Home' LOTL : June 2004 Contents Her latest book, Names for Nothingness, delves into the
territory of cults and relationships. The novel tells the
story of teenager Caitlin who leaves her family to follow a
guru. The decision has repercussions for her parents, Liam
and Sharn, and her own child, Essie, that none of them could
What spurred you to take on the subject of cult membership?
Usually I have an idea for several years ... I was thinking about
the whole concept of yearning and longing and the belief that
happiness is elsewhere. I've always found the concept of not
wanting to participate in this world interesting. I wanted to look
at someone who really steps outside society -- I didn't want to be
directly judgmental about it.
Did you draw from any personal experiences? Well, I've had a
few friends who have explored that ... but no. The cult in the
book is pretty extreme.
Were you influenced by other women's representations of cults
-- Jane Campion's Holy Smoke for example? I'm not a big
researcher for my writing ... it comes from myself more than
anything else, a sort of "how would I react if I were in this
situation?" Kind of like method acting.
Do you find catharsis through writing? It's never really that
cathartic -- more just teasing out things that have troubled
you, exploring the issues, because I don't believe there are
any easy answers.
Would you say you're influenced by other writers -- your own
mother for example? We're quite different -- I'm disgustingly self-
disciplined ... I mean, she has discipline but she tends to talk
about her work with other people whereas I'm more secretive in
my work. It's a private thing.
What do you do when you're not writing? I work part-time
writing corporate publications. If you write literary fiction in
Australia, unless you're incredibly lucky, you can't earn a living
without doing something else as well. It's security, but it's also
good for you to be in the real world for a while.
Your novel deals with a mother-daughter relationship. How
would you describe their bond? It's an uneasy relationship --
one where there's never been any intimacy. I was interested in
what happens when you don't want to have a child. We
always talk about motherhood in these glowing terms, but what
if you just don't feel like that?
Did you draw on your relationships with your own mother and
daughter? I think we repeat the things our mothers did -- I look
at my mum and think how similar my life is to hers. The lack of
intimacy is not my personal experience but I have observed that
in the relationships of other people. Maternal love is instinctual,
protective and bound-up. But you can also look at a child and
think, "I don't know who you are."
Is lack of intimacy a key to why Caitlin chooses the cult over
her family? She's a child who's always assessed the world
Despite the understandable problems in their relationships, the
characters sometimes challenge the reader's sympathy. People
have found it a very full-on book, but (laughs) it wasn't for me,
so I was a bit surprised by that. Sharn is the very worst of myself
-- you're always drawing on aspects of yourself.
The book leaves many questions about the fates of the
characters unanswered. Is there a sequel? There's no sequel.
My mother said "Oh it's wonderful, it all ends happily ..." But
I didn't necessarily see it that way.
GEORGIA BLAIN, AWARD WINNING
AUTHOR OF CLOSED FOR WINTER,
THE BLIND EYE, AND CANDELO, AND
DAUGHTER OF WRITER ANNE DEVESON,
SPEAKS WITH JENNIFER HARRIS.
IN THE CULT
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Names for Nothingness by Georgia Blain
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