First Chapters Q&A with Louisa Deasey

Louisa Deasey is a Melbourne-based writer who has published widely, including in OverlandVogueThe Australian, and The Saturday Age
Her first memoir, Love and Other U-Turns, was nominated for the Nita B. Kibble Award for women writers.

Louisa will be reading from A Letter From Paris at First Chapters on Friday 7 June.

1. Brunswick Bound has asked you to read a piece from your published work.  Tell us what we can expect from the piece you have chosen?

I’m going to read a little that gives you a taste of the unanswered questions I had about my father my entire life, and why I never looked into his life until this A Letter From Paris arrived.

2. How would you describe the kind of books that you write?

Memoir. I studied Creative Non-Fiction at RMIT and have always loved the personal essay. Both my published books are memoir – even though A Letter From Paris has a lot of biography and history, too! I just love non-fiction, mainly.

3.What was the first book that you read (or had read to you) that left an impression on you?

Gosh, so many. Go Ask Alice when I was 11 or 12, The Diary of Anne Frank, Night by Elie Weisel...The Catcher In The Rye, which was technically fiction, but if you look at Salinger’s life, it might have had a bit of memoir to it, really.
I think true stories, honestly told, have always stayed with me. The most incredible memoir I read – which made me want to write one, actually, was What Remains by Carole Radziwill. It’s about grief, but also friendship, and life, and it’s just beautiful writing.

4. Do believe that books should answer life’s big questions?

I’m not sure about answer, but definitely explore. I think the most wonderful books help you not feel alone in your experience of the world. You can sit with the questions as the author guides you through their own experience of addressing the questions… I think non-fiction has always interested me more than fiction because I love learning, from books. And even with memoir (which isn’t straight journalism or fact), you learn how others have addressed the deepest challenges – and universal challenges – of life.

5. Do you have any writing quirks?

I tend to need a hot beverage before I sit down to a good writing session – even if I don’t drink it! Maybe making the drink gets me into the zone. I’m not sure. It’s all about feeling comfortable. I also love writing in my journal in bed. I have a study, now, which I never did before, but nothing beats waking up, making coffee and taking my notebooks back to bed to write.

6. What is your favourite word or phrase?

I like verba volant, scripta manent. It’s a latin phrase which, loosely translated, means “spoken words fly away, only what is written remains.” It reminds me of the power of the written word to last a very long time. It also motivates me to shut the door, disengage with trivial stuff, and focus on creating something that’s going to last.

7. What you found most surprising about publishing a book?

With A Letter From Paris, I received a hand-written letter from a man who knew my father, the day after it was published. Every time I read the letter, I cry. I’ve never met this man, but the fact that he read my book the moment it came out, then took the time to type me a letter with his memories of my dad moves me so much.
I’m also really surprised how many people have family stories that have been hidden,  and I think they really relate to my story of not knowing dad. I didn’t realise how universal that aspect was, and it’s sort of comforting, because I always felt a little odd and lonely because I never knew my father.

8. What is the question that you hope never to be asked in an author Q&A?

Probably just anything about my mum’s death, as it was very sad and traumatic. And anything that gives away the major discovering at the end of A Letter From Paris

9. What question do you hope you will be asked and why?

Hm – I like to be surprised – surprise me!

10. Which author that you have read do you think should be better known or more widely read?

Ha! Well this is a funny one, as my next project is to publish my dad’s (previously) hidden 1940’s and 50s memoir, so I guess it’s dad (Denison Deasey). I want to publish his memoir so more people know his writing, it’s so colourful and vivid in his descriptions of encounters, dialogue and moments in a really rare and eventful time in history.

Find out more about the First Chapters event series on the Brunswick Bound website.


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