My introduction to the work of Gillian Polack was The Wizardry of Jewish Women, a concoction of pink tutus, sarcasm, amulets and bushfires. and oh yes, Jewish women with and without magic, set in Australia. I was instantly literarily smitten.
Deborah J. Ross: Tell us a little about yourself. How did you come to be a writer?
Gillian Polack: I love telling people that when I was eight I stopped in front my Grade Three Classroom - for I was in Grade Four and had just been moved to the Big School to study with Mr Remenyi – and said to the empty air, “I’m going to be a writer. I’ll need another job because I won’t make enough money to live on.” My other job was going to be in history, though I flirted with other careers from time to time. I have no idea how I could have known that much about myself or the writing world when I was eight. I suspect Mr Remenyi was a part of it, for he taught us Christina Rosetti’s work and it was love at first reading. I knew I wanted readers to react to my work with the same voraciousness we reacted to her poems.
DJR: What inspired your story in Lace and Blade 5?
GP: I had just been diagnosed with glaucoma and told it was not responding to treatment. I spent three months talking myself through the emotions of it. This story was to remind me that blindness is not going to stop me being myself and that I need to find the people who will see that in order to lead a happy life in future. This story, then, is my declaration to the world about the future I’m carving for myself.
DJR: What’s the most memorable fan mail you’ve ever received?
GP: My two treasures are a poem written in response to my first novel by an elderly lady who’s daughter gave her a copy, and a scribbled “Thank you” from an adult student who had given up reading. She had been curious about my writing because I talked about it in class and she is now living in the world of books again.
DJR: What have you written recently? What lies ahead?
GP: Right now I’m writing a novel that has much talking, PTSD and analysis of how story affects the world. It tells of superheroes and alternate universes and how the stories we choose for our lives can change who we are.
My next novel to be published will be out in early 2019 and is called The Year of the Fruitcake. It’s about aliens on Earth, about judgement, about friends who save each other’s souls when life becomes tough and is one of the very rare novels told from the point of view of a perimenopausal woman.
DJR: What advice would you give an aspiring writer?
GP: Discover who you are and how this affects your writing dreams. Never stop discovering who you are and how this affects your writing dreams.
DJR: Any thoughts on the Lace and Blade series or this being its final volume?
GP: I am very honoured to be in it and very sad it’s at an end. I love the way the Lace and Blade stories have developed to give more voices to what used to be Sword and Sorcery. We have wider choices in our fantasy adventure reading because of it. The world is a richer place for those choices.
Dr. Gillian Polack is a writer and historian, and describes herself as “rather Australian.” She studied the French Revolution as an undergraduate, then advanced to the Middle Ages for her next couple of degrees: this story has been lurking a long time. Gillian still does a bunch of research (some of which is not terribly obscure) but she most writes novels (Langue[dot]doc 1305, The Wizardry of Jewish Women, The Time of the Ghosts) that use history, science fiction, fantasy and Australia in more or less equal measure. She has recently had a short story collection published (Mountains of the Mind).