#LoveOzYA Q&A with Bill Bennett
Let’s go back to the beginning…have you been telling stories since you were a kid or was writing something you fell in love with as an adult?
From as early as I can remember I wrote stories. When I was about eight years old I came down with Glandular Fever and was confined to bed for a couple of months. I used the time to write my first novel – I can’t remember the name of it but it was about a plane that crashed in the jungles of Papua New Guinea, and how the passengers began to hunt each other for food – cannibalism! Haha. Even at that age my leanings were dark! I wrote it in pencil on a Woolworths All Day Jotter. I wish I kept it – I’m sure it would be hilarious to read now!
Tell us about your new book.
The narrative concerns a young girl who discovers her mother has been abducted by witches – part of an ancient organisation that has become deeply embedded in all facets of society, including law enforcement, government, the entertainment industry and the judiciary. The girl discovers that her mother’s soul is to be extracted to pay back a debt to Satan that goes back several hundred years to a forebear in Ireland. For the girl to save her mother, she has to become an initiated witch herself.
Did you have a favourite OzYA book when you were growing up?
My fav Australian YA book was Storm Boy, by Colin Thiele. In particular, I connected with the elemental setting, and the unique relationship with the land – in that case, it was the Coorong in South Australia. My film work later in my life would often feature an almost spiritual connection to the land, as in Storm Boy. When I was young though I read mainly Ray Bradbury, Steinbeck, Stephen King, and Edgar Allen Poe.
Did you have anyone that encouraged your love of books, reading and writing when you were younger?
My father was a great reader, and he tried his hand at writing too. He made me realise it was noble to be a writer.
Do you have a favourite bookshop or library?
I used to haunt libraries when I was young. My first memories of books was at the Annerley Library in Brisbane, when I was five or six. Every Saturday my mother would take my brother and me there and we’d choose our books for the week. And we would read them! Then later the Ascot library. Same thing. Better Read then Dead in Newtown Sydney is now my favourite bookstore, as is Kinokuniya in the Sydney CBD.
What was the last book you read and enjoyed?
I’m currently re-reading Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. I want to read his new book, The Book of Dust, but want to reacquaint myself with the trilogy before I spring into it. It’s been a while since I read HDM. Pullman is an extraordinary writer – as is Neil Gaiman.
Aside from writing, what else do you like to do to explore your creativity?
I like photography, and making movies.
What are the best and worst pieces of writing advice you’ve received?
Best bit of writing advice: Never give up. Worst bit of writing advice: Give up.
What do you love about OzYA?
Stories told at the village well can be universal, if they hold the truth of place