Today’s interview is with Joshua Nash, winner of the Non Fiction category in the Thunderbolt Prize.
Joshua Nash is a linguist and an environmentalist. His work concerns philosophical and ontological foundations of language and place, the anthropology of religion, architecture, pilgrimage studies, and language documentation. He has conducted linguistic fieldwork on Norfolk Island, South Pacific and Kangaroo Island, South Australia, environmental and ethnographic fieldwork in Vrindavan, India, and architectural research in outback Australia. He is a postdoctoral research fellow in linguistics at the University of New England.
First of all, Joshua,congratulations on your win! How did you come up with the idea of your winning story, A Nameless Island?
A Nameless Island is a skew on crime non-fiction. I take my present linguistics research project, an island in the South Pacific with a mythical past, and ask what might comprise a criminal act. I arrived at several contradictions concerning what crime may be. The story is a musing on these incongruencies.
What attracts you to writing crime non-fiction?
A friend encouraged me to submit for this prize. Otherwise, I have written little about crime nor have I read many whodunnits. I loathe Inspector Morse type shows.
Can you tell us a bit about your background and writing career?
I am from Adelaide and moved to Armidale for work in October 2014. Professionally I studied as a linguist, but ultimately I am an environmentalist and a nature lover. Writing for me is both a scientific as well as an artistic endeavour. I have developed a corpus of peer reviewed work which straddles anthropology, geography, history, environmental studies, and pilgrimage studies. I am currently working towards finding my feet within more creative work.
You are a respected academic writer as well as a creative writer. How do those two practices work with each other?
Generally terribly. The peer review process in science can often be the one way to knock out most if not all creativity in writing. That said, I have been lucky to get some fringey creative ideas published in scientific journals.
What do you hope winning the Non Fiction prize will do for you as a writer?
Maybe the prize will give me my five minutes of fame in Armidale. It might give me the possibility to become more involved with happenings at the New England Writers’ Centre, which is definitely a good thing. As a researcher I don’t have any student contact at the moment, so I appreciate the contact with others. If I can contribute my expertise in any way, then great.
As a reader, what do you look for in a good book?
Good books show courage. Good writers take risks. Having lots of people not ‘get’ you is a sign you are doing things differently.
Anything else you’d like to add..
I am currently marking 70 third year architecture essays (ok, this is some student contact, though through digital means only). To all students in the world – please learn how to present reference lists and footnotes properly. I cannot overemphasise this point. Good reference lists lead to good marks which lead to a nicer world.