Will Elliott is the Brisbane-based author of The Pilo Family Circus, which won numerous awards, most recently including the Spanish Nocte prize for Best International Novel. He followed that up with Strange Places: a memoir of mental illness, which was short-listed for the Prime Minister’s Literary Award in 2010. His new novel Nightfall comes out in July 2012 and sees him return from the fantasy of the Pendulum trilogy closer to his roots in horror.
1) In terms of fiction, you’ve gone from evil clowns to a fantasy trilogy, possibly not the literary trajectory that people were expecting. Do you feel it’s important that you not be shoehorned as a certain type of writer? Or is it really all just about the love of telling stories, no matter what form they might take?
All I really want to do is write stories people will enjoy reading. As it happens most artists I admire aren’t easily pinned down in one genre or classification, and it’s true I never wanted to fall into producing formulaic books. I’d say the fantasy trilogy didn’t completely succeed, as difficult as that is to admit, so I don’t know if it’s territory I’ll re-visit (that is to say, the more conventional fantasy.) I’ll probably go back to doing quirky standalone novels, such as Nightfall which will be out in July 2012 in Australia. You could call that horror or fantasy, but it has individuality, which is a quality I appreciate in books.
2) Was your memoir, Strange Places, a book you felt comfortable writing because of the acclaim garnered by The Pilo Family Circus. Or is it something you would have written anyway?
It was definitely an uncomfortable book to write. For starters I was aware all the way through that it’s nearly impossible to be fair or objective about oneself, and structuring it in a way that articulated my experience with mental illness but which was also “entertaining” as a read was a difficult thing to do. The first draft of that predated the Circus by a couple of years (updated, of course, by the time it got into print), so yeah I assumed I would always write a book of that sort. I’m unsure it would have found print if I hadn’t gotten a novel in print first, independently of the memoir.
3) What can you tell us about Nightfall?
Nightfall is the story of a young man named Aden who wakes up, after committing suicide, in a bath tub in the house of a very strange family. He has few memories of his life, and this world is very little like the one he (faintly) remembers. For starters, they seem to regard Aden’s grandfather as their god, and many of the bizarre characters seem strangely familiar to him. Meanwhile a sinister force called “the forgetting” begins devouring this new world on the same night he awakens. Aden must quickly discover the nature of this new reality, his place in it, and whether he is here to save this world or to help destroy it.
4) What Australian works have you loved recently?
I’m into short stories these days. One of the better books I’ve read is a collection of short stories called Macabre: a journey through Australia’s darkest fears. It’s really a world class collection. Another worth mentioning, though it’s been out for a while now, is Karen Hitchcock’s Little White Slips. I’m very much looking forward to Lee Battersby’s new book too, The Corpse-Rat King. If it’s as good as his shorter works, it’ll be well worth reading.
5) What’s your thoughts on the increasing industry and fan pressure for authors to have more visible profiles, in terms of twitter, Facebook, convention appearances and blogs?
It’s hard to answer that well, since I came up in 2006 when all of that was already pretty much the norm. It’s probably not easy to be a Thomas Pynchon style recluse these days. I think most authors relish it, especially the networking opportunities afforded to them in what is a very lonely and sometimes isolating profession. It’s great for readers to have such relatively easy access to authors, and for authors to see what readers are saying about their work online (if they dare to look…)
This interview was conducted as part of the 2012 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from 1 June to 8 June and archiving them at ASif!: Australian SpecFic in Focus. You can read interviews at