Tegan Bennett Daylight’s latest book, Six Bedrooms, was recently lauded as “one of the best books of the year” by renowned indie book chain, Readings. While that’s certainly a prodigious plaudit, it is somewhat unsurprising – particularly given that the Katoomba-based author was once pegged by the Sydney Morning Herald as one of Australia’s “Best Young Australian Novelists.”
Many writers talk of their process, their rituals and their diligence – a need to carve out space and time to devote to their craft. Moving to the Blue Mountains ten years ago certainly helped Tegan, along with her fellow-writer and husband Russell, to bring those concepts more readily into their lives.
“I’m a slow writer”, she admits, “and being up here hasn’t changed that. I think it is just easier here to cordon off my time. We’ve got a nice social life here, but it’s not at all hectic. And the kids don’t have hectic after-school lives, so it’s just quite relaxed. We’ve got this very clean space between 9:00 and 3:00 where we can both work.”
That sense of space translates to Tegan’s work as a writer. When pressed to define her style she defers to how others have described it: “I get out a lot of words like spare and controlled. I’m a very close editor of the work, so the sentences are carefully crafted.
“When you’re up here, you’re thrown back on yourself. When you’re in a city, you’re interested in the way things are changing all the time, and what’s in and what’s out. Up here, those things become a lot less important, and you therefore get selective in everything that you do. You just get selective in what you eat, what you read, how you write. I think all that has an influence.”
Six Bedrooms reflects Tegan’s childhood and teenage life growing up in Sydney – and reflecting on that period naturally helped to cement her feelings about her current life in the Mountains.
“One of the reasons that we live here is that we want our kids to live in a place where the pace is more like that of our own childhood. The kids can move around more freely, in the same way that we did. They can walk around the neighbourhood and they can own the space a bit. We don’t want them to feel as though there is a race to succeed, because we’re not that interested in contemporary success.”
She notes particularly that many of the friends that she’s made in the Mountains seem to share the same positive outlook on life: “What they’re actually interested in is life as you live it rather than the achievement of it, and the achievement is something that comes after the life has been lived well.”
Words by Stuart Buchanan. Photography by Camille Walsh.