Books & Words, Opinion

An Interview with Angela Meyer, blogger, writer and disliker of FourSquare

2 Comments 21 September 2012

Blogging seems a large part of what you do. How were you introduced to blogging?

I was introduced to blogging pretty early on (I had a Live Journal account about ten years ago) but didn’t seriously consider it as a regular, themed practice until starting LiteraryMinded in 2007, around the same time I started writing reviews for Bookseller+Publisher magazine. There were roughly about seven or eight Australian literary blogs that I knew of at the time; now there are tons! Some don’t last very long, though. Mine was, I believe, one of the first to cover literary events like launches and festivals.

Was it hard at first?

It wasn’t hard at first because I didn’t have any big expectations for it. I just thought it’d be a great way to connect with some like-minded people (I was living regionally) and to have links or re-published versions of my published work all in one place — sort of like an online CV or a way to track my career. LiteraryMinded still functions in both these ways, though it has changed a lot.

How would you describe the feeling you get from blogging?

The feeling I get from blogging is mainly one of pleasure, sometimes (admittedly) of obligation, sometimes inspiration (other ideas come about via the thought process involved in blogging) and definitely satisfaction. It’s satisfying to express, in a personalised way, thoughts on stories and the wider culture around them. It’s also satisfying, for me, because I generally derive satisfaction from being organised! And much of the pleasure comes from the conversations around the blog posts —whether in the comments, through social media and email, or offline.

To those new to blogging, what would you suggest?

I would advise new bloggers to think about a theme or set of related themes that you’re passionate about before diving in. If your blog has a strong focus it’s more likely to be read and returned to, and if it’s something you’re genuinely passionate about you’ll enjoy writing it. Don’t aim to please a massive audience, just write about what you’re interested in, and what you care about! And be patient.

Correct me if I’m wrong but I understand blogs and Facebook are similar in that both allow you to take notes, post photos and thoughts, and can be places of intense discussion. What’s your view on Facebook, the world’s obsession with Facebook and the advantages of blogging over Facebook?

Big question! I still don’t know how I feel about Facebook. It works differently from a blog: there’s a strange mingling of connections — professional, school friends, family — many who wouldn’t read your blog. The similarities you’ve drawn are correct, but I use my Facebook profile and my Facebook ‘page’ (for the blog) differently.

I don’t have much to say on the world’s obsession with Facebook… I think Facebook has been beneficial for many people and groups but, on the other hand, it’s probably a negative force in many people’s lives. One of obsession, or obligation. Even of control. I quite admire my friends who don’t use it! For me, it’s a good way of keeping in touch and finding out what’s on, and the LiteraryMinded Facebook page does help to draw people to new posts on my blog.

I’ve always given different types of social media a go. I used to use MySpace, I have a tumblr (for fun), I have YouTube, and I’m a fan of Twitter. I haven’t found Google+ interesting or useful and I haven’t yet gotten into Pinterest as I have enough going on — but it’s tempting. I dislike FourSquare and social media like that, which just tells people where you are.

What do you think is the best novel you have ever read?

You ask some toughies! How can one name a favourite book? It depends on your mood, frame of mind, where you’re at in your life. Among the top 10 (novels) would be: The Stranger by Albert Camus, Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, Orlando by Virginia Woolf, The Trial by Franz Kafka, Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, Dreams of Speaking by Gail Jones, Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates…

I’m currently being blown away by The Fortunes of Richard Mahony by Henry Handel Richardson. But that leaves out all the short story collections and nonfiction… And I think many of the books that remain your favourites (as I see here) are the ones you read when you were in your late teens and early twenties. Because they’re the first best books you’ve read.

What’s a book you think hasn’t received enough limelight?

A book that hasn’t received enough limelight? Plenty. It’s a tough industry. But I can think of two off the top of my head: Rhyll McMaster’s Feather Man and Rachael King’s Magpie Hall (her first novel was acclaimed worldwide but I thought this novel was better: an addictive, self-aware modern Gothic).

What would be your favourite writers of all time?

Favourite writers, have you got all day? I’m still discovering so many. Maybe I’ll limit myself to ten. Vladimir Nabokov, Albert Camus, Franz Kafka, Virginia Woolf, Richard Yates, Janet Frame, Alex Miller, George Orwell, Roald Dahl, Sylvia Plath.

I haven’t read enough of them yet but I suspect Elizabeth Jolley, Henry Handel Richardson, Iris Murdoch and Angela Carter will also make the list soon.

On Smashwords and Amazon, your short stories have been received to critical acclaim. How did these stories come into being? Did you draw inspiration from events in your life or any other sources?

I wouldn’t say that… they’ve had a few nice little reviews though, yes. They were originally printed in literary magazines Torpedo, The Lifted Brow and Wet Ink. I’ll talk about one of them: ‘You Will Notice that Hallways are Painted’. I’d basically been carrying the germ of the idea for years. I even made some (bad) short films years ago with the central idea of a society that values positivity and functionality, where freedom exists in a farcical way… I wrote the first draft of the story in a frenzy, and it was barely edited before I read it at a storytelling night in St Kilda called Dog’s Tails. Chris Flynn was the co-curator of those events and he loved the story and wanted to publish it in Torpedo. The story is very sexy and sensual, too, and after it was published it wouldn’t leave me alone. It began to grow in my mind and now I have a third draft of a novel which came out of that world and the character of Ava, who is locked-up in an institution for being an over-abundant, overstimulated and over-expressive person.

I wouldn’t say I drew anything specific from my life for the story, though I do think the medicalisation of personality ‘types’ is very worrying, particularly of people who feel overwhelmed, melancholy or inadequate. And that does include, at times, me and many of my very dearest friends, who experience life intensely. In the story and the novel manuscript I really take these ideas to an extreme. I guess it’s satirical (of contemporary Western consumerist society), but I think of it more as exaggerated or absurd (you can perhaps see, looking at my list of favourite writers, why this is so). Besides being a satire I guess it’s speculative fiction; a dual character study (someone ‘outside’ and someone ‘inside’), and a bit of a love story. I’ve been enjoying writing it, whether it’ll be ‘the one’ or not…

Angela Meyer’s LiteraryMinded blog can be found at literaryminded.wordpress.com.

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