees, Australia and to where we are now. The last section will either be in South America or Japan where in both places I’ve had two failed relationships so it’ll be looking at Australians travelling overseas, me travelling overseas and why we do it and on a greater level, in very contemporary society what relationships, sex and exclusivity are and what it means to be in a monogamous relationship but all told through different ways and methods. The structure is going to be the most important aspect of that.

Tell us about the events you’re involved in with the Emerging Writers Festival

I’m doing Kill Your Darlings nerd confession. I used to play a bit of basketball so I might do something on that? I need to think about it more. I’m doing a reading for Voiceworks because I was a guest editor on their last issue so it’ll be launching that and an excerpt from something that’ll be in my next book as well. I’m doing a panel called Early Bloomers about young writers you publish at young ages which I’ve got a lot to say as well as being Australian and talking about what it’s like to publish a book at a young age in Australia which is fairly septic in a lot of ways but ultimately positive because it gets you to keep writing and because you love it and you learn to not let it impact you.

What would be your one piece of advice for emerging writers?

Read. Read widely. Don’t be scared of the Internet. Don’t be scared of old things. Don’t question yourself. Just fucking do it. Don’t worry about experience. There are places like Voiceworks that’ll give you feedback. There are online forums. You can use facebook as a publishing medium. It goes into this idea of tall poppy syndrome – people are scared to put themselves out there. It doesn’t apply to me and it doesn’t apply to you either. None of this matters hey. And it’s beautiful because it means nothing. You can do whatever you want.

What was the greatest writing advice you ever received?

I think when I was starting out I was reading a lot of Bradbury. He said write a story every day and by the end of the year you’ll have 365 stories and some will be maybe okay but even if you haven’t that’s okay. It’s training.

Who would you say is the most underrated Australian writer going round?

Romy Durrant and Mike Day are the two people I really believe in the most. And then you’ve got Jack Vening, Susie Anderson, Stacey Teague. I like those people a lot.

“Anyone can be a writer. I know bankers who are fucking sick. I know teachers who are great writers. I would shy away from anything that is an absolute”

Is there a style of writing you’d love to explore but have yet to?

I’m getting really into poetry at the moment. But at the same time… a lot of people class what I’m doing as “alt-lit” but I never said I myself am an alt-lit writer. I said a whole lot of people in that scene influence me but a whole lot of people out of that scene influence me as well. I don’t think I’m an alt-lit writer, I just think I’m a writer who’s currently alive and sees what’s around him which is obviously going to involve the internet. I think with the book a lot of people are trying to class it, which is problematic. I’m not classing myself as anything. I don’t know where it’s going to go all I know is that I do it because I enjoy it.

Is life and writing intrinsically linked for you, or can you separate the two?

They are just because my life interests me. I might wake up tomorrow and I might be bored by everyone’s life and my life and I might start writing medieval fan fiction. Right now though, I’m just going to keep writing about my life.

Do you feel your writing represents you?

Not at all. Everyone puts on a projected version of yourself. Also everyone changes. Within five minutes you can change because of the experiences you go through. It’s like a first date. It’s a projected writer.

Does someone have to commit to being a writer so to speak, to be a writer.

Not at all. You can do tonnes of different stuff. Anyone can be a writer. I know bankers who are fucking sick. I know teachers who are great writers. I would shy away from anything that is an absolute. People speak in absolutes like you have to do it this way, but I think anyone can. You can do whatever you want is the ultimate and you do whatever works for you.

What do you feel is required to become a successful writer?

I guess you’d have to define successful. I think to become a good writer you have to read a lot. You have to read current, you have to read old, you have to read people from all different genders, background and who identify with different things. You should be critical of yourself. You should be critical of what you’re reading and it comes back to you and what you’d define as successful writing. I think a successful writer is someone publishing work that they believe in, no matter where. Work that means something to you; work that you’re proud of but also critical of. You’re not the same person you were five minutes ago, you change with every experience you have.

The Emerging Writers’ Festival stars 26th of May. Mol will be appearing atDear Everybody Collective, Late Night Lit – Kill Your Darlings: Nerds Gone Wild, and Early Bloomers.


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