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My First Time...with Paul Howarth

Paul Howarth was born and grew up in Great Britain before moving to Melbourne in his late twenties. He lived in Australia for more than six years, gained dual citizenship in 2012, and now lives in Norwich, United Kingdom, with his family. In 2015, he received a master’s degree from the University of East Anglia’s creative writing program, the most prestigious course of its kind in the UK, where he was awarded the Malcolm Bradbury Scholarship.

Paul will be reading from his stunning debut Only Killers and Thieves at The Riff Raff on Thursday June 14th and it's going to be brilliant....

Paul Howarth, The Riff Raff

Here's the blurb for Only Killers and Thieves...

'It is 1885, and a crippling drought threatens to ruin the McBride family. Their land is parched, their cattle starving. When the rain finally comes, it is a miracle that renews their hope for survival. But returning home from an afternoon swimming at a remote waterhole filled by the downpour, fourteen-year-old Tommy and sixteen-year-old Billy meet with a shocking tragedy.

'Thirsting for vengeance against the man they believe has wronged them—their former Aboriginal stockman—the distraught brothers turn to the ruthless and cunning John Sullivan, the wealthiest landowner in the region and their father’s former employer. Sullivan gathers a posse led by the dangerous and fascinating Inspector Edmund Noone and his Queensland Native Police, an infamous arm of British colonial power charged with the "dispersal" of indigenous Australians to "protect" white settler rights. As they ride across the barren outback in pursuit, their harsh and horrifying journey will have a devastating impact on Tommy, tormenting him for the rest of his life—and will hold enduring consequences for a young country struggling to come into its own.'

Describe the exact moment you decided to write your book.

In my first workshop at UEA I was having a different novel critiqued, and I remember thinking, ‘I don’t care, this isn’t the book, I can do better than this,’ which came as a bit of a surprise.

Then in the follow-up meeting with my tutor, he asked me, ‘What’s happening with the Australian one?’ (he’d read an early opening) and I ended up leaving that room with the belief and resolve to write the book.

What’s the one thing you wish you’d known before starting to write it?

That it would all work out fine in the end. That would have saved a lot of stress. But then, I wonder if having a safety net would have made for a safer book, with fewer risks, less ambition…so maybe nothing, actually, for better or worse.

What’s your go-to procrastination method?

YouTube, and endless Wikipedia loops that start out as research and disappear down the rabbit hole.

What was the biggest tantrum you had while writing it?

No real tantrums on this one, but I did once lose half an entire manuscript of another novel when my hard drive failed.

That was a pretty sweary day. Lesson learned though – I’m now meticulous about backing up!

Only Killers and Thieves, The Riff Raff

Best thing about writing your book? Seeing the physical copy. Holding it in my hands.

And the worst?

Copy editing for two different versions, the UK and US, at the same time (not that I’m complaining, really!).

Go-to writing snacks?

Lunch. As early as I can justify it. Like, 10.30/11am early.

Who or what inspires you to write?

My family. They’re the reason I sit my backside on the chair every day, instead of lounging around on the sofa watching films.

The book that changed you?

The Remains of the Day. Then, later, A Prayer for Owen Meany. I read both as a teenager and they changed my attitude to literature hugely.

Your pump up song?

At the moment that would be “Never Enough” by The Hunna, but anything guitary (is that a word?) with a strong drum beat. Bands like Kings of Leon, Editors, Imagine Dragons, The Killers...

If you could share a bottle of wine with one writer, who would it be?

Richard Flanagan. A great writer and seems like a top bloke. I could listen to him all day.

One piece of advice you’d give first time writers?

Back yourself. Write the best damn book you’re capable of, then the rest is out of your hands. And don’t chase the market – your ideal reader should first and foremost be yourself.



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