PERTH author Craig Silvey says the 11 year gap between Jasper Jones and his new novel Honeybee wasn’t down to crippling anxiety over how to follow his best-seller.
He didn’t elaborate on why it took so long, but he wasn’t exactly resting on his laurels in the intervening years – releasing the novella The Amber Amulet in 2012 and co-writing the screenplay for the film adaptation of Jasper Jones in 2017.
“The pressure of expectation tends to occur to me mostly once the book is finished, that’s when I feel the most anxiety about potentially disappointing people,” Silvey says.
“The response to Jasper Jones has been so profoundly generous. Hundreds of thousands of people are invested in my work, which is a privilege I’m very grateful for.
“But worrying about critical and reader responses while I’m developing a novel would make the process impossible, so I try to focus purely on the story and the characters who inhabit it.
“Fortunately early responses to Honeybee have been generously enthusiastic and universally positive, which has gone a long way towards assuaging my anxieties.”
Like Jasper Jones, a teenager is at the heart of his new novel.
“Honeybee is about a West Australian teenager, Sam Watson, who climbs over the rail of a traffic bridge late one night with the intention of ending their life,” Silvey says. “At the other end of the bridge stands an old man, Vic, who is smoking his last cigarette before ending his own struggle.
“Sam and Vic see each other across the void, and their fates are forever changed. Honeybee is about the relationship that blooms between them, and their efforts to repair each other.
“Despite the bleak opening scene, Honeybee is ultimately a hopeful, life-affirming novel about the importance of support, community, love and understanding.”
The Voice asked Silvey, 38, if it became harder to tap into that teenage voice as he approaches his 40th birthday.
“There are a diversity of characters in Honeybee, from drag queens to war veterans to small time drug dealers to Sam, our teenage narrator,” he says.
“The truth is, when developing any character, regardless of how closely they mirror your own interests or history, it’s necessary to sit with them and allow them to reveal themselves to you.
“It’s the same way you might connect with a stranger. You spend time with them, observe them, gauge how they react, listen to the way they want to express themselves, give them the freedom to unfurl.”
Silvey grew up in Dwellingup and later went to school in Mandurah, but he’s now well and truly settled in Freo.
“I’ve lived in Fremantle for twenty years…I write in my office at the same oak desk that I’ve always sat behind. I’ll work for five or six hours in the afternoon, break for dinner, then work another session in the evening for four or five hours.”
Honeybee was released in bookshops this week.
by STEPHEN POLLOCK