Michael Burrows is an author and poet from Perth. Here, he reads from his first novel, Where the Line Breaks, and talks about how it was inspired by an Anzac Day experience in Gallipoli, the search for Australian war poetry and his love for Western Australia.
Describe your manuscript in your own words.
Where the Line Breaks is the story of two men and how they cope with their own personal conflicts. A bundle of anonymously written Australian war poems are discovered that take the world by storm, leading to a worldwide search for The Unknown Digger. Matt is an Australian academic, writing his thesis in London in 2018, trying to prove that the great Australian war hero Alan Lewis wrote the poems, while also navigating his romantic and academic issues. Meanwhile, we follow Alan Lewis from embarkation, through training and Gallipoli and The Great Ride through the Middle East, discovering the real story of his time in the war.
What inspired you to write it?
I was lucky enough to spend Anzac Day 2013 in Gallipoli, which was an incredible experience – watching the sun rise over the water with the bugle playing, a few thousand people falling completely silent after a long night of remembrance – and before I left I shared a bunch of my favourite war poetry on Facebook. Unfortunately there isn’t a lot of Australian poetry available from the Great War, and nothing as well known as the work of Brooke and Owen and the other famous war poets. After the dawn ceremony, all the Australians in the crowd went further up the cliffs for a second ceremony at Lone Pine, and I remember sitting in the stands and thinking: why isn’t there more Australian war poetry? And I knew there was a story in there that I had to write.
How long have you been working on it?
I had the initial idea in 2013, then spent the next year or so doing a lot of research into the period but not really writing anything. In September 2015 I joined the Masters in Creative Writing Course at City University in London. The aim of the course is to come away with a polished draft of a full-length manuscript, which for me was the selling point of the course, and really sets it apart from other creative writing courses. I was lucky enough to be mentored by Evie Wyld while writing my first draft, and I graduated in 2017. I knew the manuscript needed a lot more work, so I’ve spent the past year editing it and reworking it, with a self-imposed deadline of Easter 2019, which I only just managed to make, and which coincided perfectly with the Fogarty Award deadline!
What does it mean to you to make the shortlist of the 2019 Fogarty Literary Awards?
Making the shortlist of the 2019 Fogarty Literary Awards is such a vindication of all the hard work I’ve put in editing and reworking this manuscript to where I thought it needed to be. It’s so easy to get disheartened when you’re slogging away on the nineteenth or twentieth draft, but to get shortlisted gives me the confidence to think that even if it doesn’t win, my writing could be good enough for publication, and that there are people out there who are interested in the types of things I like to write about. I also feel incredibly proud to be shortlisted for an award specifically for West Australian writers, because although much of my novel takes place in various locations around the world, it is really a love letter to Western Australia and to home.
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About Michael Burrows
Michael Peregrine Burrows is an author and poet from Perth, Western Australia. He has had short stories published in various literary magazines, and recently completed his Masters in Creative Writing in London. 'Where the Line Breaks' is his first novel.