Q&A with Oliver Mol

Else Fitzgerald  

For the month of November, we are running our annual open call out for EWF 2016 (which you can find out more about here). We talked to some of this year’s amazing participants about their experience, which writers they are excited about at the moment, and what they’ve been up to since EWF15.

Oliver Mol was the co-winner of the 2013 Scribe Nonfiction Prize for Young Writers and was the recipient of a 2012 Hot Desk Fellowship. His debut book is Lion Attack! At EWF15 Oliver was a panelist on the Early Bloomers panel as part of the National Writers’ Conference and performed work at Late Night Lit events with Kill Your Darlings and Dear Everybody Collective.

How long have you been attending the Emerging Writers’ Festival?

I started going to EWF in 2012. I was thirsty. Everyone was doing these incredible things: publishing books, novellas, doing readings, launching magazines. It seemed like everyone had their things and I wanted my things too. So I went home and worked on my things. I worked hard. Then, in 2013, I wasn’t an actual guest but I was invited to read with the Seizure people because I had published a microfiction with them and they said, ‘Do you want to read?’ and I said, ‘yes.’ It was terrifying and incredible, which is more or less how every reading should feel. In 2014 and 2015 I was a festival artist. I remember emailing my mum the festival artist page with my face on it and just writing: holy shit. Then we Skyped and I looked like this for a long, long time:

Looking back, all those people in 2012 who I thought had their things didn’t have anything. Or they did but none of it matters. I know that now because there are people looking at me with my things and I am here telling you: I don’t have anything. I have nothing except my hunger. And I’m hungry. I’m hungry for the future.

What was your motivation for applying to be a part of EWF15?

I wanted to reconnect with people and a city that I hadn’t seen in a while. I wanted to sell books. I wanted to present on panels and to learn. I wanted to read. I wanted to be around people who valued reading. I wanted to party but I mainly wanted to party with books.

What did you get out of the festival? Any particular highlights?

Chris Somerville did a very Chris Somerville analysis of some movie, maybe Jack Reacher, that had Tom Cruise in it, which is to say it was the best thing I saw at the festival.

Then some years ago Bill Henson was maybe launching Higher Arc [edit: the event was in collaboration with Ampersand] and he was speaking about an old Melbourne, a Melbourne that doesn’t exist anymore, a place that had more: more bookshops and record stores and artists and heart. He might of said some other things but I don’t really remember what. I just remember standing there and being like: it’s Bill Fucking Henson. But then I started thinking about the past and how, because it’s the past, it’s contained and how maybe because of that it always seems like a place with more, or maybe it just seems complete: a place where more opportunities were completely failed, where more relationships were completely ruined, where more chances were completely missed. I don’t know. I think there’s a beauty in that. In that nostalgia. In the failing of it all. I want to fail at a lot of things. I want to be old and dead some day. Full and dead to the eyelids with the things I tried so hard to do.

What have you been up to since EWF15?

Since EWF15 I’ve had more or less a constant migraine. It’s been pretty hard to deal with. I’m kind of on the tail end of it. I hope. I don’t know. I’ve had them on and off for the past few years. I didn’t know what triggered them except that, sometimes, staring at computer screens and iPhone screens made me cry out in pain. Now I know I have something called “convergence insufficiency”, which basically means I have weak muscles behind my eyes so that when they converge, or come in together, to focus on something at a close distance they can’t handle the strain. At best, at the start, it sort of feels like lightning inside your face. Instead of stopping, I chose to work through the pain. I had a grant application that needed to be done. I thought if I could finish the grant application then maybe everything would be okay. So I elevated my laptop above eye leveI. For a while it seemed easier on my eyes. But then something happened. I don’t know. It was like something snapped. I later learned the position I’d raised my laptop to was the worst place for your eyes to focus. I finished the grant application but I also completely fucked my head. Then a lot of time passed and I still had the pain. I began to see a psychologist because I didn’t know what else to do. I’d had the migraine for four and a half months now and I felt like the pain was beginning to change me. Fuck off, I thought. Fuck off. Fuck off. But it wouldn’t fuck off at all. Often I just lay in bed and cried. I felt like the past was erasing itself, that I was beginning to forget, that if I couldn’t remember a time before the pain then how was I meant to see into the future?

Truly though, the worst thing wasn’t the pain, it was the inability to do the things that gave me reasons for getting out of bed in the morning: to read and write and interact. I felt a sense of loneliness, of isolation.

At Brisbane Writers Festival I was on eight to ten codeine/muscle relaxant pills per day for three days. I couldn’t function any other way. On my last panel I took a sip of water and the water dribbled down my chin. I couldn’t feel my face but I also couldn’t feel my head. I couldn’t feel anything and it felt terrifying and wonderful.

The pain isn’t completely gone but it is getting better. I didn’t get the grant in the end but I don’t even care. I’m able to write in short bursts now. I can’t tell you what that feels like. I have exercises that I do each morning. I just want to be better. I have dreams about being better. I have dreams about my next book. And my next book is going to ruin you and me and as many people as I can in this god damn country.

Who are some of the writers and artists that you’re excited about at the moment?

Chris Somerville, Holly Childs, Miles Allinson, Rachel Bell, Scott McClanahan, Stacey Teague, Lucy K Shaw

Can you tell us about the last book you read and loved, and what’s currently on your to-read pile?

These are the last few books I’ve read:

  • Train Dreams by Denis Johnson: depressing and beautiful and then got more of both of those things the more I thought about it.
  • The Rings of Saturn by W.G Sebald: this book changed the way I think about books. This book makes me excited for my next book and the way structure and form can be manipulated in the novel.
  • Eat Me by Linda Jaivin: I can’t believe I hadn’t read this book yet. I wrote in my notebook: WILD. Everyone should be required to read this book.

Then these are the books that are sitting on my desk waiting to be read:

  • Inland by Gerald Murnane
  • Welcome To Your New Life With You Being Happy by Rachel Bell
  • The Collected Works of Jane Bowles by Jane Bowles
  • Caveworld: A Novel by Adam Gnade
  • The History of The Ginger Man by J.P. Donleavy
  • In the Memorial Room by Janet Frame
  • The Confessions of Nat Turner by William Styron
  • A Little Lumpen Novelita by Roberto Bolaño
  • The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
  • The Kandy – Kolored – Tangerine – Flake Streamline Baby by Tom Wolfe

What have you been working on lately?

Because I haven’t been able to write I’ve been able to think a lot. So I’m thinking about my next book. I’m thinking about Australia, both as a location to depart from and arrive to. I’m thinking about backpacking and its neocolonial implications. I’m thinking about how people like getting fucked up. I have one sentence from this section of the book. I love this sentence. The sentence goes like this:

‘We put the things that are terrible inside us and we feel good again once more.’

I don’t know how I’ll use it yet but I will use it.

At the same time I’m thinking about Nauru and the refugee crisis and how some people are leaving for India to “find themselves” and how other people leaving for Australia are ending up in Nauru, lost or worse.

I’m thinking about my Dutch grandfather who was released from a Nazi concentration camp and who rode his bike from Germany back to The Netherlands before immigrating to Australia and about the memoir he wrote called: ‘How God Hookwinked Hitler’.

I’m thinking about the past present, and future of Australia.

I’m thinking about modern relationships.

I’m thinking about aliens.

I’m thinking about Mars.

Where can we read some of your writing?

This is the only thing I’ve published in the past six months. I am very proud of it.


Also please buy my book. It’s called ‘Lion Attack!’. I am also very proud of that.


Thank you.

Have you got any advice for other emerging writers?

Get out into the world and get to failing.

Applications are now open and will close at 5pm (AEST) on the 26th of November, 2015. Successful applicants can expect to hear from us in late January, 2016*. The 2016 Emerging Writers’ Festival will take place in Melbourne from June 14-24.

Click here to apply!