Originally published by D.L. Richardson’s at his Goodreads blog.
Hello! We’re talking books and coffee on today’s coffee chat with Glebe based author, Justin Sheedy. Justin Sheedy is the author of five books, and whether they be don’t-read-on-the-bus-hilarious or cry-in-every-chapter-heroic, he is passionate to share Australian stories. His Australian World War II historical fiction trilogy began with ‘Nor the Years Condemn’ (2011) followed by ‘Ghosts of the Empire’ (2013) and now concludes with his latest release, ‘No Greater Love’. Welcome, Justin, to my virtual café.
Firstly, since this a virtual coffee chat, how do you have your coffee? Are you a morning or afternoon person?
Strong, black, no sugar, on ice. I’m religious about coffee. Beginning a day without one is unthinkable. Thanks to cutting-edge parents, I was privileged to espresso strength coffee since a child in 1970s suburbia at a time when my school friends didn’t even know what percolated coffee WAS. One of my most treasured possessions is my stove-top 6-cup Bialetti Moka Express percolator, the same model my family had when I was a child. Oh and on weekdays I’m a morning person, on weekends an afternoon person, coffee on ice either way first thing after rising. And I mean that literally.
I used to work in Human Resources and one indicator of future behaviour was to look at the past behaviour. Humans have been in wars for thousands of years. So if you could predict the future, what would your future world look like?
I can only agree with your ‘past behaviour’ indicator re human nature: The old maxim that ‘all we learn from history is that we never learn from history’ seems eternally true. As humans we know we’ve never been without war so why is it still like a bolt of lightning for us to think that somewhere in this world a war rages at this very moment? Perhaps because we’re in denial of our past, so of our present. My World War II historical novels are hugely ANTI-WAR stories. They portray the ancient and eternal tragedy of young men fighting old men’s wars, of history something we are condemned to repeat. As for predicting the future, the past informs us that it will look like the present. I’ll be a happy old man if I turn out wrong.
In one of your reviews, the reader states that your war story “Nor The Years Condemn” should be on the national curriculum. Have you spoken to schools about getting your books onto their reading list, or is it even impossible for an indie author to do so?
I was utterly honoured to have had that said of Book 1 in my trilogy and it has just been said again of Book 3, “No Greater Love”, released just weeks back. Yet no, I have not spoken to schools about getting my books onto their reading lists. Long overdue I investigated this. As for it being impossible for an indie author (i.e., one like me without a massive publishing company behind them), my experience shows me that nothing is impossible for an indie author.
What has been the reaction in countries other than Australia? The battles didn’t happen in Australia, I’m curious to know if readers in the UK are interested in these tales.
International reaction to my war novels has been brilliant. All I ever used to dream of last thing before falling asleep at night yet never expected would come true. The loveliest responses from all over the English-speaking world from grandmothers to history nerds to young lady readers who don’t usually read war stories yet who’ve vowed to me I made them cry in every chapter. And you’re spot-on: My books bring alive the amazing real-life drama of World War II as fought on the other side of the planet from us here in Australia: in the UK and Europe. So for UK readers, it’s engaging enough for them that my novels are set right where they live in the UK, but on top of that I portray THEIR war as it was fought by Australians who crossed the planet to BE there fighting it alongside them. This ‘crossing the planet to fight other people’s wars’ theme is of course a key engaging factor for Australian readers of my stories, being as it is the story of our nation since White settlement to the present day. Then again there’s a universal appeal in my stories simply due to the true history that they’re so closely based on: True history that is so surreally exciting and dramatic as to be the stuff of science fiction and fantasy except it’s all true. In a nutshell, the kind of REAL drama that was surely the inspiration for the attack on the Death Star in ‘Star Wars’.
Do you think being a writer in one of the most iconic cultural places in Sydney – Glebe (I’m jealous) – has helped fuel your creativity?
Um, no not in itself, I don’t think: I think what really fuels MY creativity is the exhilaration of travelling back in time. Which is where my stories send me and so my readers. I think maybe they’re an escape from my present, from my reality, from Glebe, from Australia, at least, from Australia of the present time back to another. Yes, I suppose my writing is all about time travel. And I’M not even a Dr Who tragic though I am a long-time appreciator of the truly great story-telling which is the whole tradition of Dr Who: Stories (and this is science fiction itself) where anything you can imagine is possible. The thing is my based-on-fact war stories are like science fiction except real.
And last question, what is your favourite biscuit and/or cake at the moment?
Greek baklava. I suspect I may have been Greek in a past life. …No, not Greek baklava. Any and ALL baklava. Yes.
To read another interview with Justin, click HERE