By Justin Flynn
Ruby J Murray’s decision to base her latest novel around a young woman in Geelong is something she has wanted to do for a long time.
The Biographer’s Lover, which has been released to positive reviews, is about young writer who is hired to put together the life of an unknown artist from Geelong. She thinks it will be just another quick commission paid for by a rich, grieving family obsessed with their own past. But the artist’s work spans decades that asks more questions than it answers.
“There were some things I knew I wanted to be included straight away,” Murray says.
“I knew I wanted it to be in Geelong just because there aren’t many books set in Geelong and this part of the world and that was very frustrating for me.
“So many books in Australia are set in the Outback or the bush or in super-urban settings and Geelong has already been forgotten about as one of the great industrial powerhouses in Australia.”
Murray now lives in Oakland, California, with her husband, but vividly remembers growing up and spending holidays and weekends at her father John’s place in Queenscliff.
It was so busy in summer, it was packed and almost like you were in a fairground,” she recalls.
“In winter it was like this abandoned, windy winter escape. I really loved that contrast.”
Murray says she has been writing her entire life.
“I didn’t want to be a writer career-wise because I thought it was a bad career decision,” she laughs.
Instead she studied political science and worked in international development in Indonesia.
The Biographer’s Lover took Murray five years to write.
“I wrote the book that I wanted to read,” she says.
“I’d be delighted if it reached an international audience, but it wasn’t the plan.
“I hope it makes people think about how history is told and who gets to tell it because when I was growing up it was almost as if women weren’t part of history at all. There were no female narratives at all.
“Whether or not they like that perspective or not, that’s fine. Mostly I hope they just read it and like it – or don’t like it – as long as they finish it.”
Murray will launch The Biographer’s Lover at Bookgrove in Ocean Grove on Friday 17 August.