Interview by Elisabeth Storrs, Historical Novel Society Australasia, June 2017

Justin SheedyWhat is the inspiration for your current book?

Imagine a man who, when he was 21, was a real-life young superman physically and mentally, beloved by his family due to his sparkling intelligence and personality. Though he volunteered to leave his family and cross the planet to fight the worst evil imaginable. This he did in the most exciting way possible and he won, living to his 90s only to be surrounded by the ghosts of all his friends from the fight who remain forever 21. Imagine his story is true and there were 37 000 young men just like him. Who once lived just down the street from where you live right now. THOSE once young Australians are my inspiration.

Is there a particular theme you are exploring in this book?

Dymocks Sydney 25 MarchIn my latest, “No Greater Love”, an exploration of whether Australia’s history is one of perpetually fighting other people’s wars due to our national selflessness or national lack of self.

Which period of history particularly interests you? Why?

World War Two because, as subject matter for historical fiction, it’s the greatest drama ever. There is no more exciting, heroic, tragic, horrific, good versus evil dramatic story for a writer to bring alive. It’s also when, more than any other time in our Australian history, we showed the world how to win wars.

What resources do you use to research your book?

Veteran interviews, historical fiction & non-fiction, documentaries, family-loaned personal diaries, the internet (often beginning with Wikipedia as a “research road-map” for more detailed research), online correspondence with historical societies and local councils internationally.

What is more important to you: historical authenticity or accuracy?

Authenticity. My goal & reward is to have my readers thoroughly yet instantly immersed in the history I cover though they may have no prior knowledge or prior interest in it. To immerse them like this I must present the history to them in an accessible way. Though of course I intend forensic-standard accuracy, I find some writers lose their readers with accuracy for its own sake. In a nutshell, if you tell all the facts, you’ll never finish the story, let alone keep your reader happily time-travelling.

Which character in your current book is your favourite? Why?

My main character, Colin Stone. “Stoney” to all. A classic ‘rough diamond’ character, the boy from the ‘wrong side of the tracks’ (the mean streets of Great Depression era St. Kilda). He is the abandoned child who becomes the greatest fighter pilot of them all, the soul from the gutter who rises to the top from where he sees a world only worth leaving. Since creating him, “Stoney” has become real for me and I love him; he’s the underdog, the unselfish hero, the classic Aussie warrior who (based in historical fact) wins war because of the unconventional way he fights it, who lacks respect for Authority because Authority gets young men killed.

Are you a ‘plotter’ or a ‘pantser’? How long does it generally take you to write a book?

A fusion of both. I think a superb “structure” for any narrative is one of the most rewarding things for the reader and something I strive for by plotting. Yet at my every stage of writing every book I find myself with NO idea what I’ll be writing tomorrow. But this happens SO often that I force myself to say: “You always find it. Have a little faith in yourself.”

Which authors have influenced you?

GoingSoloIn terms of my Australian World War Two historical trilogy, I would nominate Ken Follett for his gripping WWII fictions, our Kate Grenville for her emotive Australian historical fictions, and Roald Dahl for the way he evokes his own war experiences as if with the involuntary perfection of a child’s eye.

What advice would you give an aspiring author?

Write what thrills YOU. If you write it well, it will thrill others. To write it well, re-write it until it’s the book it DESERVES to be. (That’s one third Paul Hogan, one third me, one third Peter Carey, and the rest is just good luck.)

Tell us about your next book or work in progress.

Other People's Wars 4 EBCurrently polishing a novella to be a free ebook with another author as a promotional tool for our currently published works. Title of my novella: “Other People’s Wars”.

Thank you!

To read another interview with Justin, click HERE.

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