Posie Graeme-Evans: Author and screenwriter

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image-posiegraemeevans200Posie Graeme-Evans is an author, screenwriter, television producer and lyricist. Her most recent novel is The Dressmaker. She is also the author of the historical romance trilogy – The Innocent, The Exiled and The Beloved – set in medieval England.

Posie was the creator and producer of one of Australia’s best-loved drama series, McLeod’s Daughters, and the co-creator of Hi-5. In 2002 she became the Director of Drama at Channel 9 but left that post three years later to write full-time.

She also has a production company, Millenium Pictures, which she runs with her husband and creative partner, Andrew Blaxland.

Click play to listen. Running time: 43.54

The Dressmaker

Transcript

* Please note these transcripts have been edited for readability

Valerie
Posie, thanks for joining us today.

Posie
It’s my pleasure.

Valerie
You’ve spent a long time in television, creating and producing very successful shows, then you’ve moved into full time writing. Can you tell us why you decided you wanted to do that?

Posie
Part of it was a conscious decision and part of it was it basically chose me, I think. For really quite a long time, from probably I reckon about ’97, ’98 when I was really seriously starting work on my first book I ran the first three books in parallel to my work in television.

Valerie
Right.

Posie
Well, no I just did it. In fact I used to write once a week. I used to write on Sundays.

In a way it was an antidote to the very structured world of film and television writing… well, it was an absolute antidote. It was just me. Film and television is a group activity, and you’ve got people around a table… and anyway…

It sort of dawned on me slowly that I was just more interested in having, I don’t know, a more reflective time in my life. It also coincided… we’re talking to you from a tiny little place in Tasmania, which Andrew, well, actually husband and I had for the last three or four years. We used to come down for long weekends from Sydney, but it was never enough for me because I liked being here.

Valerie
Right.

Posie
It’s just got a beautiful view and the weather is much more dramatic. It’s just a different climate. I like it more. I just ended up being sorry to go back to Sydney every time we got on the plane.

Andrew was very good about it. To give you the full story, after McLeod’s Daughters finished, which it did in 2008, we joined forces with Freemantle, who are terrific, run a couple of Irish brothers. Great fun. We had not done that before, we did it because we wanted to work with them.

It kind of coincided with the time that really all the networks were looking at developing and making cop shows, and that’s not my knack there, it really isn’t. I find really that I’m just interested in a broader scope to story telling. It’s wonderful in books you can write anything you like. You can write explosions, you can write riots, you can write buildings burning down, and no one says, “No, we can’t shoot that for the money.” So, I just do it.

Valerie
Great.

The first book then, where did the seed of that idea come from? How did that develop?

Posie
Someone told me afterwards who really knows what they are talking about, that book had probably been brewing for twenty odd years. I think they were right. The reason is this, I’ve always read history. I’m really interested in the lives of other people in the past, not because I think they’re different from us, but I’m just interested in other times, other places, and what they ate, and what they wore, and all of that stuff.

Really, I think the true inspiration for those books, apart from the fact that I like reading history, came from the fact that they’re trilogy, set in medieval England. I had the most inspired professor of English when I was at Flinders University in South Australia. I did English, Drama, and Fine Arts. A wonderful man, really, a great scholar called Ralph Elliot was the professor of English, Dean of humanities.

Small university. I got to know him and his family quite well. He had that glorious knack and I really mean it. Sitting in his lectures was just a joy. He was very funny. He had a really deep knowledge of medieval and North literature. If I liked it before, and I did. I always like Chaucer for instance, McCutcher people like that. It came alive, you know?

Valerie
Right.

Posie
I think Ralph Elliot planted the seed. I thought for a while because I so admired him I wanted to be an academic. I would have gone nuts as an academic, as I now know, because that’s not me at all. But, it was the story telling.

Valerie
Right.


Posie

He showed me, and not just me, everybody who listened to him, worked with him, he showed us the beginnings of story telling and that combined with a love of history… who knows, things just stay with you.

Valerie
Did you know at the time it was going to end up being a trilogy?

Posie
No. No. No.

Valerie
When did you start writing?

Posie
I’ll tell you the story, and this is really true. This nearly killed me. How it came to be a trilogy is I was in New York December of the year 2000, just after the Olympics. We were there the first week of December, things always happen to be in the first week of December. We were there to pull together the last bit of money that we needed to roll a series of McLeods.

I pitched it sort of ’92, ’93 to the network and it had taken a long time. It didn’t roll for nine years after I pitched it. It was a long story. I think they were worried that a series just about women, people wouldn’t want to watch it. Anyway, there we were in New York, me and the woman who ran Southern Star distribution, Kathy Paine.
I had interest out of Simon and Schuster in New York, by the great kindness of friend who had sent off the manuscript for the first book and they come back saying they were interested. But then it had all grown cold. The trip to New York was an unexpected thing. I hadn’t gotten it together to contact their office, and through the office of Judith Kerr got there to New York. Staying in the hotel, we were there for I think three days, two days in New York. We had to go to Washington and then the last day we were back in New York and we were going to fly out.

When I got there I ran into Judith’s office to be told she was out of town. I said, “Oh, yes of course. Don’t worry. Don’t worry.” I was so embarrassed and falling over myself. Her assistant said, “Can I tell her you call?” “Oh, no. Look, it’s alright. It’s alright.” “Well, who is it?” “Oh, it’s just Posie from Australia.” I got off the phone as fast as I could, because I was so embarrassed and felt like such a twit.

Anyway, so I got on with what we did, and you know I was running around like a mad thing, doing all these meetings. I got back to New York on the third or fourth day, whatever it is the last day, to the hotel to find all of these messages. “Please ring Judith Kerr.” “Ring Judith Kerr’s office.” “Please ring Judith Kerr.”

Valerie
Oh. Wow.


Posie

The assistant had been ringing for a couple of days. That’s what happened. I finally got to see Judith the late morning of the day that we were flying out. It was literally drop into her office for half an hour and get back in the car and go to the airport. But, that morning before I walked into her office I had just heard we’d finally, finally got the money for McLeods, so I’m reeling and so excited. I got into her office and she goes, “No, no. We do want to do the book, but you know what? I think it’s a trilogy. What do you think?”

Valerie
Oh my God.


Posie

So, listen it’s true, I fell onto the plane and got drunk. I flew home completely drunk because those were the two things I had been hanging out for, for years. It came true on one morning.

Valerie
That’s fantastic.

Posie
Yeah, but I didn’t know what I was going to do.

Valerie
No, to fit it all in.

Posie
Yep.

Valerie
Have you had another day like that?

Posie
I think I have had. Yes, one or two. I think the night the night that McLeod finally went to air and it sort of burnt the screens down ratings-wise was wonderful after years and years of people just never believing a word. That was pretty good.

Anyway,yeah.

Valerie
Then you proceeded to write on Sundays for the rest of the time?


Posie

Yeah.

Valerie
Did you give yourself a target of a number of words you needed to do?

Posie
I knew that I could probably do about ten pages in an afternoon.

Valerie
Right.

Posie
Which is about 4,000, 5,000 words, something like that. I would sit down around one o’clock and if I couldn’t make it on a Sunday I’d do it on a Saturday, but one day a week. I would reread what I had written the week before, then write another ten pages. The biggest task was to resist editing, just to clean it up. You know, just clean it up and move on.

That’s a big task because you can, I think any writer sits down, if you sit down with what you’ve written the week before, or the day before, or when ever the hell you go, “Oh, God.” The temptation is to rewrite from top to bottom, or it is for me.

Look, I learned, and what was interesting for me about my first three books is they just fell out of the ends of my fingers. Just to go back to what my friend had said to me, I think it’s true, I’d been mulling on these things for so long in a way that I’d been doing mentally all sorts of unconscious work on the story and the characters. When I finally came to write I didn’t plot, it just ran out of the ends of my fingers onto the page.

Valerie
Wow.

Posie
No, it really did. Unfortunately because of television, you know, television is a disciplined fast turnaround medium. Because I had no escape, I had to do it, and I wanted to do it anyway. I didn’t not want to do it, and the stakes were very high. I really, really wanted to do it well.

I just came to suppress the panic and do it. That’s been the story of my life. Terror has always been the most extraordinary spur.

Valerie
Presumably because of the period that they’re set in they would actually require quite a bit of research, but if you’re actually doing it in the way you’ve described it doesn’t sound like there would have been much time for that kind of research.

Posie
Well, no. But, that’s the twenty years, you see? For twenty years, probably more in the period that I’d sort of finished my degree at university, which is sort of mid ‘70s. This was mid-‘90s when I really began to dribble around with the first kind of hundred pages. It took me two years to get that first draft together, two more years before the draft that Judith saw.

Valerie
Wow.

Posie
Then they wanted another draft and all the rest of it. Then I really had to do it.

I had read, and read, and read… I used to- I still do, you know? I enjoy reading straight history as much as I enjoy reading novels, stories. There are great books like A World Lit Only by Fire, by Retookman, Allison Weire [assumed spelling] for God’s sake. There’s a wonderful woman called Liza Picard who writes- she’s written a great book Elizabeth’s London, and she’s written a book about Jacobean London, and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

The list is endless. I just read, and read, and read, and read, for pleasure.

Valerie
Right.

Posie
When you read for pleasure rather than just duty stuff sticks. For sure, for sure, for sure, for sure, once I had drafts I always had to go back and check, but mostly I didn’t let the need to research something specific slow me down. I’d just write it and then I would go back and make sure that if I was talking-

I’d discovered wonderful factoids that I really adored, you know? Like the first bath in England that had running water was in Windsor Castle and it was put there by Richard II. You know? I just love that stuff. As stupid as it sounds. You have to resist it though, people don’t read books for ridiculous bits of research.

Valerie
For the factoids, no.

Your first trilogy then was set in medieval England.

Posie
It was.

Valerie
Your most recent novel, The Dressmaker, is set in the Victorian era. Tell us about The Dressmaker and how that started formulating in your head, and what it’s about and everything.

Posie
People say, “Why don’t you write contemporary books, and I have no idea why I don’t at the moment write cotemporary books. I’m just not attracted so much, but the one I’m currently writing is set- I’ll talk about that in a minute- it’s set about 1200 years ago in at the present. So, I’m getting it.

Valerie
Right.

Posie
The Dressmaker started out life, it’s bizarre, here we go. I had been the director of drama at Nine for three years. After Kerry Packer died and David  Gyngell – the first time, I’d gone there to work with David, and Kerry offered me the job. I was excited to be there, but it was going through terrible turmoil, and stuff that nobody in their right mind would have found very easy to deal with. After three years I had enough.

Judith offered me a new two book deal on the back of the three other books. I was delighted to accept it, and it was a safety net. I could jump onto that and get out the door and still make McLeods, and start to work with Freemantle, and blah, blah, blah. So, off I went. That’s what I did.

I started a book, the one that I’m actually writing now, that I had so much wanted to write, which was this two time period book. It’s called The Island House, which I hope to have finished in about February now, probably.

Because I was personally, honestly in a state of turmoil, because that job had sort of done my head in, in lots of ways, fair enough because that’s the nature of them. I plunged in like a twit and wrote full steam ahead, but I wrote myself into sand on The Island House, and lost all faith and belief, but I think I understand that now that was more about my head. I hope it wasn’t so much about the book.

Valerie
Right.

Posie
I had very understanding publishers. When I ran into sand on The Island House it coincided with the time they were putting together an anthology of story stories. They asked me to put a short story, and I was delighted to do it, because it was like turning away from the slog, and again, when something flows it’s a delight.

A short-story was just not a medium that I’ve done much work in. This one just rolled out of my hands again. It was called The Last of the Carsholts, and it was sort of a Victorian Gothic about a very silly girl who had a very inflated opinion of herself, who gets invited to stay at a country house and gets a short, sharp lesson in compassion, really.

It was set in Victorian times. It’s not a period that I really thought about writing, but when I ran into sand with The Island House I said, “I have another idea for another story,” which at that time was called Ellen Gowan [assumed spelling; 15:52]. I sat out to write that with their blessing, and it took really- it’s nearly four years later because I started that blimely- well, no it’s not. It’s three years later. Mid-2007. It took a very, very long time for me actually with this book, and I started again a second draft.

I have a very tough editor and she looked at me with beady eyes- this was when the manuscript was big enough to stand on and get things done from a top shelf. She said, “It’s not working. Start again.” God, that was tough, but she was right. I thought I was writing one book about- I thought I was writing a story about two characters, in fact the person who the book was really about was one of the two characters. Once I saw that I understood.

Anyway, so it’s taken me a long time. It’s been what’s best described as a muscular process. I’m happy with it now. I feel like all the struggle and confusion actually was worth it because sometimes periods of real adversity strip you right down, you know? You lose all certainty, all assurity. That’s not a bad thing sometimes. I mean not a bad thing in hindsight. It’s horrible at the time.

Valerie
Yes. At the time when the editor is saying to you, “It’s not working,” and you realize, “Oh my God, I have to start again,” where do you start? How did you figure out what went wrong, or what you had to redo? How did you go through that process?

Posie
I was devastated. I was really, really, really upset.

Valerie
Sure.

Posie
I cried bitter tears, because I mean the truth is because my writing work, with actually had a formative effective, because it’s really one of the reasons I write full time now rather than fitting it around other stuff. You give up a lot if you’re writing and working. All those writers who write at night when their children are asleep, or try to fit it around hugely busy days, you do give up a lot. You do give up a lot of your life, you know?

Actual going out, and sitting down, and talking to friends, and those things. So, I was really, really, distraught. I didn’t want to do it. I didn’t want to do it.

Valerie
Right.

Posie
I thought, “OK, three books is enough. I’m out of here, this is stupid.”

Valerie
Yeah.

Posie
But Nicola O’Shea, who is my Australian editor, is very good.

I’m used to working- television is a wonderfully collaborative medium. When something is not working you can sit around a table with other people and you can discuss it. Things get taken apart and put back together around that table. It’s very tough for the actual writer. If you’ve got good people around that table, if you’ve got a very fast turnaround looming on a series I think you end up with a better script. It’s a very, again, a very muscular process.

I had to learn to ask for help, because I wanted to do it all myself. I mean the good thing about an editor like Nicola is she gives me I think fantastic notes. Now, ‘notes’ is so abused as a feedback process. ‘Notes’ in Hollywood is almost guaranteed to be crap, because people have got to earn their money. They’ll say, “You need to do ‘X’, ‘Y’, and ‘Z’,” because they think they need to be seen doing something in film and television. I think sometimes it’s so subjective.

The thing about Nicola is she’s- I think she’s a great structuralist.

Valerie
Right.

Posie
One of the things she was able to point out to me was where the structure wasn’t standing up. She said good things to me like, “This…” she knows how to talk to writers. Seriously working with Nicola I found a whole lot more what it’s like to be on the receiving end as a writer, after a lifetime of being the one dishing out the comments.

Valerie
Yes.

Posie
You’re a snail without a shell when someone says something casually and drops acid on you. You just want to curl up and get under the bed and die.

Valerie
Yes.

Posie
She does understand that, but she also understands how to say things that need to be said. If you want it to work you’ve probably got to listen. I’ve found her relationship a lifeline. She’s a structuralist. She’s going at doing that. She’s good at saying, “Look, I believe this character, and I don’t believe this character for the following reasons…”

Now, those are the sorts of notes that work best for me, because it gives me something to embrace, but also something to react against, which means that I can agree or disagree. I can foraminate, and stamp up and down, and do whatever. I don’t do it in front of her, but, you know pace up and down and go, “Oh, that’s crap. That’s rubbish. That’s nonsense. That’s really good.” Then you have to think about it and you go, “Maybe it’s not.”

To me, I mean I know some people like to work and just do the whole book and get one lot of feedback. I don’t. I get draft by draft feedback. I like it like that. The at the moment that stuff which is just sort of private to her and me. This is the other lesson that I’ve learnt, I’m used to reading work stage by stage. My training has equipped me to say, “It’s the first draft. It’s not a polish. It’s not the end of the process, it’s the beginning.”

I believe I genuinely understand when something is on the way. The first draft in my case is often this sort of saggy, baggy sketch, so is the second draft too. You’re still trying out a lot stuff. I’ve learnt to forgive myself a bit more. The third draft has to be about narrowing in nailing the characters. Then for me the fourth draft is all about making sure that the action is clear as possible, because I have a terrible tendency- I love words- to overwrite. I just do. If I can have six words where one would probably do I’ll try to bundle the six words in. That’s a big, tough one for me.

What I’ve learned is that not all publishers get that. They’re quite flummoxed if you send them something that you’ve got as a work in process, and that you would like to discuss with them. They don’t have the time. That was the biggest lesson. They just want the thing that’s publishable, even if it goes through another draft. They want to feel reassured that what they have is a real book, not a book that is becoming a book.

In hindsight I think it was luck that enabled me to write those first three books in the fashion I did. They had so much of an underpinning to them, which made the writing process more- and also you see they’re real characters in those books, people who really did exist. Then I could interpolate the characters that I had made up amongst the action. There was a terrific spine there, or scaffolding if you like, to truly draw on.

The Dressmaker is purely fiction. There’s nobody in there who’s real at all. Maybe that made a difference as well. There’s just a whole bunch of things that  that that, alchemy you know?

Valerie
Do you think if you didn’t have such a good relationship with this particular editor, and one who you really related to her notes, will you eventually ultimately related to her notes, that you would have been able to figure out the issues yourself?

Posie
You know I ask myself that question, “Would I still be floundering in the dark?” I don’t know because this book was difficult. I hope I don’t live through that again. I mean I solved a lot of the problems myself for the first three books.

Valerie
Right.

Posie
But, I felt like a crippled with this one.

Valerie
How long did you sort of wallow before you got stuck back into it?

Posie
It was relatively short. I’m fortunate in that I have reasonable bounce back… probably a week or so.

Valerie
That’s fine.

Posie
Then I kind of got over it.

Valerie
Yes.

Posie
But, it was a bad week.

Valerie
Sure. OK.

When you are writing, whether it’s your first draft or your fourth draft, or whatever, do you have a particular writing routine? Do you have to start the day a certain way? Do you keep certain hours?

Posie
Do I have my lucky socks?

Valerie
Yes! Exactly.

Posie
Well, yes I do. I mean that sort of writing on a Sunday afternoon became such a kind of a- not a rigid thing, but such a habit that changing that has taken me a little while here in Tasmania. What I do now, since I sort of gritted my teeth and said, “No more TV this year,” I should say, or next year. I mean not to say we won’t do more at another point, but, really I wanted a period where I would just write.

I have a little bit of ground that we are planting and there’s a garden, and there’s this and that. Well, there’s not much of a garden, but there’s the beginnings of a garden. There’s endless amounts of physical work to do here- I mean physical work, like shifting rocks and digging. I’ve discovered a real passion. I do love to dig, and I do like getting very dirty. I like that.

What it seems to me I do most now is I work in the mornings-

Valerie
As in you write in the mornings?

Posie
I work outside.

Valerie
Oh, you work outside?

Posie
Yeah, work outside. Often when I’m working outside I’m kind of mulling, because when you’re doing physical work, lumping things around it’s not stuff that you have to think about in detail. You kind of set yourself on automatic pilot, and off you go. You shift the rocks where from A to B kind of thing.

Then I’ll go in and have a shower because I inevitably become completely filthy. Then I sit down somewhere around one o’clock and I’ll work through until sort of close to dinner time. That’s kind of what I do.

At the moment, because I’m now sprinting to get The Island House ready to go to the publishers at the beginning of February, I’m doing this six days a week, because all of October coming up soon is out, because there’s a book tour and I just won’t be able to write while I’m doing that.

Valerie
Do you have a word target?

Posie
Not a word target so much as page target.

Valerie
Right. Yeah.

Posie
On an edit sort of fifteen pages a day is what I’m after, fifteen to twenty pages. I’ll have a good day where I’ll do all of that and it won’t take me quite five hours. But, if I don’t have a good day and I’ve only done five or six I’m going to kill myself.

Valerie
OK.

Posie
You’ll have gathered that I’m not known either for my poker face or my serenity.

Valerie
You also write lyrics?

Posie
Yes.

Valerie
Tell us a little bit about that, and what you enjoy about it.

Posie
If people say to you that you can control your life tell them they’re dreaming, because you can make all the plans. I like to whitter on about plans, and, “I’ll do this year, and this next year…” and all the rest of it. But, in fact that’s not the way my life has ever really worked. Things have sort of turned up. Well, the songs are written like that.

I think what it was- I’d lived so long with McLeods in my head that by the time it finally rolled, and I’d spent painful years developing scripts to have them checked out by the bloody network, pardon me. They know how I feel. To start again, to do this, to do that. I really felt like I knew the characters. What I wanted to do, because Australians are laconic, I wanted the songs to be, and to be able to express, the lives of the characters. The song will tell you something the character couldn’t tell you.

I used to do a lot of traveling, because we shot in South Australia and the script office was in Sydney, because it was close to the network, and that’s where we edited, and did our sounds and the rest of it. I wrote- one song got written by another writer. It was terrific and it was in the first episode. But, I’d written the title theme with the composer, the song, the lyrics.

In the end I started writing them because it was taking so much time to get them from other people. Lyrics are like a poem. There’s something that either nails it or it doesn’t. Arrogantly enough I started to think it’s so much less trouble if I start to do it. Also, I was working with the composer, Chris Herrit [assumed spelling].

Now, Chris had also done all the music for Hi-5 and he and Andrew and I had worked actually a bunch of kids’ series in the ‘90s. We just got to know one another really well. Music is very odd. Working with a composer, it’s so hard to put into words what- you can say, “I want people to feel ‘X’ here.” Or, “I want this to energize the scene.” Or, “I want this to bridge the scene.” You can do things like that.

There’s something that goes on that’s chemical, or alchemical. Chris and I sort of understand each other, and he and I can’t- it’s hard feeding the words and what I do. I can’t put the words…

He used to say when we first started writing these, which was about 2001, he used to say that he knew if he had a song by the time by the time I faxed him a page of lyrics and he had read it all the way through, that he was hearing music in his head. Of course, after that we got onto email and all the rest of it, as times changed. But, that was formidable. He’s never backward and coming forward and saying, “No, this doesn’t work.” But, mostly it worked.

Valerie
Wow.

Posie
I’d write it on the plane. I’d get to the production office. I’d fax him the lyrics, and he’d ring me up, swear to God, five minutes later and sing me the song.

Valerie
Oh, my God!

Posie
Yeah.

Valerie
That’s magical.

Posie
Oh, yes it is. He still does it. I made a trailer for The Dressmaker, and I did. The publisher very bravely said, “Yes, let’s do it.” Obviously, there was not a lot of money. So, I called in a lot of favors. Chris was one of them. I directed it. I haven’t directed anything for twenty years. We had the best time.

I said to Chris, it’s actually like 2.5 minutes long, or something, the trailer. It forms into three little acts, really.

Valerie
Right.

Posie
He basically gave me a three movement symphony, 2.5 minutes. He just did it.

Valerie
Wow.

Obviously, creatively you’ve got this great relationship with Chris. You’ve obviously got a synergistic relationship with Nicola, your editor.

Posie
Nicola.

Valerie
Obviously when you create successful television series there’s a lot of to and fro and collaboration. What do you think then is a key to a successful creative collaboration where the sum of the parts exceed-

Posie
Is greater than- the whole- greater than whatever that is?

Valerie
Yes.

Posie
It’s different with each collaboration because with some people you will have great sympathy, fellow empathy, whatever that is. However, sometimes it’s like the piece of grit in the oyster. I mean I’ve had a couple of working relationships where it’s quite tough.

One celebrated woman, Susan Bowers, the person I’m about to name. She was the first script producer on McLeods. She and I wrestled for the soul of that show. We really did, because that’s what you do, two very competitive people in this case. But, I reckon the sum of those two parts was infinitely better than if it had just been her, or just been me, because we struck sparks off one another.

I mean we didn’t end up screaming at each other. Well, I think we did on a couple of occasions, but that was normal, and that is kind of stress of the moment sort of  thing.

So, that collaboration is very, very different from the one I have with Chris, which is almost without words. I send in the words, he sends me a song. Rarely does it get changed.

I don’t know if there’s anything- I also know that the best relationships for me are the long-terms ones, because they’re the ones where you’ve truly got to know one another. It’s not something that happens quickly. I mean you might get a sense of empathy, or synchrony, or whatever the hell it is, but you have to go through a lot together it seems to me to get to the truth of something. A long-term collaboration is the one that I particularly treasure.

I mean I’ve also met, like when I did the trailer it was the second time I’d worked with a couple of people. This wonderful DOP [assumed spelling] and still photographer called Ben Allen, who also cut the trailer.

We also had this glorious costume designer who- her name is Ingrid Weir. She’s Peter Weir’s daughter. She’s a young woman in her twenties. She is meticulous and particular. I needed, because it’s set in the 1850s, I absolutely wanted particular kinds of clothing, and they’re quite hard to find these days in a place like Sydney, because we do so little period stuff anymore, at the moment. To find the clothing that I wanted, she conjured magic, you know?

These are people I hope to work again, and again, even though they’re people I’ve only just in real terms just worked with on two small things. I tell you what, I think you know it when you see it.

Valerie
Right. Yeah.

Posie
I think you get the sense that something is going to work.

Valerie
Have you got your next television adventure in your head? Like McLeods was there forever.

Posie
Not television. I want to write a feature film and I want to direct it. It was The Dressmaker that gave me that. Not, that it’s, not The Dressmaker, but it was writing The Dressmaker but also making the trailer. It just inspired me. It really did.

I really, really, really, really want to make a piece of something in Tasmania, because it’s a landscape no one sees, really. It’s sodding spectacular, and it’s seasonal. I’d like to shoot something in winter, the opposite of the blue skies kind of thing. When the mist hangs up in these trees, you know?

Yes, there is something. I want to finish this book, I think, The Island House. I think I’d like to do at least the first draft of the film in the next sort of twelve weeks, if I can make that work.

Valerie
Wow.

Posie
The first half of next year. Yeah, but you know here’s me saying grandly, “Let’s do this,” but I can. Christ, I’ve written a script in a week if I’ve had to. It depends how well it flows. It’s growing in my head, it’s like there. They’re all at the back competing now at the back of my head.

Valerie
Sure.

Finally, for those people who- you cross so many different types of writing genres from soon to be films, television series, lyrics, fictional novels- what’s your advice to people who are listening who dream of doing something like that? What should they do? Where should they start?

Posie
What should they do? They should write. The truth is if I had five dollars for every time somebody said, “I’d really love to write a novel, and I’ve never done it,” or, “I’ve never got to the end.”

I think the best piece of advice that I can give is the thing that it took me such a long time to discover, and that’s the discipline, in my case of just writing once a week. That was something I could achieve. I wasn’t setting myself up for failure by saying, “I’m going to write every night until midnight,” at the end of the working day. All I did was write once a week.

If you give yourself a target of little and of often, but you make sure that you actually do that, that you really give yourself a target you gather confidence. I mean even though you think it will never finish.

But, it’s like digging over a patch of ground. Yesterday I was out digging, which I do like to do. I had begun, and I looked up and I thought, “Oh, God. I’m never going to get this finished before the rain comes.” Well, the rain came, and it wasn’t very heavy, so I kept digging. I had got the ground dug. It wasn’t such a very big piece of ground. At the end I stood back and I went, “I did that.” I found all the worms that I could put in my compost heap you know?

When it’s so tentative, as the beginning of anything is, if you don’t beat yourself up, don’t set yourself up for failure, if you allow yourself the sense that you’re getting somewhere… it’s like climbing a hill, isn’t it? Halfway up you think, “Oh God, there’s all that way to go,” but then you look behind and you’ve actually come a long way. I think that little and often consistency, that’s important.

I think the people around you need to understand you’re going to bump into walls, and you’re going to be in this distracted state when you write. It’s very helpful if the people in your life can give you that space and don’t hassle you, and those sorts of things. I’m fortunate that I live with Andrew. Andrew is very good about it. He is. He’s looking at me and smiling, but it’s the truth. I mean he doesn’t have hysterics when I just wonder off and I’m not seen for hours.

My mother was also a novelist. My father didn’t handle it. She would have written a lot more I think, except that I think he found it difficult when she was writing.

It would be lovely if your potential writers felt like they had emotional support when they’re writing. It would be nice if they allowed themselves to achieve things without the mental talk in their heads going, “This is crap. This is rubbage,” because you have to work your way through that. Almost every time I write I sit down and I think…


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