The tour that was Bruny

Dymocks Sydney – George Street – Bruny their October Book of the Month

My first book tour is over. Bruny has been launched across Australia. Thank you to all the bookstores that so graciously and delightfully welcomed me and Bruny to author events across the country. It was such a pleasure to meet readers everywhere, brilliant booksellers, and to discover so many beautiful bookstores! Apart from the events below, there were also so many signings at independent bookstores and Dymocks stores in every city. Thank you all!

My thanks to the very dedicated and brilliant publicist from Allen & Unwin – Christine Farmer – who made all this happen … and visited endless shopping centres with me for signings. Also to Ange Stannard and Maria Tsiakopoulos in WA and Victoria who chaperoned me in those states. Also to the awesome Allen & Unwin team who designed all the Bruny collateral that decks windows and bookstores across Australia. So wonderful to have this kind of support for a novel.

Events were held at:

Hobart Sunday Sept 29 3.30pm Fullers Bookshop In Conversation with Literary Editor of the Australian, Stephen Romei

Hobart Tuesday Oct 1 6pm Official Bruny Launch Hobart RACV Hotel 6pm with Premier Will Hodgman and supported by Dymocks – SOLD OUT

Sydney Wednesday Oct 2nd 6.30pm Better Read than Dead In Conversation with Editor of The Guardian, Lenore Taylor

Wollongong Friday Oct 4th 6pm Wollongong Art Gallery In Conversation with author and journalist Caro Baum

Perth Sun Oct 6th 4.30pm National Hotel Fremantle with New Edition Bookstore In Conversation with ABC Perth’s Gillian O’Shaughnessy

Perth Mon Oct 7th 6.15 for 6.30pm Beaufort Street Books In Conversation with Jane Seaton

Brisbane Tuesday Oct 8th 6.15 for 6.30pm Riverbend Books In Conversation with Suzy Wilson

Brisbane Wednesday Oct 9th 6 for 6.30pm Avid Reader In Conversation with award-winning author Rohan Wilson

Adelaide (Stirling) – Thursday Oct 10th 6.30 for 7pm Matilda’s Bookshop In Conversation with Gavin Williams

Melbourne Friday Oct 11th 6.45pm for 7pm  – PLEASE NOTE CHANGE OF VENUE: Avenue Bookstore, 127 Dundas Place, Albert Park In Conversation with James Ley – SOLD OUT

Sorrento Saturday Oct 12th evening event The Antipodes Bookshop – details to come

Melbourne Sunday Oct 13th 4pm Fairfield Bookshop In Conversation with Heather Dyer

Me and William Faulkner

A lot of unexpected things have happened this year. It’s a beautiful, brilliant year in the face of some great personal hardship. It’s strange the way life does both, but it seems to be the way it is. I am immensely grateful for it all! I am delighted to find my work reaching a wider world of readers, and I am deeply touched by the acknowledgement for so many years of hard work.

Along the way, there have been quite a few interviews, reviews and articles. This article by Jane Sullivan, published in the Age and the SMH, utterly surprised me (and totally delighted my Dad who has patiently waited to see if my books would ever be ‘discovered’ by people further afield.)

The first William Faulkner novel I read was As I Lay Dying. I must have been about 21. From there I read every novel of Faulkner’s, settling at last on Light in August as my favourite – and one of my top five favourite novels of my lifetime. I think it comes as close as any novel to being a perfect novel in form, characterisation, in tone and in the spectacular craft of good writing. So to find my words compared to Faulkner’s made my father cry, and me reflect on the wonder of life.

We never know how our creativity will touch other lives. For me that is a mysterious gift and a privilege that may yet keep me writing all my days.

It’s not easy to let the recognition in. But given everything that has unfolded, I wanted to acknowledge this very special observation by Jane Sullivan.

Here is the link to the article – and the complete text is below should the link fade.

“What a winning acceptance speech Heather Rose gave for the 2017 Stella Prize. She charmed everyone in the room: she was humble, honest and a little bit steely. To survive as a writer you need steel.

She liked to think of her winning novel, The Museum of Modern Love, as an overnight success. In fact it took 46 years from the moment her father told her a terrible thing when she was six years old.

She’d read him her poem about a rabbit, and he said, “You’re going to be a great writer.” For years she was devastated by the huge gulf that existed between her own writing and that of the great writers.

There was progress. Two failed novels; a first published novel (she remembers only the one unkind review); a second novel that once delivered her a royalty cheque for 57 cents in a 60-cent envelope; a third novel with ardent fans, but very few readers; a series of stories for children, written with Danielle Wood.

The Museum of Modern Love took 11 years to write, was rejected by Australian and US publishers, and finally found a home with Allen & Unwin.  Somewhere along the line Rose accepted she would never be a great writer. But she wants nothing more than to continue to write.

This is literary success in Australia. But what about in the world. Something prompted me to compare Rose’s words with the indisputably great writers’ award acceptance orations of the past, so i went to the Nobel Prize website and had a look. You know what? I preferred Rose’s speech. It seemed to resonate more.

The Nobel prizewinners whose speeches I found were all men. They usually began with a dutiful nod to humility, and some of them kept up that note. But others became Godlike. They made stirring calls to the writers of the future (who they assumed were men) and told them what they should be writing about. I began to think that if their dads had ever told them they’d be great writers, they’d just take that as their due.

Of course I found rhetoric and grand pronouncements about literature that are still frequently quoted.  Faulkner thought the writer must write about nothing but “the old verities and truths of the heart … love and honour and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice”. Hemingway thought the writer must always try “for something that has never been done or that others have tried and failed”. Steinbeck believed that “a writer who does not passionately believe in the perfectibility of man has no dedication nor any membership in literature”.

These writers were speaking on a world stage, at a time when the world seemed a dark place at risk of nuclear annihilation. It’s still dark, though perhaps a different kind of darkness. Rose was speaking on a small stage, to an Australian audience, mostly women, after winning a prize for women. Inevitably it’s a speech about smaller, personal things.

Or is it? “Being a successful woman is not an easy path,” Rose said – especially in Australia, and she cited the case of Julia Gillard. And then she, too, rose to the challenge of defining the task of the writer: “to tell our stories. To reflect the human experience. To find what is common and what is uncommon. To explore the past, be with the present, to imagine the future … And if we do not foster our creativity when we hear it calling – whether in our children or as adults – then the world is poorer for it.”

None of those great men mentioned children.”



The Christina Stead Prize 2017!

“I cannot express how wonderful it is to bring such an award home to Tasmania.”

Writing is a long game. Or at least it has been in my case. To those who have read my Stella Prize speech, you’ll know I’ve been writing since I was a very small child. Since before I even had words but simply knew I wanted to put pen to paper and express things. And this year, 2017, Year of Writing Miracles, has somehow emerged as a year where all that hard work has come to fruition. On May 23rd, as part of the New South Wales Premier’s Prizes, The Museum of Modern Love won the Christina Stead Prize for fiction.

The Christina Stead prize commemorates the brilliant Australian author Christina Stead. It has previously been won by the most incredible list of authors – and I am humbled and awed by finding my book among them. They include Helen Garner, Elizabeth Jolley, Beverley Farmer, Kate Grenville, Alex Miller, Robert Drewe,  J.M.Coetzee, Joan London, Merlinda Bobis, Carrie Tiffany, Michelle De Kretser, Thea Astley,  Tim Winton, David Malouf, Peter Carey …

Most excitingly, it has only once before been won by a Tasmaniam. That was back in 1989 for Helen Hodgman’s novel Broken Words. Helen was actually born in England and only spent a few teenage years in Tasmania, so this is the first time it’s gone to a born and bred Tasmanian. I’m particularly proud of that for all my fellow Tasmanian writers and the rich reading community that has so generously supported my writing over the past 20 years.

I cannot express how wonderful it is to bring such an award home to Tasmania. I hope this inspires many other writers not only in Tasmania but in all the remote parts of Australia, who often work with a sense of increased isolation from the literary centres of Melbourne and Sydney, and all writers who work long and hard at their craft in the hope of a breakthrough moment in their careers, that sometimes  – sometimes – it happens. I do hope it happens for you.

Here’s a little background from the State Library of NSW  about the award and the judges comments on The Museum of Modern Love.

About Christina Stead

The award commemorates Christina Ellen Stead (1902-1983), Australian novelist and short-story writer. Stead was born in Rockdale, New South Wales. She published fifteen novels beginning with The Salzburg Tales and Seven Poor Men of Sydney (1934). Her most well-known novel The Man Who Loved Children (1940) was based on her childhood in Sydney. Stead lived most of her life overseas, in Europe and the U.S., but retained a strong sense of national identity, reviewing Australian novels for the New York Times Book Review and keeping up with news from Australia through family correspondence. Her work, including several volumes of short stories, is acclaimed for her satirical wit. Stead’s literary popularity in Australia increased significantly after her return in 1974. The same year she received the inaugural Patrick White Literary Award to recognise her lifetime achievement.

Judges’ Comments

In a now semi-famous aphorism, mid-century French philosopher Simone Weil called attention ‘the rarest and purest form of generosity’, and more than the spirit of that observation inhabits Heather Rose’s deeply striking seventh novel. Initially centred on Arky, a composer for film, The Museum of Modern Love deftly orchestrates a range of characters including the US-Serbian artist Marina Abramović. In Abramović’s 2010 work The Artist Is Present, people were invited to sit silently in a chair directly across from her in order to share each other’s gaze. This is pivotal for a novel deeply concerned with the expansiveness of attention and the limits of responsibility.

The narrator’s voice gives the novel a quiet power, as if the universe was filled with a non-meddling benevolence. There’s a cinematic quality too, with even minor figures sketched in with sure and affecting touches. The Museum of Modern Love is alive with the surprise and challenge of presence in many of its forms — it is a very generous book indeed.

Images and storytelling have been intertwined since the first human beings gathered by a painted wall to tell tales in the firelight. Heather Rose’s The Museum of Modern Love works with these ancient ghosts with exquisite care and intelligence. Positing grief and art as deep echoes that corroborate the transitory nature of our lives, Rose brings the reader to a place of acceptance despite the inevitable darkness. With rare subtlety and humanity, this novel relocates the difficult path to wonder in us all.


This lovely picture is NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian handing me the prize. I love the delight in both of us!

Christina Stead Prize - Gladys Berejiklian NSW Premier

5 favourite works of art – on RN Books & Arts Top Shelf

Michael Cathcart and Radio National’s Books & Arts have a lovely section called Top Shelf. In this 10 minute edition I’ve shared a few cherished memories across art, film, music, novels and a Mary Oliver poem

A short essay on writing The Museum of Modern Love

The Age & The SMH published this article on the writing of The Museum of Modern Love.

The essay is here too (and without the ads!)


The writing of The Museum of Modern Love

As a writer you hear lots of stories about the writing process. How sometimes novels are written fast.  How novels come through like tuning into a radio frequency and all the writer has to do is simply transcribe them. William Faulkner, it is said, wrote As I Lay Dying in 6 weeks while he worked nights as an attendant in a parking garage. This is not one of those stories.

The Museum of Modern Love has had at least five titles as it emerged. It was initially written as a first person narrative, then from seven different first person perspectives, then in the third person, and now it’s back to a sort of first person narrative. (Read it, you’ll understand).  And it took eleven years.

It all started on a visit in 2005 to the NGV to see the Dutch Masters. I wandered into a side gallery and found a black and white photograph depicting a table set with some grey shadowy shapes. The small panel beside the photograph described a performance piece called Rhythm 0 by Marina Abramovic.  In Naples in 1974 Abramovic had laid a table with 72 items – these included a rose, a bottle of olive oil, a loaf of bread, a feather, chains, a whip, a knife, a gun and a single bullet. For six hours Abramovic was completely passive. The audience stripped her, cut her, wrote on her face, chained her to the table, and someone loaded the gun, put it to her head and attempted to make her pull the trigger. The descriptor continued with a short biography noting that Abramovic had also walked the Great Wall of China with her once-lover and performance partner Ulay as a symbolic gesture to end their relationship.

Reading that short panel I thought, ‘Now there’s a story.’ And it took hold. I had just written The Butterfly Man – a novel based on the disappearance of the infamous British peer, Lord Lucan. Another novel about water, fish and transformation was already underway. It was called The River Wife. The early writing of that novel won an international fellowship in 2006 with the Varuna Foundation that took me to Scotland for a month in Edinburgh as a guest of the UNESCO City of Literature. There I would write a first draft of The River Wife which was published by Allen & Unwin in 2009.

At the end of the time in Edinburgh I drove north and then out to the Isle of Skye, where I’d lived and worked through a long, wet summer in 1983. There, in a small hotel, on a quiet summer evening, a story really began to form in my mind of a character based on Marina Abramovic who had given her life, and her love, to art. I went upstairs around 10pm and wrote until 5am. At the time, I thought I was really onto it. That this would be a quick novel. That it would simply flow through me. How wrong I was!

When you’re a mother of three children, a wife, when you run a family business and have some interesting health challenges, life gets pretty full. So the novel had to fit in around the edges. This is often the lot of female artists. We do not get the focused, protracted, uninterrupted periods of thinking time that have often been the bastion of male artists. We must allow our minds to work while we’re ferrying children, doing washing at midnight and cooking pancakes at 7am. And I had to complete The River Wife for publication. It was the priority.

But while The River Wife was emerging, I also kept at the ‘Marina novel’, as I would come to refer to it. In those days there was very little on the internet about Abramovic. And much of what was there was written in Italian or Dutch. So in those first years I worked solely from my imagination. Then I happened upon the library of David Walsh, creator of Tasmania’s brilliant art gallery – The Museum of Old and New Art (MONA). At that stage the museum was a large shed in the back blocks of Hobart and the library was a series of small partitioned spaces and a couple of cupboards stacked with boxes. The site for the Museum would soon be excavated, but like my book, it was still more an idea than reality.

One of the cupboards became my research space. Here was every book ever published about Marina Abramovic. It was like discovering my family history. I felt pieces of understanding falling into place. And then someone mentioned to me that Marina Abramovic was doing a show at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York in 2010 and I knew I had to be there.

I had been to New York before and despite believing myself to be a person much better suited to remote beaches, old forests and wide blue skies, I surprised myself by falling in love with that beautiful evocation of city. So going back felt easy. I took a room again at the Chelsea Hotel (complete with worn brocade velvet couch, Harlequin-tiled bathroom and upright piano).  It turned out to be one of the last months the Chelsea would still be the Chelsea before renovations would get underway that have no doubt removed the decades of creative emollient that so lubricated the place. From there, every day for several weeks, I went to MoMA to see Abramovic’s 75-day endurance performance The Artist is Present.

I sat opposite Abramovic, and met her gaze, four times. I interviewed her gallerist, Sean Kelly and her photographer Marco Anelli. I talked to people who were there watching and participating in the performance. And I wrote. I can never sleep in New York so there were long nights at my laptop, and long days sitting on the floor of MoMA waiting in the queue to sit, or simply observe.

You might think that from there, it would be easy. But it wasn’t. Because in seeing Abramovic, in visiting her Retrospective, I realised I could never create a character based on her. It would never do her justice. Any art I could think of was always going to be surpassed by her real story. So I requested of Marina that she be a character in the novel. She said yes. And it began to fall into place.

However it’s not easy to put an extremely powerful Serbian (who is still alive) at the heart of your story. For a long time I grappled with my fear. Writing is all about overcoming fear. But this felt like a PhD’s worth of fear. And there were the normal issues with structure, voice, dialogue… and the other characters who were not always forthcoming. Perhaps they were intimidated by Marina too. One enormous blessing was that with MONA built, David Walsh gave me a studio to write in, and I became the inaugural writer-in-residence in 2012-13. It was a sanctuary.

In 2010 I had also begun writing a children’s book with my friend Danielle Wood, under our pseudonym Angelica Banks. The first book led to a series that is published internationally.  So suddenly we had intense deadlines. But these books were exactly the sort of delightful literary reprieve required when you are dealing, on the other hand, with a novel about marriage, love and art.

The third book in the children’s series was published in May this year. It’s called Blueberry Pancakes Forever. And now at last after 11 years, The Museum of Modern Love will be published this month. It’s the story of a film composer, Arky Levin, whose marriage is facing an excruciating reality. He is drawn to MoMA to observe the woman in the red dress who is meeting the gaze of whoever sits in the chair opposite. And life unfolds.

Curiously, the world of imagination has begun to mirror the world of fact. While I was writing The Museum of Modern Love, I began a degree in Fine Art. But that’s another story.

Heather Rose

August 2016



The Museum of Modern Love is published this month by Allen & Unwin. Heather Rose is the author of seven novels. She writes for both adults and children and has been shortlisted, longlisted or won awards for crime writing, sci-fi/ fantasy and literary fiction. She lives by the sea in Tasmania.


The Wheeler Centre interview – on muses, dinner companions and why imagination needs to be taught.

Up now at The Wheeler Centre is this interview.

Heather Rose is a novelist, art student and businesswoman, who writes for both adults and young readers. Her seventh novel, The Museum of Modern Love, is out now. Heather chatted with us about Leo Tolstoy, Edith Wharton and her dream of founding a School of Imagination.