From our humble beginnings, with Anna Solding’s The Hum of Concrete in 2012, we have grown to one of the largest publishers in South Australia, publishing everything from picture books to adult literary fiction. So many people have helped along the way: designers, writers, illustrators, editors and readers. 2017 looks to be an incredibly exciting year with at least seven books published. It’s our Year of Stories so three of them will be short story collections, beginning with Lucy Durneen’s exquisite Wild Gestures. To thank you all for your support, we are having our first ever sale. We’d like to offer all our books at 20% discount from 9-11 February 2017. Don’t hesitate. Just go to our web shop and put in the coupon code HappyBirthday.
Patrick Allington launched Paul Mitchell’s We. Are. Family. with a terrific speech in Adelaide on Friday 9 September 2016. Several people have asked for the speech, so here it is, in all its glory:
What can I tell you about Paul Mitchell’s We. Are. Family? … What I won’t do is introduce the characters or give you a detailed account of the plot. You should experience those things for yourself. The story unfolds less like a flower opening (despite the arresting cover image) and more like the pulling of sticks, one at a time, from a great pile of wood. And when you read this book, prepare yourself for splinters.
I can tell you that We. Are. Family. spans three generations of men and women, boys and girls. The story of the Stevensons — an ordinary mainstream Aussie family name, isn’t it — unfolds in episodes and with time’s natural order disrupted. Over the decades, the Stevensons live in towns and cities, together and apart (or apart, alone, it often seems, even when they’re living under the same roof). They marry, they separate, they go to school, they bicker, they come together, they procreate, they punch each other (or they punch strangers in pubs), they drift, they die, they cheat, they mythologise, they drink tinnies. The story comes together in a disjoined, disrupted fashion — that’s a compliment, not a complaint — and the gaps in the story are themselves ripe with meaning.
I can tell you that the three G’s — God, George Orwell, and Gary Ablett Snr — inhabit the pages of We. Are. Family. Footy is everywhere in this story — from country grudge matches to the topline Melbourne stuff. On the one hand, to many readers, including me, as well as to many of the book’s characters, AFL is familiar, comforting, central to the universe. But on the other hand, it elevates a certain sort of male bonding, a certain type of team-first ethos, and, especially, a certain sort of ritualised violence. All this is real, acceptable, celebrated, symbolic … in other words, the mass allegiance to AFL has its messy and excluding elements. As for God and George Orwell — and UFOs, for that matter — they can be whatever their believers want them to be.
I can tell you that the mood of We. Are. Family. is that of a thunderstorm permanently about to break. And that as you read, tentacles of dysfunction will twist around your wrist. We. Are. Family. gazes unblinkingly — but compassionately — at a certain sort of Aussie bloke: his attitude to life, his behaviour towards women, his capacity for violence (so casual, so embedded, so deceptively innocent or even childlike (or so we manage to believe), so seemingly natural, like the tides). You may react differently when you read it, but to me, We. Are. Family speaks in an unadorned and eloquent way about mainstream Australia, not least our remarkable ability — an almost literally fantastic ability —to avert our collective gaze. By coincidence, the book I read before We. Are. Family. was Charlotte Wood’s novel about misogyny, The Natural Way of Things. These two novels are very different in tone and approach, but they speak to each other, I think. As with The Natural Way of Things, We. Are. Family will bounce off the walls of your mind, demanding a response, demanding engagement, demanding, I think, something more than merely reading and basking in the warm inner glow of feeling ‘informed’.
I can tell you that despite its raw tone and its challenging themes, We. Are. Family. is a funny book — it doesn’t set out to be comic, but it is devastatingly wry. The humour can be searing — because it’s honest — and yet somehow hopeful and open. This is a world in which everything stops for an AC/DC concert:
‘It wasn’t as if AC/DC needed him to be presentable. But, shit, it was a big occasion for him. Kind of like a wedding. Bigger, really, but he’d never tell Kerryn that. For obvious reasons.’
Shortly after this moment, the story gets very serious indeed — a good example of the novel’s deliberately jarring momentum.
All of what I’ve told you so far reflects my experience of reading We. Are. Family. But none of it — even if I lump all these points together — fully captures what I most liked about this novel, which is the potency of its details, such as,
‘Soon the sky turned rough charcoal like the barbecue when Ron forgot to clean it.’
‘He shouldn’t have bothered having a go at fried rice because he never knew how much soy sauce and how many peas.’
‘Your father is under a lot of pressure,’ his mum says, and Peter wonders, if UFOs exist, can they see in windows?
We. Are. Family reverberates with details, with specifics.
A word about MidnightSun. Independent publishing is a hard slog, and so often a thankless task. But if we want the national conversation to actually be a national conversation, we need small independent publishers at least as much as — probably more than — we need Penguin Random House. We need different gatekeepers with different models and priorities. Not least, we need different ideas about what constitutes (that dirty word) ‘excellence’. And we need publishers — more than a few — who do not operate out of, and think differently to, Sydney or Melbourne (much as, of course, we love Sydney and Melbourne people). Diversity doesn’t happen by us waving our arms about and hoping for the best. So I thank MidnightSun for fighting the good fight.
And I thank MidnightSun for publishing this book … We. Are. Family is a novel that has a great deal to say about Australia, not all of it pleasant, but it is not a novel that preaches or condemns. The characters are often in conflict, with themselves or with others. They sometimes seem to crave peace, but just as often they seem to go out of their way to scupper peace. The Sister Sledge song ‘We are family’ has become a celebrated anthem for solidarity. The novel We. Are. Family offers an ambiguous, tense, fractured solidarity … but still a solidarity of sorts. I commend it to you. Buy it, read it, think about it, talk back to it.
DEADLINE EXTENDED! Submissions now due Friday 2 December 2016!
MidnightSun has teamed up with Flinders University to create a short story anthology in 2017. The theme is ‘Ain’t Love Grand’ because it’s about romantic love, in any of its guises. We would particularly love unusual interpretations of the theme. Word length is max. 3000 words. Submissions will be judged blind, so please don’t put your name on the submission itself. Continue reading Call for submissions – Love anthology→
The first review of Lucy Durneen’s short story collection Wild Gestures has appeared in Books+Publishing and we couldn’t possibly be happier:
‘This is an intriguing collection of short stories where things are seldom what they seem and characters are preoccupied by their past actions. Shaped less by plot than by precise and evocative imagery, they are psychologically acute portraits of people dealing with grief or change.’
‘The stories can be bleakly funny; when one character’s heart freezes over, she compares the spread of ice with the spread of cancer, coolly remarking that both seem inevitable if you don’t heed the standard warnings.’
PB 208 | 198 x 129 | ISBN: 9781925227208
$24.99 | Short Stories | Also available as ebook $9.99
MidnightSun Publishing | Distributed by NewSouth
A daughter flies into a painting to escape her overprotective mother. An exchange student sees green lights in the sky above South America and fears the worst. Against the backdrop of an Italian bird market, a holidaying teenager makes her first attempt at seduction. And an affair that never happens is deconstructed while tigers pace in a European zoo.
Paul Mitchell’s wry and moving considerations of society’s undercurrents chronicle an unsettlingly recognisable Australia. His three poetry collections have received national prizes and wide acclaim, and his short story collection Dodging the Bull was included in the 2008 The Age Summer Read program. He is also a playwright, screenwriter and essayist.
Mitchell’s varied oeuvre explores the beauty in the seemingly mundane, the troubled history of Australian masculinity, and finds spirituality in the murky depths of life. He has continued this exploration with his sensitive and rugged first novel, We. Are. Family.
Z.F. Kingbolt has had a varied career including lawyer, scientist, engineer, journalist, biologist and teacher, so it took a while to discover that writing books was the best thing ever. A slitherphobe, Kingbolt hates snakes and burnt toast, but loves gaming, technology, geology and skateboarding.
MidnightSun Publishing published his/her/their novel Into Torden in November 2016.
PB 256 | 198 x 129 | ISBN: 9781925227147
$17.99 | Fiction Ages 8-14 | Also available as ebook
MidnightSun Publishing | November 2016
Distributed by NewSouth Books
Only champions dare to enter!
Thirteen-year-old Beth has been waiting for weeks to play in the championship of her favourite online game, Tordon. Now tribes of beastmen roar through her speakers. Game on! She plays to win, until her gaming nemesis Zane challenges her Continue reading Into Tordon→
MidnightSun Publishing is extremely honoured and proud that our first picture book, One Step at a Time written by Jane Jolly and illustrated by Sally Heinrich, has been chosen as an Honour Book in this year’s Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) Awards.
Paul Mitchell is the latest writer to join the MidnightSun family. Here he is talking about ideas for his novel We. Are. Family. which is due out in September 2016
Ideas – guest post by Paul Mitchell
My friend D. asked me a question I hadn’t heard for a long time: where do you get your ideas? We were sitting at a Castlemaine pub’s outside table. The night was almost freezing, we were dressed in great coats and beanies, and avoiding the trad jazz playing in the main bar. We were drinking pints of beer that were Continue reading Introducing Paul Mitchell→
Three generations are forced to confront the pervasive violence that hangs over them like a ghost, and the distances to which they have carried their forebears’ pain.
We. Are. Family. is a sensitive and rugged episodic novel which ruminates on the damaging idea of Australian masculinity with tenderness and dry humour. Paul Mitchell unravels the twisting threads that tie us to the past and the trauma that Continue reading We. Are. Family.→
In April 2016, writer Cameron Raynes and I set out on an epic adventure tour in Europe. We had planned to visit Bologna in Italy to attend the children’s book fair there and London in the UK to visit their book fair. It was a very productive trip with lots of meetings, both with new contacts and with old friends such as the Venezuelan publisher Ekaré, who are publishing the Spanish translation of Jane Jolly and Sally Heinrich’s One Step at a Time. Continue reading Bologna and London Book Fairs→
Cameron Raynes is a prize-winning author who has chosen in First Person Shooter to explore the deeply personal experience of adolescent stuttering. Having survived bruising encounters with three psychopaths by the age of 30, Raynes turned away from welfare work and anthropology to find his voice as a writer. He teaches history at the University of South Australia and is the author of The Last Protector and the short story collection The Colour of Kerosene.