The Stella Prize chats with Ellen van Neerven, author of Heat and Light

van Neerven, Ellen_author photo


Stella: Who is your favourite woman?

Ellen: My mum, without a doubt. She is amazing.

Stella: Which writers have shaped your work?

Ellen: Louise Erdrich, Junot Diaz, Lisa Bellear, Dorothy Porter, Oodgeroo Noonuccal, Annie Proulx, Kristina Olsson, David Vann.

Stella: Is there a writer you aspire to be like?

Ellen: I’d like to write beautifully across poetry, short fiction and nonfiction, as Louise Erdrich does.

Stella: Why did you become a writer?

Ellen: To play with words and tell stories in a way I never could in conversations.

Stella: Do you care what other people think?

Ellen: Yes, otherwise I wouldn’t read reviews. At the same time, not really. I just want to keep entering new creative territory without too many voices in my head.

Stella: Do you have a good writing place? Tell us.

Ellen: Just at home, rotating between the couch, the desk and the kitchen table.

Stella: Where would you live if you could live anywhere?

Ellen: Bundjalung country, coastal northern NSW.

Stella: Have you ever received a grant, residency or fellowship to write?

Ellen: Yes. I received a 2014 Queensland Writers Fellowship to write my next book this year. The project is called Days of Extinction, and it will be a look into the past, the megafauna of Australia, and also a look forward, to impending extinctions my generation will face.

Stella: What book would you take with you to a desert island?

Ellen: Staying Alive, a poetry anthology edited by Neil Astley. An infinite treat.

Stella: How do you know when a story is finished?

Ellen: When you have moved on. You are no longing feeling the emotion that compelled you to write it, propelled you forward. It’s over.

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Ellen van Neerven