Helen Garner was born in Geelong, Australia, in 1942. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Melbourne, after which she became a high school teacher.
After leaving teaching in 1972, she turned to writing. Her award-winning books include novels, stories, screenplays, and works of nonfiction, including Monkey Grip, The First Stone, and Joe Cinques Consolation, and in 2008 The Spare Room - her first work of fiction in fifteen years. Her fiction has won numerous awards. She is also one of Australia's most respected non-fiction writers, and received a Walkley Award for journalism in 1993.
Helen has been married three times, and has a child from her first marriage. She currently lives in Australia.
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The Spare Room is your first novel for 15 years. Why did you decide to write it now and why this subject?
I had been publishing fiction, and making a living between books by writing feature journalism, since 1977, and thought of myself as both a novelist and a journalist. In the early 1990s I published a book called The First Stone, about a Melbourne University sexual harassment case; it took issue with a certain kind of victim feminism of the time, and to my great surprise (and a lot of peoples severe annoyance) it stayed on the best-seller list for months. Then I published Joe Cinques Consolation, an account of two Canberra murder trials, which was also well received. By then I thought Id found my metier, and wondered if I would ever get back across the border into fiction. But then a friend I loved died of cancer. I needed to write about it. I didnt want to write memoir or non-fiction: I wanted to go back to the freedom of fiction, where you can claim ownership of the material, and handle it in any way that enables you to create a larger, deeper truth.
The narrator, like you, is named Helen. Why did you call her that?
I called her Helen because, although the book is a novel (see above), I didn...
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