In your words can you tell us a bit about your new book.
Hello, Goodbye is a coming-of-age novel set in 1968. Seventeen-year-old, May Callaghan, a country girl from a strict Catholic family follows her boyfriend, Sam, to Melbourne where she discovers a more liberal way of life.
In Carlton, she meets bohemian students, Clancy and Ruby, and finds herself swept up in the anti-Vietnam War movement. For a while she thinks she has shed her stifling past until something happens that drags her backwards, threatening the future she’s worked so hard for.
Hello, Goodbye explores the issues of forced adoption and the anti-Vietnam War movement in Melbourne. The 1960s were a time of incredible social change. The women’s liberation movement was building, the sexual revolution was in full swing and people were protesting in the streets. Yet, many young people still fell victim to archaic beliefs that saw unmarried mothers secreted away to homes and young men conscripted into war. Hello, Goodbye is based on their stories.
Which character was the most challenging to write about?
I found Sam, May’s boyfriend, quite difficult to write as he was so conflicted. He was hard to pin down, and for a while there was pretty one-dimensional. It took me a good few drafts to get to know and understand him.
In the end, I realised this internal conflict stems from the fact that he is very young and impressionable, and is struggling to make sense of the world and the expectations placed on him.
What are you favourite stand out reads and why?
There are so many! The books I’ve read recently that have stayed with me are Josephine Rowe’s A Loving, Faithful Animal, Zoe Morrison’s Music and Freedom and Anne Enright’s The Green Road. The characters in these books are incredibly vivid and alive, in all their strength and fragility.
Also, A Loving, Faithful Animal deals with the intergenerational impacts of the Vietnam War, which is a subject I am particularly interested in.
What inspired you to become an author?
I’ve always loved reading and writing, and have wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. I studied journalism because I believe words have the power to change the world. I still believe this and tend to write around social issues.
I started writing fiction again while going through a particularly tough period in my life. A very wise woman asked me what made my heart sing. When I said writing, she told me to go ahead and do it then… I did, and I haven’t looked back since.
Doing what you love isn’t always easy. Spending hours alone at a computer often makes my head spin and pursuing writing, as a career, is such a gamble. But when it goes right it is immensely satisfying, and I honestly can’t think of anything else I’d rather do.
What projects are you currently working on?
I have a second novel coming out mid next year with Allen and Unwin. It is contemporary, but also set in Carlton (My subconscious seems to be particularly interested in this location. It must be the coffee!). It follows the lives of two very different women who find themselves bound together by a tragic incident.
Apart from this, I am working hard to finish the first draft of a third novel, which explores the links between homelessness and mental illness.
About Hello, Goodbye by Emily Brewin
It’s 1968 and free-thinking country girl May Callaghan’s world is turned upside down when she finds out she’s pregnant to her boyfriend Sam, who is awaiting draft orders. A profoundly moving story of love during a time of great social change, with an ending that will leave you cheering.
May Callaghan is seventeen years old and on her own. At least that’s how it feels.
Her devoutly religious mother and her gentle but damaged father are fighting, and May’s boyfriend, Sam, has left their rural hometown for Melbourne without so much as a backward glance.
When May lies to her parents and takes the train to visit Sam at his shared house in Carlton, her world opens wide in glorious complexity. She is introduced to his housemates, Clancy, an indigenous university student, and Ruby, a wild bohemian. With their liberal thinking and opposition to the war in Vietnam, they are everything that May’s strict Catholic upbringing should warn her against.
May knows too well the toll that war has taken on her father, and the peace movement in the city has a profound effect on her. For a while, May’s future burns bright. But then it begins to unravel, and something happens to her that will change her life forever.
Hello, Goodbye by Emily Brewin is published by Allen & Unwin, RRP $29.99.
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