Good Reading : November 2010
NOVEMBER 2010 ı goodreading 23 author profile were capable of and how brutalised we have to become to make war on others. I started to become something of a pacifist. A good friend of mine who served and was wounded in Vietnam said the reason we send 19-year-olds off to war is because a man of 30 has far too many brains to put himself in that situation and do the things they have to do.' After getting by doing the jobs that life threw at him, Stephen decided to stop working full-time and concentrate on his writing. 'I remember saying to my wife when I left full-time employment, "If you leap the net will appear." The look on her face will remain with me forever.' Stephen is profoundly thankful for the backing of his wife, Sylvia, who supported him in following his dream -- even if it wasn't the most economically sound decision. As a father of five with the youngest 11 years old, it is understandable why the decision to stop working full-time was a difficult one to make. He continued to work part-time with odd jobs such as owning a market stall selling secondhand clothes and delivering newspapers at night. Once settled in Australia, Stephen studied philosophy, literature and creative writing at Murdoch University and the University of Western Australia.This is where he met Gail Jones, who mentored him while he was studying and for whom he feels a deep sense of gratitude. 'I used to hang onto her words when I was battling against all of those insecurities. She would just say "Keep going. Don't give up and believe in yourself."' he says. The result is Stephen's breathtaking debut -- Traitor. At its heart, Traitor focuses on two themes: love and the silence that sur rounds returned soldiers. As a young soldier fighting in World War I, David befriends Mahmoud -- a Turkish soldier, Sufi mystic and ultimately, the enemy. This relationship and its consequences change David forever. Labelled a traitor by his country and struggling with shellshock, David leads an isolated life as a shepherd in the New Zealand bush where he becomes lost in his memories and is considered crazy by the people around him. The story is told without quotation marks around the dialogue, and flashbacks weave in and out of the present. Stephen explains that this method is deliberate and is intended to replicate the way we remember things, and to symbolise the effects of post traumatic stress disorder. He refers to the works of Tim Winton and Cor mac McCarthy, who also use this method, explaining that he likes the way the lack of punctuation draws the reader into the nar rative. The silence that surrounds returned soldiers is a poignant and personal issue for Stephen, whose own father went to war. Expressions of emotion can be difficult for returned soldiers and Stephen recounts an experience he had trying to bond with his father. 'A friend of mine had lost his father and he said he'd never told his father he loved him,' he says. 'This stayed on my mind so I rang Dad on Father's Day and I said "I have something to tell you," and he said, "What's that, mate?" And I said, "I love you, Dad." It seemed like the silence went on for 10 years and then he said, "Did you hear Canterbury won the football last night?"' The book's theme of tolerance is certainly topical, particularly in today's social and political climate. It's easy to think that this is deliberate -- that there is a hidden message Stephen wants to express, but Stephen says this isn't the case. When asked about the inspiration behind Traitor, Stephen says he wanted to write a 'what if ' story. Already intrigued by the concept of Sufism (a mystical for m of Islam that focuses on enlightenment, love and forgiveness) and World War I, it seemed a logical step to write Traitor. Stephen takes a very poetic view of his writing, describing it as his bliss. This concept, he says, comes from Joseph Campbell, who encouraged people to 'follow their bliss'. 'I think it's more about making sense of the world. I have always wanted to be a writer and make sense of the world through words.' Stephen says he keeps notebooks of moments of inspiration and observation. 'I notice things like the colour of a woman's hair, or how a friend smiles, or the taste of a tomato,' he says. Naturally there were moments of self-doubt during the jour ney between writer and published author. 'There were times when I would walk out into the night and ask myself, "Is there anything else I can do?"' Stephen says. 'We have five children to raise and educate. If I went to university and studied law or accountancy instead of philosophy and writing, then money wouldn't be the issue it was over the years. 'But I didn't want to be a lawyer or an accountant. I wanted to write.' Although Stephen worked at his writing for 20 years, Traitor took him only 12 months to write. He attributes this feat to a back injury he sustained while moving newspapers. 'It was almost a gift from the gods so that I could write.' When he discusses what it's like to be a published author, he keeps coming back to his wife and what it means for her. 'I was so pleased. I was particularly pleased for my wife who's put up with this mad man for a long time,' he says. 'She's always been proud of me but she's particularly proud of me now. She has a small clothing boutique in Kalamunda and she tells all her friends who come into the shop about Traitor.' Traitor by Stephen Daisley is published by Text, rrp $32.95. A good friend of mine who served and was wounded in Vietnam said the reason we send 19-year-olds off to war is because a man of 30 has far too many brains to put himself in that situation.
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