November 12, 2008 / 11:09 AM / 10 years ago

Writer Bryce Courtenay has no plans to slow down

CANBERRA (Reuters) - From being raised in an orphanage in South Africa to becoming one of Australia’s most commercially successful authors, Bryce Courtenay’s life sounds like the plot of a novel and he has no plans to slacken the pace.

Australian author Bryce Courtenay smiles in this photograph taken 2008 and provided to Reuters by Penguin group. REUTERS/Graham McCarter/Handout

Courtenay, 75, was in advertising until he began writing full-time in 1989 with the best-seller “The Power of One,” written after one of his three sons, who had hemophilia, died aged 24 of AIDS contracted through a blood transfusion.

Since then, he has released another 17 novels with the latest, “Fishing for Stars,” a sequel to last year’s bestseller “The Persimmon Tree,” following the adventures of Nick Duncan, a wartime sailor who is torn between two contrasting women.

Courtenay spoke to Reuters about writing and his total dismissal of retirement:

Q: Why did you opt for a sequel this time?

A: “With “The Persimmon Tree” I wanted to tell a love story. I have been terrified of telling a love story as men don’t read women correctly but I thought I would attempt it. When it appeared to work and people loved the two protagonists involved I became interested and thought what would happen as they got older. I wondered if I could continue this love story. I became fascinated by these two opposite viewpoints they represent.”

Q: The women are so different?

A: “Totally. I have a plunderer and an eco-terrorist on my hands. I made them fall in love with the same guy so these two are at each other and represent extreme opposite points of view.”

Q: Is it hard to write from a woman’s perspective?

A: “Hugely. I tremble at the knees when I think about it. Whether we like it or not, the opposite gender to my own think and react differently — but not badly in any way.”

Q: Your books have mostly been set in South Africa and Australia. Will that continue?

A: “It is more now the Pacific region as that is where we belong. I write about my own backyard, my own people.”

Q: So Australia is home, not South Africa?

A: “The African novels were novels that dealt with my growing up there that I knew I needed to get off my chest. I see myself as very Australian. It is very doubtful that I would write another book about South Africa.”

Q: You’ve written 18 books in 19 years. Any chance of stopping writing?

A: “No, I think I have five or six more to do and I don’t see myself not doing them. When we give up doing things that we love to do, tough intellectual exercises, we start to fall off the branch. I watch brilliant people who start to take it easy start to fall to pieces, mostly the men, I might add. They suddenly fall about and they are mumbling, then gone. I am 75 now and hopefully I can go through to 85 still writing.”

Q: Are you disciplined with your writing?

A: “Alarmingly so. My day starts at 4.30. I get up and take the dog for a walk or go to the gym for an hour and then have breakfast and by 6.30 a.m. I am writing and I don’t get up until 6.30 at night. That is for six days a week, for seven-and-a-half months a year, and I always finish books on August 16 and then go and teach in America on August 18. l guess you would call that discipline but it is absurd too.”

Editing by Miral Fahmy

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