Monday, August 14, 2017

The Writing University conducts is a series of interviews with writers while they are in Iowa City participating in the International Writing Program's fall residency. We sit down with authors to ask about their work, their process and their descriptions of home.

Today we are talking with Julienne Van Loon, a novelist and essayist from Australia.

1. Do you have a plan or project in mind for your time at the residency?

Yes. I’m going to be working on a novel-in-progress provisionally titled Instructions for a Steep Decline. It’s about a woman who has a neurological accident while cycling to work one morning, and it’s written in a kind of temporal loop. Is she conscious or not? Was there an accident or not? The work is still in a rather developmental phase, and so there is plenty I don’t know yet about the shape and pace and direction of the narrative to come, but it has intertextual links to a canonical Buddhist work on the lives of nuns living in fourth and fifth century China, and one of my other key intentions with this novel is to play with the theme of risk.

2. What does your daily practice look like for your writing? Do you have a certain time when you write? Any specific routine?

My practice varies enormously depending on the time of year, and on the other commitments I have to the people that matter to me, as well as what’s going on in my workplace (a busy university) and other aspects of my daily life (like regular physical exercise). Many years ago I read a very useful book called The Clockwork Muse by Eviater Zerubavel (Harvard UP) and every now and again I go back and re-read it. Zerubavel reminds me of the importance of temporal organisation but also of working to your strengths in the way you balance ideals against constraints. This is particularly important when you’re working on a long term project. The point is that I always have a writing schedule, but it changes regularly during the life of the project I’m working on.

3. What are you currently reading right now? Are you reading for research or pleasure?

I’m reading Arundhati Roy’s latest novel, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, and next in line is the latest winner of The Stella Prize (an Australian prize for women writers), called The Museum of Modern Love by Heather Rose. I’m also mid-way through reading a history of the city of Amsterdam by Russell Shorto, and I’m dipping in and out of Sir Hustvedt’s essay collection A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women. For me all reading is a combination of research and pleasure, or perhaps of intellectual and emotional engagement, to put it differently.

4. What is something the readers and writers of Iowa City should know about you and your work?

I like thin books. And I’m deeply interested in the relationship between fiction, philosophy and everyday life.

5. Tell us a bit about where you are from -- what are some favorite details you would like to share about your home?

I am an Australian novelist with a combination of Dutch and English heritage. I live in Melbourne - which, like Iowa City, is a UNESCO City of Literature - and although I’m still fairly new to my Melbourne, I love my adopted city. In 2016, Melbourne topped The Economists' list of the world’s most liveable cities for the sixth year in a row. We have good universities, libraries,hospitals and museums and plenty of beautiful green space. There’s always hugely interesting work going on in the realm of the arts and literature. You can cycle everywhere. Above all, the city of Melbourne that I love has an openness and a friendliness to it. We, the people, make it good. Come and see for yourself, and you’ll know immediately what I mean.


Thank you so much, Julienne!

Check the IWP website for events that will include Julienne Van Loon throughout the residency.