Rhiza Press Blog

Rhiza Press blog is the place to keep up to date with all the goings-on in the world of Australian books for Adult and Young Adult readers.

The Cultural Tightrope

By Lora Inak

DSC 4091If you plug in the term ‘Cultural Tightrope’ into any search engine, you’ll undoubtedly find a mix of explanations, definitions, stories, articles and random websites. I started my research in exactly this way, sifting through page after page of search hits to find the perfect definition and starting point for this article.

After some time, and no real luck, I realised the difficult task of defining my meaning fell on me:

The act of balancing between the culture you’re born into, and the culture of the place or country in which you live.

Like the traditional circus tightrope we all know, the cultural tightrope can be precarious as it swings and bounces over the journey of the walker. For us first, second, and even third-generation Australians, we sometimes find ourselves on an oscillating tightrope, unsure of where we fit.

Are we real Australians? We weren’t born here! Or, if we were, we don’t look like the typical Aussie in tv commercials.

Inevitably, we look for cues about what is culturally acceptable should we choose to define ourselves as an Australian, and too often change ourselves to blend in, to balance, rejecting the culture of our forefathers. Alternatively, we deep dive into it, immersing ourselves in the safety of where we know we definitely belong.

As I get older, it increasingly dawns on me just how much the culture within us, and the culture without, affects every part of how we exist. The food we eat, the people we associate with, the books/movies/music we enjoy, the partner we marry, how we raise our children, our occupation, and the list goes on in a seemingly endless stream.

And with this awareness, comes the realisation of just how important it is to understand, accept, and be proud of it. Not only is culture a wide and frameless being, it is also complex in its constant evolution and fusion. So, it’s no surprise that balancing that tightrope can be tough.

As I learned to appreciate, accept and enjoy the culture I was born into and the one in which I live, I created a personal hybrid where I found comfort, happiness and balance. The tightrope stopped swaying...

So I walked calmly to the other end and climbed off.

 

Lora's debut novel, Unspoken Rules, is out on the 17th of September on Australian Citizenship Day.

To find out more about Lora, visit her website and Facebook.

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A Chat with C T Wells, author of The Kingdom of the Air

WellssmallRHIZA PRESS: Tell us about the your name, C.T. Wells - real name or pen name?

WELLS: Well, yes, it’s real. They’re my middle initials. My first name is Peter, and I get called ‘Pete’  but there are too many Peter Wells out there ranging from dead rock stars to writers of economics textbooks, so I had to go with something else. Initials seemed to work for the likes of Tolkien, Lewis and Rowling, so I thought I’d try that. Oh, and Herbert George Wells went with initials too.

RHIZA PRESS: No relation?

WELLS: Not that I know of.

RHIZA PRESS: So tells us about the new novel, The Kingdom of the Air...

WELLS: It’s a historical thriller, set in 1940 during the Battle of Britain. It centres on a young Luftwaffe pilot called Josef Schafer, who is shot down over England. He is captured, but then he’s sent back to occupied France with a specific job to do for the Special Operations Executive.

RHIZA PRESS: So given that he’s a German, why does he help the British?

WELLS: I can’t tell you that. Its classified. Readers will see how they apply some leverage...

RHIZA PRESS: Aviation plays a large part in the novel. Would you call it a techno-thriller?

WELLS: Maybe a “retro-techno-thriller”, if there’s such a thing. I don’t understand modern technology enough to write a contemporary techno-thriller.

RHIZA PRESS: So did you have to do a lot of research to set the story in 1940?

WELLS: Yes. I usually write with another screen open to check my facts as I go. I don’t want to be a slave to historical accuracy, but it is important to try to be true to time and place. Anachronisms and historical errors can really derail a story.

RHIZA PRESS: But details give a ring of authenticity to the story, right?

WELLS: Sure. I like to know things like the brand of a cigarette or the calibre of a pistol. Or whether wildflowers grow in Normandy...

RHIZA PRESS: What drew you to that era?

WELLS: When we read a novel of this sort, it’s essentially so we can escape from our ordinary life. I find there’s something compelling about the thirties and forties. Close enough to be relatable, but far enough to be escapist. Everything from the styles of that period to the overwhelmingly high stakes of the second world war is engaging for me. Of course, there are some cool planes to write about too!

RHIZA PRESS: The Kingdom of the Air is set against a backdrop of war and espionage in a time of fear and violence. Would you say it is a dark story?

WELLS: It’s certainly set in a grim time of history, and it tries to be real about that,  but it also explores how character can prevail under those circumstances. I think there is a redemptive element to it. It’s essentially an action story, but hopefully readers find some head and heart in there as well.

RHIZA PRESS: You said “heart”... does that mean romance?

WELLS: Yes, but it’s tough for relationships to develop when you’re on opposite sides of a war.

RHIZA PRESS:  The Kingdom of the Air has won some awards – The Caleb Award and The Clive Cussler Adventure Writer’s Competition. Does this make it literary fiction?

WELLS: It’s not necessarily setting out to be something like that. I hope it’s a smart thriller. A gripping story, but maybe there’s something to think about as well.

RHIZA PRESS: And the title, The Kingdom of the Air, is that a reference to The Battle of Britain?

WELLS: Yes, but it’s also a phrase from the Book of Ephesians in The Bible. It alludes to the death and rebirth theme in the story.

RHIZA PRESS: Speaking of death and rebirth, is it true that you nearly died during the publication of the novel?

WELLS: Yes, it is true. I was in Jakarta and on my way to Las Vegas for the Adventure Writers’ Competition Awards and my taxi got hit by an out-of-control  dump truck. My son and I were in a bad way with internal injuries. We had emergency surgery, followed by several weeks in hospital. But we’ve pulled through OK. We’re very thankful to be alive, but it was a very close call.

RHIZA PRESS: Well, we’re all pleased that you’re still here. This is the first novel you’ve published. When did you start and how did you write it while working full time?

WELLS: It took nearly five years from inception to publication. But even if you’re time-poor, you can still produce a thousand words a week. If you do that for two years, you’ve got a full length manuscript. The thing is, you have to keep believing in the story over that period of time. Even Stephen King says he has to write fast to outrun self-doubt.

RHIZA PRESS: Well the story seems to be gathering plenty of interest now. And what’s next for you? Anything else in the works?

WELLS: I’m half way through the sequel now.

RHIZA PRESS: Thanks for sharing with us and all the best for The Kingdom of the Air.

 

The Kingdom of the Air comes out 1 April. 

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