Writing Podcast Episode 611: Lia Hills, author of ‘The Desert Knows Her Name’, on how she wrote her first draft in two weeks using a voice software!

Meet award-winning poet, novelist, and translator Lia Hills. Lia reveals her innovative approach of narrating her novel, The Desert Knows Her Name, using voice recognition software while on location in the desert. She completed her first draft in TWO WEEKS! You’ll discover Lia’s methodology, challenges, and the profound connection between place and narrative.

You can listen to the episode below, on Apple Podcasts, on Spotify, or add the podcast RSS feed manually to your favourite podcast app.  

00:00 Introduction and host's update
02:00 Nat Newman’s writing tips
05:51 Words at Dawn writing community
08:00 Keep it simple
10:21 Useful apps for writers
12:31 Book giveaway: The Haters by Robyn Harding
14:53 Word of the week: Imbroglio
15:35 Interview with Lia Hills
27:01 Immersing in character narration
28:23 Writing in the desert
29:11 Specific writing spaces
31:50 Challenges and reflections
34:39 Community engagement and research
38:47 Editing and software tips
49:23 Future writing methods
51:17 Final thoughts and tips
53:42 Podcast conclusion and resources

Links mentioned in this episode

Writer in residence: Lia Hills

Lia Hills is an award-winning poet, novelist and translator, born and raised in Aotearoa New Zealand. Her work has been published, translated and performed around the world.

Her debut novel, The Beginner’s Guide to Living (Text, 2009), was critically acclaimed both in Australia and overseas, and was shortlisted for the Victorian, Queensland and Western Australian Premiers’ Literary Awards, and the NZ Post Book Awards. It was translated and sold into numerous countries, including Germany, Brazil, Greece and the US (Farrer, Straus & Giroux).

Lia’s second novel, The Crying Place (Allen and Unwin, 2017), was longlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award 2018 and named Book of the Month by Australian Independent Booksellers. Recipient of a Creative Victoria grant for her work on the novel, Lia travelled regularly to the centre of Australia to research and write The Crying Place, set partly in Pitjantjatjara country. As part of the process, Lia stayed in Aboriginal communities and began learning the Pitjantjatjara language.

In 2019, Lia received a Creative Victoria Creators Fund grant to work on her critically-acclaimed novel, The Desert Knows Her Name (Affirm Press, 2024). Set in the Wimmera, it is the story of a young girl who walks barefoot out of the desert, and the response to her emergence in the local community and beyond. The novel explores the erasure and re-emergence of voices, both human and nonhuman, and the silences that persist in contemporary Australia. The first draft was narrated, using voice-recognition software, over a two-week period in an abandoned farmhouse on the edge of the desert. During the writing of The Desert Knows Her Name, Lia engaged regularly with the Barengi Gadgin Land Council, the representative body of the traditional custodians of the Country on which the novel is set.

Follow Affirm Press on Twitter and Instagram.

This podcast is brought to you by the Australian Writers' Centre and our course Creative Writing Stage 1.

Find out more about your host, Valerie Khoo (@valeriekhoo on Twitter and @valeriekhoo on Instagram).

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