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Colleen McCullough

In their own words

Recorded 1977

Colleen McCullough
Audio: 2 minutes

Writing the books, okay. I think my scientific training stands me in good stead, but since this is for posterity and not for publication, I can permit my egotism to show and say that I have an absolutely first class brain and an absolutely phenomenal memory. Consequently, I’m perhaps more capable than most writers, even those who fancy themselves as writers a great deal more than I fancy myself as a writer, I’m a lot more capable, I think, of actually standing back from myself while I write and being able to see the plot and the character possibilities of all the little quirks that happen while one is writing that one didn’t plan for. I can force and mould this kind of phenomenon which happens, I think, with all novel writers, I think perhaps better than most people who write novels can.

My scientific training and background, also the fact that I have a highly mathematical mind, probably accounts for the fact that I structure my novels the way perhaps architects, good architects, structure buildings. There’s a skeleton, a very firm foundation. This is mostly fact. Then upon that, I put a structure that is fiction. In other words, you might say that, for instance in The Thorn Birds, I have been criticised by some critics for killing off all my men, as though this were a Freudian slip on my part. For the benefit of posterity, every death in The Thorn Birds is an actual death that occurred in my family at the same age, and they were all men. Consequently, Freud didn’t enter into it. I was simply cataloguing the way in my family the men had sometimes died off rather young and rather heroically.

Acknowledgements

This oral history of Colleen McCullough is from the De Berg Collection in the National Library of Australia. For more information, or to hear full versions of the recordings, visit the National Library of Australia website.

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Colleen McCullough

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

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