I’m delighted to be hosting Magdalena McGuire in my hot seat chatting to us about Home is Nearby today. Magdalena won the Impress Prize for New Writers 2016 and the 2017 Mslexia Short Fiction Contest.
Today she is chatting to us about her Impress published debut novel, Home is Nearby. Magdalena shares her inspiration and research for the novel as well as the best part of her writing journey so far.
Here’s more about Home is Nearby:
Publisher: Impress Books (1 Nov. 2017)
1980: the beginning of the Polish Crisis. Brought up in a small village, country-girl Ania arrives in the university city of Wroclaw to pursue her career as a sculptor. Here she falls in love with Dominik, an enigmatic writer at the centre of a group of bohemians and avant-garde artists who throw wild parties.
When martial law is declared, their lives change overnight: military tanks appear on the street, curfews are introduced and the artists are driven underground. Together, Ania and Dominik fight back, pushing against the boundaries imposed by the authoritarian communist government. But at what cost?
‘Home Is Nearby’ is a vivid and intimate exploration of the struggle to find your place in the world no matter where you are.
Available to purchase in digital and paperback formats.
Welcome to Jera’s Jamboree.
Please summarise Home Is Nearby in 20 words or less.
Set in 1980s Poland and Australia, Home Is Nearby is a gripping story about art, love and betrayal.
What was the idea/inspiration for your novel Magdalena?
Home Is Nearby is inspired by my family history. Though it’s a work of fiction, the life of my protagonist, Ania, has parallels with my mother’s life. Like Ania, my mother grew up in a small village in Poland. When she was in high-school she was awarded a scholarship to study in the university city of Wrocław and became the first person in her family to go to university. My mother wanted to travel, but she had no intention of living anywhere else but Poland. This was her country and this was where she wanted to stay. Everything changed when she met my father, an Australian who was working as a teacher in Poland. Soon after they met, they fell in love and had me. In the early 1980s, my parents made the decision to move to Australia – just for a little while, until the political and economic situation in Poland improved. They ended up in Queensland, like Ania.
The longer my family lived in Australia, the harder it became to move back to Poland. My mother struggled with the loss of her home, and everything that went with it: her family, culture and language. Growing up, this sense of loss was something that I felt keenly too. This struggle to find a sense of belonging – no matter where you are in the world – was something that I wanted to explore in Home Is Nearby.
Did you do any research? What resources did you use?
I was lucky enough to go on a trip to Poland to research Home Is Nearby. There, I came across an art exhibition called The Wild West: A History of Wrocław’s Avant-Garde. This exhibition blew me away. It revealed that the art scene in Wrocław, where I wanted to set the book, was wilder than I could have imagined. After that I couldn’t wait to start writing. I’m not an artist myself, so this was my chance to vicariously become one.
I’d love to know more about the cover design for Home is Nearby. Can you share the process with us?
Home Is Nearby is my debut novel and the cover stems directly from the themes of the book. One of the wonderful things about publishing with Impress Books is that they are a hands-on indie publisher and they encouraged me to have input into the publishing process. From the start, I knew I wanted the cover design to link into the image of a carp, which is one of the central motifs of the book. When it came time to discuss potential cover designs, I sent through a (very amateur!) mock-up of a cover design to my editor. In spite of the poor execution, she loved it. My mock-up was sent to an illustrator who put together the beautiful cover I now have for the book.
Do you have a most creative time of day?
These days, my most creative time is whenever I have the time to write! I wrote Home Is Nearby when I had a young baby, so most of the writing was done in fits and starts. Whenever my baby had a nap, I’d rush to the computer to start writing. It was a pressured way to write, but I think that that pressure also added momentum to the book. I also loved switching between worlds like that: one minute I’d be changing nappies, and the next minute I’d be at an avant-garde exhibition in a Polish forest!
What are you reading now? Opinion?
I’ve recently finished reading The Half Child by an amazing Australian writer, Angela Savage. The book is set in Thailand and, as well as being a gripping read, it’s a master-class in how to write well about cultures that are not your own. Empathy, humility and humour are key!
Finally, what has been the best part of your writing journey so far Magdalena?
Connecting with readers has been an absolute joy and privilege. I’ve been really touched when people have not only read my book, but gone to the trouble of getting in contact with me to tell me that they enjoyed it. I also love the fact readers bring their own perspectives and life histories to their reading of the book, so every time a reader discusses the book with me, I’ve learned something new.
Thank you for being my guest.
Magdalena McGuire was born in Poland, grew up in Darwin, and now lives in Melbourne. Her short stories have been published in the UK and Australia by The Bristol Prize, Mslexia, The Big Issue, Margaret River Press and elsewhere. In 2016 she won the Impress Prize for New Writers and in 2017 she won the Mslexia Short Fiction contest judged by Deborah Levy. Her debut novel is Home Is Nearby.
Connect with Magdalena McGuire