My new novel, Hinterland, is released this week (1 July 2017). There’s a launch at Avid Reader in Brisbane on July 10th with Kari Gislason.
We’re hosting an Outspoken event up here in Maleny on July 14th. I’ll be in conversation with Kate Evans from ABC Radio National.
I was born in Paisley, Scotland, in 1951. My father, Fred Lang, was a leather tanner as his father and his father before him had been (WJ & W Lang Tanneries Ltd, Seedhill, Paisley). Clearly, as the only son, that was my destiny too, except that from early on I knew I wanted, instead, to be a writer. I was sent to two boarding schools in Scotland during the 60s where I had an unpleasant time, to the extent that as soon as I was able I left Scotland altogether to hitch-hike around the world.
Most of my contemporaries who set out to do something similar took the Asian route but I was drawn to America, probably because of a passion for the work of Jack Kerouac – not so much On The Road as Desolation Angels and Dharma Bums. I guess after eight years in boarding school I had romantic notions about living in fire towers in the wilderness. I spent most of a year hitch-hiking in North America, traversing the country several times, ending up in Hawaii and then travelling from there to Japan for Expo ’70, and then on to Hong Kong. By the time I made it there I was in a bit of a state. I rang up my parents from the central post office (international calls weren’t so simple in those days) and told them I was ready to come home, do whatever was required, join the Firm, anything, just send me the funds for a ticket. They, to their credit, and no doubt lasting regret, said I should go on down to Australia, they’d arrange money for me to do that.
From Sydney I hitched up to Mt Isa, looking for work and, while I didn’t get any there, I was offered a job in the Outback, a couple of hundred kilometres west of Borraloola in the Northern Territory, looking after some equipment that had been dropped in the bush near a proposed airstrip. I lived there alone for a few weeks, haunted by all the possible beasts that might injure me until I managed to get a light plane flight down to Alice Springs and from there a trip on the Ghan down to Adelaide. I’d been pretty much alone through all of this, in fact a sense of isolation had been my companion for the previous ten years. In Sydney I walked in the door of a share house and, for the first time ever, found a bunch of people like myself. They were students at the University of Sydney, studying but also doing a fair bit of LSD and marijuana, playing music in live venues around the city. I stayed. Through them I learned a love of the Australian landscape, so much so that several of us bought 550 acres of forest back of Eden in 1973, where I lived for ten years.
I am the author of two previous novels. 88 Lines About 44 Women (Penguin, Viking, 2009), is a contemporary story set in both Scotland and Australia. It is narrated by Lawrence Martin, sometime keyboard player in one of Australia’s more successful rock bands from the ‘80s. The novel was short-listed for two major fiction awards in 2010.
My first novel, An Accidental Terrorist (UQP, 2005) set in the hills back of Eden, won two prestigious awards: the UTS Award for New Writing in the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards, and the Queensland Premier’s Literary Award for Best Emerging Author. It was also longlisted for the Miles Franklin Award and shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize for best first novel.
My other works include the illustrated non-fiction work, A Strong Brown God (Lang House Press, 2010), based on the play performed at the Metro Arts Theatre in Brisbane in 1996. I have had several short stories and articles published in anthologies, newspapers and literary magazines. I also tutored and lectured extensively in Creative Writing at the University of the Sunshine Coast. I have a Masters in Creative Industries from QUT, specialising in writing for film.
My wife, Tyyni Lang (formerly Chris Francis), and I are the directors of Outspoken, an extended writer’s festival held in Maleny which takes the form of conversations between myself and visiting writers. Among the many who have featured are Tim Winton, A C Grayling, Alexander McCall Smith, Richard Fidler, Richard Ford, Karen Joy Fowler, Henry Reynolds, Patrick Gale, Christos Tsiolkas, Kate Grenville, Ann Patchett, Ruth Ozeki, Thomas Keneally and John Birmingham. Please follow the link to the website for details of up-coming events or to register to receive notifications. Tyyni is the co-owner of Maleny Bookshop.
I am active in the environmental movement around the Maleny district. From 2012-14 I was President of Maleny District Green Hills Fund, a community organisation. Now I’m just a member, but while I was a director and president we attracted several hundred thousand dollars of Federal and other funding for projects involving creekside revegetation. I am presently on the board of Lake Baroon Catchment Care, where I hold the role of secretary.