Anita Heiss is a successful and celebrated Australian author.
Anita Heiss’s catalogue of work spans the literary divide, including historical fiction, commercial women’s fiction, children’s literature and social commentary. She has even written and directed a film, though on this she remains modest. “It was only a short film. Five minutes.” Still, few writers can boast of such an impressive and diverse collection. Anita is a proud member of the Wiradjuri nation of central New South Wales and in 2001 was the first Aboriginal person to graduate from the University of Western Sydney with a PhD.
These days, Anita calls West End home, and is loving the lifestyle. “Brisbane is like the Mercedes in the garage that you only bring out on Sunday. It’s a bit of a secret; people don’t seem to know about,” she says. Having recently relocated from Sydney, Anita is relishing the restaurant scene, and running tracks along the river. She considers the State Library of Queensland to be the best facility of its kind in the country, a huge compliment when you consider who is paying it. Her only complaint seems to be the heat, which she does find rather intolerable.
Research is paramount in Anita’s creative process. She is a method writer and tries to live the lives of her characters. This means immersing herself in the setting, basing herself there and talking with the locals. The research, then, can at times be more fun than the writing itself. “I wrote a book set in Paris, so guess what? I had to go and live in Paris.”
Her latest work Matty’s Comeback has recently hit the shelves. A story for younger readers, it tells the tale of football-mad Matty and his long suffering sister Nita. This is the second in a series of first chapter books, preceded by Harry’s Secret.
In all of her work, Anita strives to teach her readers something. Through the highs and lows of her characters’ lives, Anita challenges readers to explore themes which are important to her, including reconciliation, the Stolen Generation and Aboriginal Land Rights. At times her fiction is categorised, perhaps dismissively, as “chick lit” and Anita is okay with that. “People can call it chick lit if that’s what they think it is. That doesn’t mean it’s not good writing, or a good story. You can write the most important, ground breaking story, but if nobody reads it then what’s the point? As long as people are reading it, they can call it whatever they want.”
Anita’s novel, Tiddas, published in 2014, is set in West End. Writing Tiddas saw Anita move to West End for six months. In November last year, she returned to Queensland, this time more permanently. The relaxed, easygoing nature of Brisbane people held much of the appeal. “No one even gets upset in the traffic on Boundary Street every afternoon. There’s no horn honking. Everyone’s just like, whatever.”
Anita is an asset to the Brisbane literary scene. Hopefully, this time she’s here for good. Let’s hope the heat does not get the better of her.
Words by Gemma Easton | Images by Amanda James & Elixabete Lopez