Author Interview: Ian Belshaw

Some of our lucky Beauty and Lace club members will be reading Wood for the Trees by Ian Belshaw.

To celebrate our latest book club title, we asked Ian to have a chat with us, and thankfully he said yes! Read on to learn more about the author, and keep an eye out for our upcoming member reviews:

Your debut novel is Wood for the Trees, can you tell us about it?

‘Wood for the Trees’ is a modern-day bushranging tale, as well as being an ode to the Australian landscape and recent history.

It is crafted as something of an Australian western, tapping into our culture and settings while imbued with a touch of darkness and psychological tumult. 

How did it feel the first time you held Wood for the Trees?

Amazing. It is my first novel, so there was a sense of pride and almost disbelief that this had finally come to fruition. The feeling dulls a little with every passing day, but it’s still there and I still feel very proud of my accomplishment. 

Did you come across any specific challenges in writing Wood for the Trees?

I think the main challenge was remembering where I was up to, or what had come before. That might sound strange, but the book wasn’t plotted in a formal sense, so I had to go back to earlier sections to make sure that what I was writing was in context, especially as the story jumps between the two main characters.

Would you do anything differently next time?

Absolutely. That’s not to say I’d write ‘Wood for the Trees’ differently, but for my next novel I intend to explore more ideas and most importantly to improve: improve the quality of my prose, improve the characterisations, improve dialogue, improve the overall story.

Whereas this novel was quite narrow in focus, I intend to expand a bit more next time.

Do you read your book reviews?

I sure do. They can be confronting, but well-placed criticism is something we can all use to improve, and plaudits are of course welcomed as well.

Who are your target readers?

Anyone really. It’s not a children’s book, but beyond that, I don’t believe in narrowing down an audience. I recommend the book to anyone who likes a rollicking yarn filled with rich imagery.

What book are you currently reading?

‘Provinces of night’ by William Gay. I’m a sucker for the Southern Gothic style.

What advice would you give to someone writing their first book?

Give it a go. Persevere. We all have stories worth telling, so don’t feel what you have is inadequate or inferior to others.

As a novel is a large investment of time, sticking it out is the main challenge, but go easy on yourself, don’t expect completion overnight and give yourself space to achieve your goal. It’s worth it.

What is your favourite word, and why?

Tough question. I love language and the disparate influences that come together to make it what it is, as well as the way that certain words fizz and hum when placed side by side.

I don’t have a favourite word, but I’m a fan of words like complaisant and temperance that have a different meaning to what someone might expect. Whiskey is another favourite – it just sounds so good, so evocative.

I hear you like to travel. Where has been your favourite place to travel to?

It’s true, I love travel and both seeing and experiencing different things, which has made this year a challenge. I’d say the most special place I’ve travelled to was the Faroe Islands in the wind-beaten North Atlantic – a starkly beautiful and wondrous place.

That said, I love travelling around Australia and exploring the towns and valleys and coastline and mountains of this varied country. The older I get the more enjoyment I find in this vast land I call home. 

What is next for Ian Belshaw?

I recently completed a memoir that looks at growing up with music in a world before the internet, along with playing in amateur bands and everything that entails.

Next on the agenda is another fiction project that will again hold an Australian focus.

Do you use any social media platforms that our members can follow you on?

No social media for me I’m afraid.

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