This article originally appeared in print in Kill Your Darlings Issue 8, January 2012. For more great articles like this one subscribe today!

kyd_cover_issue8 Buy Issue Subscribe Shop

More like this

Malcolm Knox is one of Australia’s finest contemporary novelists. He’s also a sports writer, a ghostwriter, an essayist and a critic.

He’s published two non-fiction books, Secrets of the Jury Room (2005) and Scattered: The Inside Story of Ice in Australia (2008). For three years he was literary editor of the Sydney Morning Herald. Famously, he won a Walkley Award in 2004 for exposing Norma Khouri – author of internationally bestselling ‘memoir’ Forbidden Love – as a fraud.

Knox’s novels are richly characterised explorations of class and masculinity in contemporary Australia, portraying the disparity between complex inner lives and the composed surfaces his characters present to the world. Knox’s debut novel, Summerland (2000), is an elegant, satire-laced story about two married couples who cement their friendship during annual holidays at Sydney’s exclusive Palm Beach. In Jamaica (2007), six school friends prepare for a gruelling ocean race in third-world paradise. In The Life (2011), retired surfing champion DK tells his life – in maddeningly elusive fragments – to a biographer with ulterior motives, the fiercely protective Mo. Unreliable narrator DK and his brother Rod grew up ‘the poorest kids on the whole Goldie’, in a ramshackle Queenslander on the edge of a graveyard.

– Jo Case 

KYD: Your fourth novel, The Life, is quite different from your other novels in style. Were you feeling especially nervous about the reaction to it?

MK: Not really. I don’t really see it that way. It was such a fun book to write. While I had to work very hard to get it to where I wanted it to be, I had so much fun with it that I always thought I was ahead of the ledger: if people liked it, that would be a bonus. There are other books where it’s like you’re in a long and drawn-out trench war with this work you’re trying to get right. And you think, ‘I’ve put so much into this and it’s drawn so much angst and sweat and tears out of me – the book kind of owes me something.’ Whereas in this case, I wasn’t really thinking of it as a risky thing to do – the voice and everything. It had just been fun.

KYD: I had heard an interview in which someone asked you if DK’s voice was hard to get, which I had assumed it would be. It’s so distinctive; it takes you right inside this character’s head. You replied that it was the Australian male voice you heard all around you, so it wasn’t that difficult to get down.

MK: I had a really clear idea from the beginning of what I wanted and what that voice was. Again, I’m contrasting this with the voices in the other books that I’d done. Sometimes you don’t quite know what you want until you’re years into the project and it makes itself clear as you’re doing it, through a process of trial and error. Whereas with DK’s voice, I knew very clearly what I wanted. I wouldn’t say it was easy, because it took a great deal of drafting. The first draft I did was very quick; it was a matter of just getting what I thought was that voice down on the page. When I looked at it, I thought, ‘Oh no, I can see what you’re trying to do but this is nowhere near it.’ So I just had to chip away at it, draft after draft.

KYD: The rhythms of that voice are so distinctive too, aren’t they? The rhythms of the way DK thinks, I suppose. He thinks in patterns.

MK: I know, I modelled it on voices I hear around me, that are part of that Australian male vernacular that you hear in the surf or on building sites, or all sorts of places. But I think probably in the end that DK’s voice is just his. That patterned way owes something to his – I guess you’d call it a mental illness, whatever it is. I don’t really like to call it a mental illness. It may not be something with a diagnosis. But it felt more and more that it was becoming very particular to him.

KYD: Did the fact that you got your inspiration from the real-life Australian world surfing champion Michael Peterson ever make you think twice about putting a diagnosis in there, or were you able to separate your character from that?

MK: Michael Peterson was eventually diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and I would imagine that his subjective experience would be quite different from what DK experiences. I certainly wasn’t trying to make that inner voice faithful to what actually happened to Michael Peterson. I know there are very obvious ways in which DK is based on Michael Peterson. But the interior life is not based on Michael Peterson at all. As a writer, you’re more interested in the interior life – and the interior voice – than you are in the biographical facts.

KYD: Michael Peterson was more of a starting-off point, or a spark?

MK: Certainly the starting-off point, or the inspiration. What really interested me with Michael Peterson was that he seemed to be a character from fiction anyway. Surfers had made up all these stories about him and he made up these stories about himself. Even when he was in his prime – and certainly 30 years later, when Sean Doherty wrote his biography – nobody really knew what was fact or what was fiction when it came to Michael Peterson. I think Sean treated that really well in the biography, where he said, ‘A lot of this stuff is stuff that’s just said about MP, and long ago the line between fact and fiction was lost. This is kind of a story about folklore rather than a biography.’ It was a starting point for me, but it was a starting point about a whole subculture – how people embroider stories. I was thinking,

‘What is it about this kind of character that makes him an instant figure of legend-making? What was it about that story that tapped into a kind of universal idea?’

KYD: I thought that was really fascinating actually, the way that DK is so complicit – and active – in his legend-making. And at the same time, that fame both attracts and repels him.

MK: Yeah, it’s a story of hubris. That’s a really old story: the person who is complicit in myth-making and starts to believe his own mythology and that belief leads to his undoing. When I talk about the universal elements of the Michael Peterson story, that’s one of them. That kind of self-invention.

KYD: There is obviously something in us that wants to see something magical – or extra special, or mystical – about these people and their abilities. One of the things I liked in the book was the parallel perspective of surfing as science and as religion. Outsiders see DK as being ‘magic’ but then we see inside his head. Rather he’s very carefully and methodically gone about achieving his success.

MK: Yeah. They’re the two faces of things. A very common reaction to Tim Winton’s Breath is that he rendered very atmospherically and beautifully one of those faces – which is the mystical search involved in surfing and the quasi-spiritual side of surfing. And that probably goes back to where he comes from and the way boys like that discover nature and surfing in Western Australia. But on the east coast, the experience of surf is totally different. It’s much more competitive and much more utilitarian. You go out into the waves to get a certain number for yourself, you compete with others to get them. So it’s not a dialogue between you and nature. It’s a dialogue between you and all the other people who are trying to extract a scarce resource.

KYD: So if they caught a wave, they’re taking your wave, as DK sees it?

MK: Yeah. I think up and down the east coast in the urban centres, that is the fundamental surf experience: a competitive one.

KYD: I found that really fascinating – the competitive rather than mystical view of surfing. I was going to ask where you are on the divide.

MK: I’m not a lifelong surfer. I’m a lifelong beach-goer and body surfer, but I came to board-riding fairly late, so my experience of it is probably conditioned by the age at which I came to it: the sense of urgency you have when you come to it a bit older. And I’m conditioned by where I live, which is Sydney. I can see the spiritual in surfing, but often you only see it on ref lection, or incidentally. For anybody around me, it never seems to be the point of doing it. When you’re drifting off to sleep, you can see the beauty of the sunrise or sunset.

KYD: So, when DK says ‘what surfing community’…

MK: Yeah. With surfers… That’s really struck me, how many have said to me, ‘You’ve got what it’s really like. All that soul stuff is romantic baloney.’

KYD: Your writing is so layered. There’s not just one thing going on, there are all sorts of ideas in there. One thing I liked about The Life was the focus on that massive amount of focus and hard work that DK puts into surfing. He’s naturally talented, but it’s the hard work that makes him so successful and when his effort and focus falls away, so does his achievement. In particular, one line: ‘Nobody caught more waves than Dennis [DK], but also nobody wiped out more than Dennis.’ I wondered if that was an element you were keen to put in there?

MK: Again, I don’t know how to elaborate on that any more than what you’ve just said, but it’s another of those little dichotomies that runs through: that mingling of talent and effort. I wasn’t brought up religiously, even though I went to Sunday School and stuff. I didn’t have what you’d call a religious upbringing. But I was from a family who were Presbyterian, probably going back generations. It’s in your DNA. You could call that a Presbyterian way of looking at the world, to recognise that importance of effort and the reward of effort and the virtue of effort. Again, you say to your kids, ‘I don’t really care if you get it right or not or what the outcome is, as long as you give it a go.’ I think that’s the same thing. I probably bring in a Presbyterian view of the world without knowing it.

KYD: I’m not the first person to say this, but class is so central to your novels. Whether you’re exploring the moneyed upper classes in Summerland and Jamaica, the North Shore upper-middle-class of A Private Man, or DK’s very working-class world, you explore the intricacies and dynamics within these groups, as well as what marks them. And like Richard in your first novel Summerland and Nayce in your third, Jamaica, you come from a middle-class background but went to a wealthy private school, giving you an entree into a more moneyed world. I wondered if you think that status of being an insider but also an onlooker helped prepare you to become a writer, or influenced you as a writer?

MK: I think when I was a kid, I saw myself much more as an insider. I was very involved in my school and at sport and did well and was very happy. And I think the more like that you are, the less likely you are to be a writer. Because you’re getting everything you want from what you’re doing. It was probably only after I left that I became aware of an undercurrent of feeling like an outsider. And part of that is superimposed retrospectively. I felt much more like an outsider as I became an adult, because I didn’t want to continue in that world. I didn’t want to be reliving my private-school childhood over and over – as I would have if I became a partner in a law firm, or a barrister, or a medical professional or something like that. So probably as I started to feel more like an outsider as an adult, I was asking myself, ‘Did I also feel like that as a kid?’ And Summerland, I would say, was some kind of fumbling attempt to make sense of that. And, I guess, to ask myself in a very symbolic way, ‘Was I really the insider I thought I was, or was I lying to myself as a kid?’

KYD: Regarding what you said before, that you didn’t want to end up reliving your private-school childhood, it seems to me that that’s what ends up happening to the characters in Summerland and Jamaica – they relive that childhood over and over. Was that a way of exploring an alternative way things could have gone for you?

MK: Yes, definitely in both of those books. I made a very conscious decision: I can see the way this is going, I can see the way my life is going and I don’t want it to. So I’m going to strike out and take a few risks and get off the track that I’m on. Certainly Summerland was me – I was about 32 when I started writing that – looking back 12 or 13 years and thinking, ‘What would things have looked like if I hadn’t made that decision at the age of 19 or 20?’ And Jamaica was, I suppose, a matter of picking up similar kinds of characters a few years later.

KYD: In the last week, I’ve re-read your four novels and afterwards it seemed to me that a couple of thematic pairs emerged: Summerland and Jamaica, and A Private Man and The Life. Do you see them in that way?

MK: Now I’m waiting for you to tell me.

KYD: I can if you want…

MK: We were talking about giving a diagnosis before – now you can diagnose my mental illness.

KYD: [Laughs] Jamaica and Summerland both explored the moneyed upper class and as you say, charted the same milieu. And both featured central characters who were boyhood friends who grew up summering on Palm Beach. The way their childhood and upbringing affects who they are as adults was central. And A Private Man and The Life both looked at the disjunct between celebrity and the private self, and both explored that world of elite sportsmen from the inside. I wondered if you saw those pairs of books as talking to each other at all? I wondered if maybe an idea for one book sometimes sparks something later in another?

MK: I hope so.

KYD: Otherwise you get a bit stuck, I guess.

MK: I don’t think about those books and have never thought about them very much after I’ve done them. And I’ve never read any of them.

KYD: Really?

MK: Yeah. So I think you’re at an advantage in that you can kind of see them and analyse them, which I’ve never done. I’ll say one thing, and I don’t know if this answers your question or not, but it might in a way. If you’d asked me when I was 30 – I’m 45 now – ‘Are you adventurous? Have you had a wide range of experience?’ When I was about 30, I would have said definitely. ‘I’ve been overseas, I’ve done this, I’ve done that. I’ve certainly broken free of the course I was on, and while I’ve had a pretty insular first 18 or 19 years, I’ve had a very adventurous and broadly experienced second 12 or 13 years.’ But if you asked me now, I’d say the opposite. I’ve had a fairly small life, and the things that really interest me in fiction are the things where I go deep rather than go broad. And again this was kind of a decision I made in my early or mid 30s. I’d lived overseas a bit and done a few things, and I thought, as a writer, ‘Am I going to be one of those writers who brings a broad knowledge of the world and different countries and different culture and different people to my work? Or am I going to be a writer who digs down and knows their own patch really, really well?’ And I thought I was the latter rather than the former. Life circumstances play into this as well. When you’ve had children, you tend not to want to move around as much, for their sake. I think there was some kind of turning point where I felt I had ranged around the world quite a lot and I had this kind of counter- reaction, where I thought, ‘No, the best writers are those who drill down into the particular of their world and find something universal in that.’

KYD: I agree with that. I wonder if this is something to do with that idea that the more you know, the more you know you don’t know.

MK: I hope it’s something really wise like that. I hope it’s not just that I’m giving up on adventure.

KYD: Surely you can’t – or very few people – can do both, range wide and go deep.

MK: Yeah. And you start to put other people’s priorities above your own. I’ve been with my partner – we’re married – for 16 years. Since 1995, considering what she wants has been a really huge influence on me. And later, having children and considering what they want. They’re the really important things in life. They’re more important than writing. What you are as a writer then follows those decisions. And if you want to look at it as a glass half-full, I think all of these things that I’ve done with their welfare in mind have also strengthened me as a writer.

KYD: I’m sure that is the case.

MK: I hope it’s the case, but if it’s not I don’t care, because they are more important than books.

KYD: I like that idea that you be who you have to be as a human being first and who you are as a writer comes from that, rather than the other way around.

MK: I once read something by Ian McEwan – I think it was a character of his saying this rather than Ian McEwan himself – but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was about himself. He was talking about how in his early adulthood he spent so long taking notes as he was doing things and reshaping them into fiction that he forgot to experience them. He forgot to live his own youth, because he was so precocious as an artist. And I think there’s a lot of sense in that. There are probably a lot of writers who look back at various stages of their life and think, I forgot to live, there.

KYD: Absolutely. Or alternatively, when you’re looking back on parts of your life that you want to write about, and you think ‘I have no notes.’ And you realise, it’s because you were too busy.

MK: That’s me. I’m constantly giving myself a smack on the wrists: ‘You’re so bloody lazy!’

KYD: Do you keep a journal or a notebook?

MK: No, I used to and I have gone through periods where I do, but as a general practice I’m not a journal-keeper or note-taker. Often I move back into it when I’m writing. When I’m in the middle of writing fiction, I’ll start to look around at the world very sharply, through the eyes of whoever the fictional creation is, and take a lot of notes. In the instance of DK, I’ll think, ‘How would he be seeing this, and how would he remember a comment like that?’ So I become a note-taker again when I’m in DK’s head. But otherwise, no.

KYD: Like you say, part of that’s also about the time you’ve got. I remember hearing Christos Tsiolkas talk a couple of years ago and he was asked that kind of question. And I remember him saying that he keeps a daily diary and he keeps a notebook of all his observations and writes all the time – and I think at the time he was also working part-time as a vet nurse. I thought, ‘That sounds perfect, but how could you do all that at once?’

MK: Well, Christos is a very hard worker and he doesn’t have kids.

KYD: I’ll remember that when I want to feel better about it.

MK: A lot of these things, you answer them very differently depending on whether you have children or not.

KYD: Yes. It’s interesting that you don’t often hear male writers bringing in the fact of having children as a context for how they work. It’s kind of nice that you do.

MK: Well, I don’t know, maybe for some male writers writing is a little bubble they have to preserve against the demands of children. It hasn’t been that way for me, because of our circumstances. I do a lot of the child-rearing and always have. I spend a lot of time with them. Maybe for the first year or so I was fighting to defend this little writing bubble against them, but then I gave up. Because I had to give up. And I hope – this is that little glass half-full view – that it has enriched me as a writer. But again, if it doesn’t, I don’t care. I’d rather be a good father than a good novelist.

KYD: That’s good to hear, too.

MK: Well, if you think about the consequences… I’m not trying to be beautiful about it, but if you write a bad book, what’s the worst thing that can happen? It gets some nasty reviews and your publisher might fall out of love with you. But that’s not much of a consequence compared with the price you pay for doing a bad job as a parent.

KYD: Absolutely. Well, that hands-on experience explains how you managed to write that section in Jamaica, about Pen going through the hell of international f lights alone with two little kids, on her way to join her husband and his friends in Jamaica. How you managed to empathise and get the details so well.

MK: Yeah. [Laughs]

KYD: Obviously everyone drops the ball with parenting to some extent at some point. But one thing that really interests me in your writing is – with your character of the black sheep brother Hammett in A Private Man and also Rod, DK’s overshadowed brother in The Life – that idea of what can happen when parents do drop the ball in a big way, or have a marked preference for one of their children.

MK: I think I’ll probably be thinking more and more about that in the future. And that may answer your question earlier about common threads running through my books. I’m very interested in the failings of being a parent and the consequences of those failings. I won’t say it’s the greatest failure you can make as a parent, but a great failure you can make is favouritism. Kids are always going to feel at one point or the other that the other ones are the favourites and they’re not. It’s something in families that fascinates me: the idea of a pecking order. The idea of unspoken alliances and the politics of the family.

When I wrote A Private Man, I hadn’t had children yet, so I don’t know what I was thinking. I was probably thinking about myself as a son. I do remember that while I was writing – during that period – we were expecting our first child. We had both of our children really close together and we’d had both of them by the time it came out. So yeah, I probably was thinking a lot about the pitfalls of parenthood, even though I hadn’t had any experience of it yet.

KYD: You’re a sportswriter and sport features heavily in your novels.

MK: This is strange coming from an Australian, but I do feel that sport is as meaningful and worthy a field of endeavour as painting or music. In Australia, because sports have been so dominant in our culture, there’s a real reaction against it in the community. The arts is all about being anti-sport. ‘Keep our world pure from the thuggish, mindless, popular juggernaut that has overtaken Australian culture.’ I can see why that would have been important to people a generation or two ago. But I have a strong feeling that we should have grown out of that. Prejudice against sport is as silly as prejudice against the arts.

I’m not actually writing to make that point. I bring it into my writing because maybe it’s something that I can do that nobody else has done. I have sporting characters because I feel I can contribute some kind of insight that nobody else is contributing.

KYD: I have to confess that I actually hate sport, but I love your books and it doesn’t bother me at all. I think it’s probably because they’re about more than sport. If they weren’t, I wouldn’t read them.

MK: Look, I’m very glad to hear that because the experience of reading fiction is a journey of some kind and it can be a journey beyond your hatreds. I hate murderers, but Crime and Punishment is one of the best books I’ve ever read. I hate paedophiles, and Lolita is one of the greatest reading experiences I’ve ever had. Sometimes when you’re having a bit of a battle with what you hate and the prejudices you carry going into something, sometimes that little battle can enrich the reading of a book.

KYD: Yes. I think one of the things I like most about reading your novels is that they do take on my prejudices, but challenge and interrogate them. I might not come away having a different view, but I have a different insight. For instance, the pornography strand in A Private Man, where the dying doctor father becomes obsessed with pornography and develops a secret life. And the characters in Jamaica – Pongrass and Blackman, the obnoxious former Olympic athletes and very wealthy ex-private school boys – I felt sick reading some of those passages featuring them. I had no idea what they were talking about when they were talking about ‘fronties’ all the time. And then I saw the term ‘frontbums’ and realised that was what they were calling women, and I thought, ‘ohhhhh’. Is that something that interests you in your writing, getting people to look at things like that in a different way?

MK: Oh yeah. I want to bring the news to people. I’ll get readers who were at a private school, or somewhere like Sydney University (where I went), and they’ll say, ‘I knew about those kinds of people and I knew they were there but I never paid them much mind. Now you’ve told me what was going on – that’s pretty shattering.’ Or whatever their reaction is. It’s the reader’s world, but it’s also not the reader’s world.

Take The Slap. You hear people say, ‘Everybody in The Slap, they’re too unlikeable.’ It’s a reaction that is so hostile to the spirit of fiction. When I watched The Slap on TV, part of me thinks, ‘If that happened in my world, if it got to the point where someone slapped somebody else’s kid, well, you know, you’d all sit down and resolve it in about half an hour. It might cause some lingering bad feelings, but it wouldn’t turn into a 600-page novel, because the people I know are pretty sensible. They have an underlying goodwill towards each other and even if some people did get very stirred up by that, it’d settle down.’

But that’s not the point. My personal experience is not what Christos’s novel is about. It might not even be about his experience, it might not even be about anyone’s experience. It’s a dramatisation of the potential among people and a way of getting us to think. When people put themselves into a story by saying, ‘That is not my story. Those people are horrible people…’ – if that’s your view of fiction, you’re going to miss out on all the best that fiction has to offer.

KYD: I read that you had written several manuscripts before Summerland.

MK: The poor abandoned babies.

KYD: Were they things you’d finished writing and you thought that’s not quite right and put them aside? Had you sent them out at all?

MK: Oh no, I never sent them out. It wasn’t even that I looked at them and thought they were not quite right. What happened at that stage – I was in my twenties – was that I’d get a great enthusiasm for a novel, I’d write it, I would get to a certain stage about half or two-thirds of the way through and then I’d start getting excited about something else. It’s that Presbyterian thing, I guess. I would stick to the job and finish it and make sure I finished a first draft. But in the last third of this process, I’d be thinking about the next thing I was going to do. So it would be just a relief to get this one done so I could start on the next one. I didn’t redraft them. I didn’t look at them again. I just put them aside. I guess deep down I knew they weren’t any good. But mainly I was too excited about the next thing.

KYD: So is the difference that Summerland excited you right to the end and into the next draft?

MK: I don’t know why that one survived. It might just have been a matter of timing. When I was writing Summerland, I happened to meet a publisher who was interested in what I had done. And that happened to be the one that I was doing at the time. And I just knew it was better than those other things I’d discarded before. I guess it was a combination of luck and somebody else’s interest.

KYD: You wrote Summerland in conversation with another novel, Ford Madox Ford’s The Good Soldier. Do you think having that frame of reference helped in a way? I was just thinking that, writing a first novel, it would be useful to have a structure to refer to, even if you are doing it in a very different way.

MK: Yeah. Maybe that was the reason it kind of got through – that I had a bit of a splint there to hold it together while it was forming.

KYD: It must take a bit of stamina to keep on writing and writing before you get to that manuscript that takes off. How did you not give up earlier on?

MK: Ohhhh… Stupidity? When I was 20 or 21, I dropped out of law school. I was doing a law degree and I didn’t want to be a lawyer; I wanted to write novels. So I dropped out. And I thought, ‘If I don’t get a novel published in three years, I’ll go back and resume my law degree. That should be enough.’ And it took me 14 years to get something published. But I was probably in so far… I was like a gambler who keeps throwing good money after bad. I was too committed to turn back and I couldn’t accept the idea of failing, even though the evidence of my failure was right before my eyes for many, many years. I probably just didn’t want to accept that and ploughed ahead.

KYD: The fact that you were writing and being published and doing well at the Sydney Morning Herald before that must have been a help – you could obviously write well.

MK: That only came part of the way through. I was about 28 when I started at the Herald. There was eight years of doing this – of writing fiction and not getting published – before I started at the Herald. And I think from about age 25, 26, I got a couple of articles published in golf magazines. There was a really nice guy who was the editor of Golf Australia who gave me a break. And that was the only thing I’d had published. So, I didn’t have a sense of, ‘I can write at least and I know how to communicate with an audience.’ I was just way out there on the ignored fringes, thinking, ‘Nobody’s ever going to hear from me. All these evil agents and publishers, they never let anyone through the gates. I hate them all.’

KYD: Did you feel a bit like Pup – the long-suffering aspiring writer in Summerland – then?

MK: Yeah, yeah. You know, clearly now I look back and think that was a great period for me. It made me dig in – and if it was me against the publishing world, I was going to back me. That’s very important in the formation of a writer. At the time it was awful. I was trying to live my life doing sort-of jobs and convincing myself I was on the right track.

I think at the time I also had a very pure idea of literature and the importance of literature. I couldn’t say, I’m getting stuff published, so it’s worthwhile doing. I’m building some career or whatever. I had none of that. So what I had to fall back on was a very strong belief in writing something like Middlemarch or The Magic Mountain. The really great novels that I hold close to my heart. I had a fervent belief that this was the most worthwhile thing that anybody could do. I was never more fervent than in those years when I was unpublished.

KYD: You were writing novels at the same time as working as literary editor of the Sydney Morning Herald. I wondered if that was a strange situation – writing and publishing novels, having worked or working as a literary editor or reviewer.

MK: The novel that falls into that period is Jamaica. This thing that I was doing was ingrained in me for much longer than this job of being literary editor – which I only did for three and a half years. I didn’t think this affects Jamaica so much, but I thought it would affect me in the future. That sense of being over-connected. I reckon booksellers would feel a bit the same. They’re so connected with the commerce of bookselling. You just can’t help the magic being rubbed off – and you need a sense of magic to put yourself through the marathon of writing a novel. You need a bit of magic, you need a bit of delusion. For a literary journalist or literary editor, it sort of strips your capacity for delusion away. You become very knowledgeable about what people are doing, what’s selling. None of that is good for you as a novelist.

KYD: I imagine it might be hard to get into the headspace of a writer too, to turn off that analytical part of your brain.

MK: Yeah. And you’re reading too much as well. And as you would know, you’re not reading in that very special way, you’re reading in a very fast way. Your reading habits get degraded. I’d like to think it didn’t affect Jamaica that much. But I could feel that this was bad for my writing and that I needed to be more isolated.

KYD: You needed a bit of distance from that world?

MK: Yeah.

KYD: There’s so much more I’d love to ask you, but I’ll leave it there. Thank you so much for your time.

MK: Thank you. It’s been enjoyable.