Thursday, August 7, 2008

Avoiding Mr Right - Sydney Launch Speech

I’d like to begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of country, the Gadigal clan of the Eora nation, and pay my respects to all the elders who continue to give me their wisdom and their support.

I’d also like to acknowledge the current custodians of country here, which in this case are the proprietors of Sauce Bar and Grill - BJ McHAtton, Angus Graham and Dave Martin who have generously put on this christening for the book. I’ve already had a number of people ask me which one the guys here is the waiter Andy in the novel, and yes, the character Andy is based on one of the three - but I’m not going to out anyone. You girls will have to figure it out for yourselves.

I really want to thank Sauce for supporting this here local blackfella simply following her dream. I’d also like to thank our beverage sponsor, Fosters.

Launches are essentially about thanking people so, I’ll start by acknowledging those who have inspired some characters and scenes and those I stole phrases and funny lines from. These include my brother Josef who informed the character of Josie – the lipstick lesbian-parking cop who is liked by anyone who doesn’t own a car in St Kilda. My dear dear friend Michelle Wong who inspired the Pimms-drinking thong wearing stockbroker who likes salt’n’pepper squid, my apparent double comedian Rachel Berger, my cousin Bernadine Knorr as well as Paul Galea, Michael McDaniel, Paula Maling, Julie Reilly, Ali Smith and the entire Sydney Swans Football team.

In the novel, Peta Tully is celibate, except for in her dreams, where she has better sex than in her waking life. She astral travels all around the world, and for the material developed in those scenes, I need to thank the following for their inspiration: the Greek waiter, the Italian security guard, the American tour guide, the Spanish customs officer, the Japanese limo-driver, Buddy Holly, Robert Redford and Barry Manilow.

As you can imagine, researching Avoiding Mr Right was challenging and at times tiring – astral travel sex can really be exhausting. I went to Melbourne and stayed in Mark Olive’s house with his cat Lola, while I researched, so I thank The Black Olive for that Melbourne base.

I spent my days on trams and trains, going to galleries and museums, the St Kilda Sea Baths, the AFL, shopping, drinking coffee in groovy cafes and eating every kind of pastry, cake and chocolate available on Acland Street, St Kilda. It was a very fattening book development process I’ve undergone. And my nights were spent in bars and restaurants and generally ‘observing’ the Melbourne men. It was the most enjoyable research trip I have ever completed.

But I think for the next novel, the heroine will have to be a fitness / health freak so I can research on bike paths and in gyms.

I didn’t research alone though, and so I thank all those friends who sat in bars and restaurants with me, while I took notes and just stared at people and surrounds. Special thanks to Peter Frawley and Marianne Tome for assisting in developing my research schedule.

It’s all well and good to research though, but if no one wants to publish the book then what’s the point – aside from the obvious fun that I had. So I offer a massive serve of appreciation to Larissa Edwards my publisher for having unwavering faith in me, Elizabeth Cowell my editor who strokes my ego even when we both know I don’t deserve it, and my publicist Claire Rose who just laughs every time I ask her to pitch a story to a media outlet – and then she goes and does it. They are my very own Dream Team.

Only a few years ago it was a novelty to hear a blackfellas say “Speak to my agent”, but now that line is my saving grace. And I wouldn’t have the relationship with Random House without my wonderful, efficient, professional and groovy agent Tara Wynne from Curtis Brown who works in my best interest always.

Before I head to thanking those from Matraville, I want to mention my dear friend Robynne Quiggin who can’t be here tonight. She makes me laugh on the bad days, and lets me cry on the worse days. And I love her for that. To the gorgeous Terri Janke for inspiring me to be a better person in every way. I truly do want to be you when I grow up. But it looks like I may never do that. And to my life coach and friend Geraldine Star for showing me how to be a better person. I would NOT be here without you, your wisdom, your guidance, your perseverance with me and my stubborn ways. Thank you for your unconditional support.

I’m a proud Matto girl, and like Aboriginal land, always was always will be, and I love going into the Matraville Newsagency because the ladies there make me feel like a celebrity and they keep newspapers and mags for me. Well, only the ones I’m in. And I want to thank them just for doing that. It’s so kind and supportive. And some are here tonight.

And now, my family. Can I tell you the best thing about my family? Well, my family let me talk about myself endlessly, and that’s a hard call for anyone. Joe listens and offers advice on men, most of it I ignore, but he gives it sincerely. Mark and Gisella drive and pick me up from the airport, Mum brings my washing in and folds it, and sometimes, only at her insistence, she washes it also. She let’s me rummage through the fridge EVERY time I go to her place, and there is always a hot meal on offer if I want one. And she NEVER loses her patience with me. I am a heathen and yet my Mum rubs shoulders, in fact, cuddles the Pope. What it all boils down to is that I, that is we, wouldn’t be here tonight if it wasn’t for the love of my family. And oh how my Dad would’ve been so happy here tonight, especially with free beer!

Finally, one of my aims with writing commercial fiction is to be able to open up a whole new world to a whole new mainstream audience. And so it is not uncommon to see some strategically placed products and names throughout AVOIDING MR RIGHT. You will read about Aboriginal authors such as Alexis Wright and Samuel Wagan Watson, the playwright Tammy Anderson, and musicians Dan Sultan, Richard Frankland and a particularly talented and fabulous country and western signer Ms Shawnee Fenwick.

I first saw Sharnee at Klub Koori last November and totally fell in love with her voice and stage presence. She’s a songwriter and performer, and she’s gorgeous and funny.

As Peta Tully rests in the bath following a day at the Melbourne Cup, she has Sharnee Fenwick playing in the background and she’s listening to the words of “Kiss that boy” wondering if she’ll ever kiss a boy again. Sharnee is going to do me the honor of singing that song for us all now, I thank you all for coming tonight, I hope you enjoy reading Avoiding Mr Right as much as I enjoyed writing it and now I hope you enjoy the deadly sounds of Ms Sharnee Fenwick.


Rosemary Nissen-Wade said...

Reading that gorgeous speech made me feel as if I was there.

And oh, how I want to read that book! (Available in bookshops everywhere???)

Dr Anita Heiss said...

Thanks Rosemary - yes available in independents and the major chains. We've gone into reprint already and its #1 on the Gleebooks bestseller list, so this here girl from the burbs is very happy!
Thanks for the support, Anita

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