CREATING WORLDS, CHARACTERS AND VOICES THAT MAKE PEOPLE FEEL

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By Peter Dewar

Local author, Demet Divaroren, launches her young adult novel at the Willy Literary Festival on June 17. Living on Hope Street follows the lives of seven diverse characters living in the same street and explores themes such as domestic violence, multiculturalism, and grief.

Demet was born on a couch in a Turkish village. Soon after, her family emigrated to Melbourne’s western suburbs where Demet still lives with her husband and newborn daughter. Demet’s articles, essays and works of fiction have appeared in Griffith Review, Island magazine, The Age Epicure, The Big Issue and From the Outer. She is co-editor of the Coming of Age: Growing up Muslim in Australia anthology, which was shortlisted for the Children’s Book Council of Australia’s Book of the Year award. Demet teaches creative writing at Victoria University.

Your writing is evocative. None other than revered Melbourne scribe, Christos Tsiolkas, described Living on Hope Street as ‘big-hearted’ and ‘compassionate’. Would you call yourself a romantic?

I am a hopeless romantic. It’s the grey areas in 
life that fascinate me. The mysteries of the human condition, the small moments that make a big difference in someone’s life. For years I was obsessed with reading historical romance novels and although I haven’t quite managed to write a romance novel (it’s a work in progress!) these novels have taught me so much about the different shades of love. It’s a theme I explore a lot in my writing.

In the midst of penning your latest work, you said, “I am writing a novel that is rewriting me.” Care to expand?

Living on Hope Street challenged me in many ways.
 I think at its core it’s a love story and that’s one of the strongest threads that ties it all together. The many ways people love and connect, sometimes in the most unlikely of circumstances. But it’s also a dark story and it made me go to dark places and left me emotionally drained – especially writing the violent scenes and its effect on children and their psyche.
It is the book that matured me as a writer.

Growing up in an immigrant family in the west taught you…?

The power of a diverse community. I attended Maidstone Primary School and everyone looked different, yet it wasn’t a big factor. I was exposed
 to different cultures and that became the norm for me. It’s only when I ventured into the primarily Anglo Saxon mainstream Australian community that I felt different. The west was also my introduction to the Footscray Football Club. A few players visited my primary school and I developed a massive crush on a sandy-haired Bulldog. When it came time to pick an AFL team… there was no question!

Describe the scene watching the Doggies win last year’s AFL grand final.

One of the most surreal experiences of my life. I was lucky enough to be at the game and sat up in the clouds. I’m petrified of heights and was hyperventilating half the game, but that moment halfway through the last quarter when I knew we would win was unlike any feeling I’ve ever experienced. “We are gonna win,” I kept saying over and over, half shocked. We’ve been chasing this 
for so long that when it finally arrived it was hard to believe, even with the facts staring you in the face.

In the last twelve months: a novel, new baby. How’s it all going?

Next question! Joke. My baby is 3 weeks old and
 we are getting to know each other, which is both a beautiful and intense experience … especially when she likes to stay up and chat at night instead of sleep! Its completely transformed my life, my mentality and my priorities. For twelve years I dreamed of publishing a novel and worked towards making it a reality. It’s serendipitous that both babies arrived within the same month … one was a 2.5-hour labour … the other took 2.5 years! They’ve both contributed so much to my life and have taught me so much about love, patience, perseverance and sacrifice.

For details on Demet’s book launch and other Williamstown Literary Festival sessions: http://willylitfest.org.au/

 

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