Rosalie Ham talks about The Dressmaker




What inspired you to write The Dressmaker?

The Dressmaker started out as an idea for a short story, but I didn't think it was a very good idea so I never wrote it. It turned into a novel when my teacher at RMIT told us to write down in 500 words what our novel was going to be about. I had enrolled in novel class because I thought (wrongly) that we were going to study lots of novels very closely, rather than learn to write them. The Dressmaker was an accident.

Suspicion, malice and prejudice are throughout the book. What's going on with this?

Suspicion, malice and prejudice are three of the things I find MOST annoying about humans but it's rife among all of us. I hate the petty, nasty, tiny mind but at the same time it can be very observant - just not a particularly nice observation. In this book I’m attempting to show how destructive and ridiculous it can be.

Did you grow up in a town like Dungatar?

I grew up in a small country town just like any other small country town - there were the usual types: the town gossip, the sexual deviant, the secret cross dresser, the snob - and there is a smattering of hypocrisy and bigotry, as in any community. In rural life you are conscious of and cushioned by a society in which you either succeed or fail very publicly. My parents divorced in the full glare of scrutiny when I was young but I never ever felt insecure or alone - there was a whole town that I knew and knew me, and a neighbourhood that watched out for each other. Country people can be very forgiving and tolerant, but if you do the wrong thing they will let you know.

How long was the process of writing it?

I wrote the novel over 3 years.

When do you write?

I write in the morning and once I start I tend to keep going until I start writing jibberish. I also write in my head randomly so I keep a note pad and pen by my bed, in my bag and in the car to make notes.

Who have you been influenced by?

I'm not sure who I was influenced by. I'm a bit eclectic. I love Cormac McCarthy and I also like Anne Tyler to name but two. I love Under Milkwood, and I also love Paul Kelly the songwriter because they tell you things about people but very differently.

What bits of you are in Tilly?

There is none of me in Tilly (I don't think) but I wish I was a bit more like her. I'd like to be the strong, silent, clever type.

Can you sew?

I did sewing at school - I can sew, and used to sew a lot of my clothes when a student. They never fitted well and the seams always unravelled.


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