Trent Dalton is the international bestselling author of Boy Swallows Universe, which broke records to become the fastest-selling Australian debut novel ever, All Our Shimmering Skies and Love Stories.
His books have sold more than 1.2 million copies in Australia alone. Boy Swallows Universe has been adapted into a smash-hit theatrical production by Queensland Theatre Company and will shortly be seen as a major Netflix series.
The Sunshine Coast audience is in for a treat when Dalton appears at The Events Centre Caloundra later this month to talk about his latest book Lola in the Mirror.
Tell us how Lola in the Mirror came to be – I can start by telling you what I wanted the book to feel like. There is this incredibly personal and intimate and sometimes terrifying thing that we do every day: I’m talking about looking into the mirror. That deeply confronting moment when it’s all quiet and still and you look deep inside yourself and you see all of your irretrievable past, all of your tricky present and all your possible futures. I then had a seed of a moment for a meeting between two lovers. It takes place in the middle of the book, so I kind of moved narratively backwards and forwards from that one beautiful moment.
How would you describe your novel? – Lola in the Mirror is for anyone who ever felt like they were going to collapse under the weight of sorrow. The book is also for all those beautiful souls who help us carry that weight. It’s an art story. It’s a crime story. It’s a mystery novel. And it’s a life story.
Please share with us your writing process – I walked all the streets the characters walk, taking over 300 photographs of the very real cracks in the footpaths, the murals, graffiti, homeless shelters, trees etc. Then I printed all these photographs out and stuck them to the wall of my downstairs writing room. Then the routine starts. Drop the kids at school, go for a run, then fix a boiled egg and slice it up over one piece of avocado toast and make a strong coffee. I write solidly from 9am to 3pm, stopping halfway to eat a can of John West tuna. Repeat daily for roughly six months and you might look up one day and realise you have yourself a book.
What significance does the act of looking into a mirror hold for you? – When I was a boy, I used to look in the mirror and see wondrous versions of my future self staring back at me. But then I turned 15 and the reality of my life started erasing all these possible versions of me. Life and a dozen depressing adult parts of it – drugs, drink, unemployment, sorrow, loss, rage, regret – entered my thinking, seemingly permanently, and all I started to see was my present self. And I didn’t like what I saw. I didn’t like how sad that kid looked when he stared back at me. So, I stopped looking in the mirror for any real length of time. Didn’t feel like anything was going to change for the kid staring back at me. Lola represents a reason for the hero of my book to keep looking in the mirror. A reason to keep dreaming.
If not a writer, what would you be doing? – I daresay I’d be in a small industrial warehouse in Virginia, Brisbane, boxing car parts and sending them to various mechanical workshops. I did that job for a year before I decided I wanted to be a writer. On my last day, my boss – a hard but beautiful man – gave me a farewell gift: a gold ballpoint Parker pen.
Tuesday, October 24, 6pm for a 7pm start.
The Events Centre, 20 Minchinton Street, Caloundra. Tickets: $25 per person. Bookings via council’s libraries website.