Favel Parrett Interview, plus links to author biography, book summaries, excerpts and reviews

Favel Parrett
Photo: Harrison Saragossi

Favel Parrett

An interview with Favel Parrett

Favel Parrett talks about her debut book, Past the Shallows

Can you introduce yourself to the readers; what would you like them to know about you?
My name is Favel. A strange name I know, one that I hated when I was young but have come to like very much. I was always told there was an old English legend about a horse called Favel that you could brush and ask for favours. I do not know if it is exactly true, but in the way stories wrap around us, it has become part of my story.

I grew up in Tasmania, but have lived in Victoria for a long time now. Victoria is home.

Have you always wanted to be a writer or do you have an equal or greater passion for something else?
I always wanted to be a writer but I never thought it would be possible. When I first seriously sat down and started this novel, I knew in my heart that I really did want to be a writer. I still thought it would be impossible, but I kept going anyway.

I have done many things – been a postman, a DJ, worked in a bakery, failed at finishing my degree at university, travelled to lots of wonderful places like Bhutan and Zambia and Cuba and Kenya. I am passionate about many things. I am probably the most passionate about dogs! When I have time I volunteer at an animal rescue shelter called Pets Haven. They save so many lives every year. It is a place that means the world to me.

Past the Shallows is your debut published novel, but is it your first novel?
It is my first novel. I never thought I could actually write a novel but somehow I did (over many years). I wrote before, short stories mainly – some published, most not. In my late teens and early twenties, I published a ZINE called Numb (homemade, photocopied, cut and paste magazine full of rants and opinions and all sorts of stuff). I was a huge ZINE fan and I met so many great people. It was before email, so there was lots of letter writing. I used get so excited checking my mailbox after work. That doesn't happen much these days. I miss it!

Who are the authors you most admire?
This list gets longer every day, but here are just a few...

Maya Angelou – She taught me about the power of words, the power of writing with truth. I love her.

Per Petterson – Out Stealing Horses is one of the best books I have ever read. I read it often. He is a master. I have learnt so much from his writing.

Cormac McCarthy – The Road is an incredible book. We are so with the characters that we cannot pull away, even when we want to. Even when we don't want to be on that road anymore. The last paragraph is up on my wall in my studio and I read it most days. It still moves me as much as it did the first time I read it.

I love novels. All the care and time and heart that goes into them. Some novels have changed my life. I know they are important.

Where is your favourite place to write? (not necessarily the best...)
I spend half my week in Torquay and half in Melbourne. I write in both places but I do my best work my studio in the Nicholas building on Swanston Street. It is filled with other artists and galleries and has two old cage lifts with lift operators that are always up for a chat. It is a great place to work. It is my office!

What was the inspiration for Past the Shallows?
The south coast of Tasmania had a huge influence on me when I was young. It is isolated and wild – a place I will never forget. The story grew out of my memories and feeling for that place. It is a sad and beautiful place. An ancient place.

How did you come up with the title?
The title came from the first line of the book: 'Out past the shallows, past the sandy-bottomed bays, comes the dark water – black and cold and roaring.' It was actually my publishers' brilliant idea. For a long time, I knew the book as Crack Wattle. I knew this title wasn't quite right, but it did mean something to me. There is still a section in the book about crack wattle. Then, when they suggested changing it to Past the Shallows I knew it was perfect straight away. I think it is a great title.

Which character spoke the loudest, to you? Did any of them clamour to be heard over the others?
I love Harry very much. Sometimes it still makes me cry when I think about him. He is a very special character to me – some kind of gift really.

Although Harry is not totally based on my brother, the way I feel about my brother is there in the writing. One of the worst things that could have happened to me when I was a child would have been losing my brother. We are very close.

The ocean and its guises feature heavily in the book, like a character of its own. What is your connection with the ocean?
You are right. The ocean is a character of its own. I am in love with the Southern Ocean. I know that surfing changed my life. I'm thirty-six and I still love it. It connected me to the natural world, made me aware of tides and winds and the subtle changes that happen every minute of every day. I couldn't have written this book if I did not surf. And I know I am grumpy and hopeless if I go for more than a week without getting in the water. My favourite time to surf is at dawn, watching the sun come up over Torquay and illuminate the cliffs and sand with the new day.

I know you are working on your next book can you share a bit about it?
I will give you a bit of a blurb, although I don't know the whole story yet. The working title is 'Time of the Vikings'.

A young girl and her brother try to find their way in a new place. A stone city full of ghosts and empty streets. A place where the wind blows in cold and from the south.

Everything gets brighter when the Vikings come to town – the men who work on an Antarctic supply vessel from Denmark. They are giants and they breathe life into Hobart. Chasing the light from the Arctic to the Antarctic, they sail the world end to end, never stopping for long enough for the darkness to catch them.

But there is a terrible accident off Macquarie Island.

And nothing is ever the same.

Unless otherwise stated, this interview was conducted at the time the book was first published, and is reproduced with permission of the publisher. This interview may not be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the copyright holder.

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