Neil Grant was born in Scotland in the Year of the Fire Horse. He learnt to speak Australian at the age of thirteen when he migrated to Melbourne to ride kangaroos. He finished high school at the International School of Kuala Lumpur then spent years blundering through Indonesia, Israel, Yugoslavia, India, Nepal, Thailand, Greece, Italy, the UK and Tasmania. To research The Ink Bridge , he travelled (quietly) through Afghanistan.
When did you start writing?
Sometimes he escapes to write and dream in a mudbrick cottage he built himself on the Far South Coast of NSW.
Neil has three children and lives in Cottles Bridge, Victoria.
'I started writing from an early age completing such classics as: A Day at Castle Sween (where we holidayed as kids) and Cinderella Glaswegian Style (a play). My poem in response to Wordsworth's Daffodils did not take the Grade 5 Bunch-of-Daffodils prize. I started writing seriously after high school, scribbling in journal after journal; writing about crazy jobs, weird people and my travels. I hoped they would shape themselves into something one day.'
What are the best and worst things about being a writer?
'The best thing about being a writer is getting to grow a beard and board a plane for Kabul in the name of research. It is squatting in a chaikhana (tea shop) with a notebook and a pen and detailing everything from the smell of kabob and naan to an entire chicken deep-frying in a vat of oil. It is sitting in a Tibetan monastery guesthouse in the foothills of the Himalayas and weaving it into fiction. It is refining and editing it in Dunmoochin Artists’ Colony in Cottles Bridge. It is launching the finished work into the world. It is all that, and more... every time.'
'The worst thing about being a writer is when the kabob you ordered turns out to be liver. And the workmen below the monastery guesthouse start up their cement mixer as you start up your word processor. And the editing takes days and days and you lose the draft you were working on. And it is writing in second person when you should have written in first. It is all that, and more… some of the time (but not enough to stop me doing it).'
Where do you get your ideas from?
'All my ideas come from life. I am probably the most unimaginative fiction writer on the planet. But like most fiction writers, I am obsessive when an idea takes hold. From there it branches out and out and out until all my questions are answered. And if I am lucky I can taper it back in, like a neatly executed end splice on a thick piece of rope (I can’t think of an equivalent tree metaphor).
Of all the books you have written, which is your favourite?
'The Ink Bridge
has taken the longest time and has changed the most since first draft. It is like a wayward son who in the end makes good but still has the potential for erratic behavior. Rhino Chasers was my first born and has a potty mouth and is a little rough around the edges. Indo Dreaming is a wistful child who spends too long staring out to sea and so has red eyes and premature crow’s feet. They are all my children and I am not supposed to have a favourite. I love them all for different reasons. They represent different moments in my life and my continuing attempts at trying to be a better writer.'
What's on your desk today?
'An unproofed copy of The Ink Bridge
(with sticky notes), Liquid paper, iPod, journal, pens, laptop, guide books, atlas, thesaurus (that I should look at more often), stapler, cold tea, biscuit crumbs, whiteboard markers (for scrawling notes on my windows), dictionary (the full Macquarie that is so thick that I can stand on it to get a better view), a ream of paper (that is so full of possibility that I am surprised it doesn’t cost more).'
Requests for school visits by Neil can be sent to email@example.com