Sometimes your best writing comes after a period of what you see as failure, and really failure is something that as a writer you have to embrace because it can come at different degrees of scale but it can mean that you batter at the doors of this thing you're trying to create, and then you give up and a new approach comes to you and that's the kind of tailwind that you need.
In this conversation from his home in Seattle, Dominic Smith reflects on the formation of his writing discipline and muses about being an American, born and bred in Australia as well as his latest work The Electric Hotel.
Smith’s fourth novel, "The Last Painting of Sara de Vos" was a New York Times best seller and won both Indie Book of the Year AND the Australian Book Industry awards Literary Fiction Book of the Year in 2017, but building an Australian audience has proved unfairly challenging.
The Electric Hotel is around the birth of cinema, as the Lumière Brothers sent commission agents around the world to demonstrate their cinematographe, a development on Edison’s kinetoscope which was more like a private peep show. Smith brilliantly captures the utter wonderment of the first cinema audiences.
The novel introduces us to ( fictitious) French filmmaker Claude Ballard, one of the original Lumière commission agents, then silent film heavyweight, now in his eighties, a dedicated mushroom forager and long-term resident of the Knickerbocker Hotel in Hollywood. All the most important events in his life have hinged around his involvement with film. It's a truly captivating story, beautifully researched, where even the most staggering human experience feels entirely plausible.
Smith says his goal while writing was to fall in love with silent film. He watched over one hundred of them for research. Preservation of these films has been an issue. It was reported by the US Library of Congress in 2013, that 75 percent of silent films made in the US between 1912 and 1929 had been lost. It's a piece of good luck for readers that Dominic Smith felt the imperative to write about the era.
Read a full transcript of the interview here.
Recorded at RTRFM Mount Lawley, Western Australia, August 21, 2019
Mixed by Adrian Sardi at Sugarland Studios
Music "The Summit" by Blue Dot Sessions from freemusicarchive.org