Debra Adelaide is an Australian author, editor and academic.\u00a0Her first novel\u00a0The Hotel Albatross, was published in 1995 and her other books include edited collections, such as A Bright and Fiery Troop (Penguin, 1988); the\u00a0Motherlove series (Random House, 1996, 1997, 1998); and Acts of Dog (Random House, 2003).\r\n\r\nHer novel The Household Guide to Dying was published to critical acclaim in Australia in 2008 and her most recent collection of short fiction, Letter to George Clooney (Picador 2013) has been long- and short-listed for several literary awards.\r\n\r\nNow, Adelaide has just published\u00a0The Women's Pages\u00a0which explores "the choices and compromises women make, about their griefs and losses, and about the cold aching spaces that are left when they disappear from the story".\r\n\r\nBelow, we chat to Adelaide about how the publishing industry has changed over the years, how literary awards can impact a career, and finally, about the inspiration behind her latest novel...\r\n\r\nAustralian author Debra Adelaide. Image Credit: Gregory Ferris.\r\nYour first novel Hotel Albatross was published in 1995, and you've been publishing books ever since, The Women's Pages being the latest. As an author, what changes have you seen in the publishing industry over the years?\r\nHuge changes, everywhere, but I\u2019ll mention just a few. My first book was actually published in 1989 by a UK publisher, Pandora Press. The advance was a couple of thousand pounds, and this was for a very specialist reference book (Bibliography of Australian Women Writers). This would be unthinkable these days, not just an advance of that size, but even the prospect of having such a book published, which now would only ever be viable as a digital publication.\r\n\r\nAnd that first novel, The Hotel Albatross, also received a very generous advance, at least generous for a first novel. Now it is normal for authors to receive no advance or tiny ones. I\u2019ve been lucky, having received huge advances as well as token ones over the years.\r\n\r\nSo the main changes I\u2019ve seen in the industry are financial: what this means now is that an author could not hope to live off an advance for a precious six months or even a year, as they once did, in order to write.\r\n\r\nThe other major change is in the restructuring of publishing houses so that books are no longer cross-subsidised, meaning that income from a publisher\u2019s ever-popular YA title or gardening compendium is no longer used to support a more fragile species, such as poetry. This is a great shame, and over time has led to the devaluation across the board of poetry, drama and so on, and perhaps to the elevation of less literary work.\r\n\r\nAnd of course then there\u2019s the internet which produces the curious phenomena of books like Fifty Shades of Grey: its prominence, success, indeed very existence, would be impossible without that.\r\n\r\nWhat I should say, though, is that despite all these changes something very fundamental about the industry remains: in my experience a publisher will still consider a good book, and readers abound. Bless them!\r\nYour collection of short fiction, Letter to George Clooney has been long and short listed for several literary awards, how has this impacted upon your career as an author?\r\nI don\u2019t think this has changed anything about my career, but it is definitely wonderful to receive such validation. The one shortlisting that really meant something to me was in the Queensland Literary Awards, since these awards had been claimed back by the literary community from the thuggish former government that trashed them.\r\n\r\nThe year the Newman government cancelled the state awards, authors and others in the industry banded together and worked on them in a voluntary capacity, awarding the prizes totally unfunded. That was so heartening, and thus lovely to be part of, even in a tiny way.\r\nThe Women's Pages covers the secrets and silences of ordinary women. What drew you towards this subject?\r\nI had written the story that is inspired by my re-reading of Wuthering Heights, \u2018The Sleepers in that Quiet Earth\u2019 (the last words of that novel) and realised it contained a huge hole: the character called Ellis had no mother, and I needed to find out why she was missing, and how that had shaped this character\u2019s entire life.\r\n\r\nThat led me to thinking generally about the way women are represented in stories, and in life (or were) and how too easily they have been written out of the story. That term \u2018ordinary women\u2019 is so contentious: of course I use it myself to describe Ellis, but as I wrote this novel I was also conscious that no individual is merely ordinary, and everyone\u2019s life is special, unique.\r\n\r\nThe so-called ordinary and often domestic side of women\u2019s experiences have too often been dismissed as unimportant. Much of the novel is set in the late 1960s and early 1970s, which is when women were starting to crack open this silence about their experiences.\r\nThe Women's Pages is also in a way, a love letter to literature and writing itself. What was it about Bronte's Wuthering Heights that inspired you to include it in the way that you have?\r\nYes, it is a love letter to that novel, and to Emily Bront\u00eb\u2019s extraordinary achievement. I had re-read Wuthering Heights yet again and marvelled at its potent narrative gaps. Entire parts of the story that are vital, such as the relationship between Cathy and Heathcliff, are actually not there in the text.\r\n\r\nWe read this novel as a portrayal of their fierce passion, but in fact these characters never spend time together as adults except in scenes of great conflict.\r\n\r\nAnd the other remarkable thing about this novel is how there is no representation of a whole, functional family: there are dead and dying mothers (and fathers) everywhere.\r\n\r\nThe main narrator Nelly Dean is manipulative and judgemental but also successfully presents herself as benign. And the structure is fascinating (also frustrating!) with its many narrative layers.\r\n\r\nSo to me the novel is about the power of narrative, and of the imagination, and about how stories collide with each other to represent different versions of the truth to determine how people act from then on.\r\n\r\nThere is one brief but powerful scene in Wuthering Heights (when Nelly allows Heathcliff to overhear something Cathy says, over which he nurses a terrible sense of shame): in The Women\u2019s Pages I wanted to explore these small, seemingly insignificant moments \u2014 gestures, comments, and so on \u2014 to see how they can ripple throughout people\u2019s lives forever.\r\nIn recent months, the subject of gender bias in publishing has been raised in the media quite frequently. Have you ever experienced this first hand as a female author?\r\nYes I have, at the hands of ignorant and arrogant male book reviewers! But it\u2019s not a good idea for authors to dwell on negative reviews (or even read them). I don\u2019t believe I have suffered in any other way and I must say that almost all of the people in publishing who have supported my work have been female.\r\nAs someone who has worked as a freelance writer, a teacher and an author, what can you tell us about the nature of the writer's 'job'? Has this changed over time for you?\r\nIn some ways this is such a variable thing. You can be in full time employment (as I have been for the past 12 years) or work three nights a week in a bar or almost luxuriate with a literary grant or a handsome advance, but my experience is that the fundamental thing about the job never changes: the job of the writer is to sit down (or stand up, like Virginia Woolf) and write.\r\n\r\nIt doesn\u2019t matter if that is for an hour every morning, or for five days a week, or every other Sunday afternoon. If you sit and write then words will come, pages will add up and eventually a book will emerge.\r\n\r\nMy experience is that the best work I\u2019ve written is when I\u2019ve been working full-time. I might grumble about this but the fact is that this imposes an immense need for discipline (or perhaps it\u2019s just desperation...) that keeps me focused.\r\nHow has The Women's Pages been received so far?\r\nIt\u2019s early days yet, but so far very well. And in fact the very first review that came out, in the Guardian, was such an astonishingly positive and insightful one that I was overcome with a strange mix of pride and awe and gratitude.\r\n\r\nIt means so much when a reader, someone you don\u2019t know, actually understands your work, and in this case articulates things about the work you didn\u2019t quite realise you were doing. That has been wonderful.\r\nWhat's next for you? Are you already working on a new writing project?\r\nI am thinking, thinking, thinking. Plotting actually, to steal some proper writing time again after a long and busy year. I have several half written stories I am going to complete, and ideas for a few more, plus there is the glimmer of an idea for a new novel. But we\u2019ll see.\r\n***\r\nThe Women's Pages, Debra Adelaide, Picador Australia, $29.99.\r\nWriter's Edit would like to thank Debra Adelaide for taking the time to share her insights with us.