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What’s Feeding Your Senses? Cassie Hamer

Published 5th August, 2016 in Writing
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Cassie Hamer is a writer that’s as winning than the Hawthorn Football Club, and much more fun to be around. Her story, ‘Le Farfalle’ will be published in the upcoming Margaret River Press anthology, Shibboleth and other stories. We talked to her about her sensory cues; those books, films, songs, and TV shows that have captured her head and heart…

What are you reading?

There’s an inexplicable magic to reading which means that a) books find you when you need them b) they come to you in ‘waves’ of theme or subject matter.

Recently, I found myself (inadvertently) in the midst of a sex phase, where I read Lee Kofman’s memoir The Dangerous Bride, quickly followed by Kirsty Eagar’s new young adult title Summer Skin.

The Dangerous Bride explores whether it’s possible to engage ethically in non-monogamous relationships, with Kofman drawing (exquisitely) on her own personal experience, along with the works and writings of other artists. This work is poetic, academic and highly personal.

In contrast, Summer Skin, is the story of Brisbane uni student, Jess, who has fallen for the wrong guy. In the cloistered milieu of university colleges, a Unity girl falling for a ‘Knight’ is akin to Juliet hooking up with Romeo. So, does Jess betray her friends and feminist principals by being with Mitch, or does she listen to what her body and mind want her to do? Eagar completely nails the voice of Jess – she’s smart and funny, and at times, incredibly frustrating. She’s 19, after all.

So – two very different books. Different genres. Different writing. Yet they share a deeply feminist perspective on sex, which gives them a beguiling freshness and modernity.

Those two books were so good they left me in the reading doldrums for a couple of weeks. Nothing else seemed to stack up. However, I’ve now landed on Guinevere Glasfurd’s The Words in My Hand – the story of 17th century French philosopher Descartes, and his love affair with a Dutch house maid, Helena.

I’m hooked. It’s definitely helping to cure me of my irrational prejudice against historical fiction, which is a silly, catch-all genre label anyway, but don’t get me started on THAT topic.

What are you listening to?

Mainly to conversation (music makes me want to sing or dance, neither of which is conducive to writing).

Last year, I undertook university studies in phonology, which looked at the musicality of language. According to the lecturer, we all speak to a beat, or rhythm, of which we’re not always conscious. However, the beat is so strong that it can actually determine our word choice.

I found that idea quite mind blowing. That we chose our words in accordance to an inner, mental rhythm.

But of course, rhythm isn’t the only reason for listening to what people say. Conversation (and eavesdropping) can be a source of story ideas, and deep listening can inform dialogue writing. Idiosyncrasies are particularly useful for creating distinctive voices.

Also, I have three daughters. I have no choice but to listen.

What are you watching?

Netflix! Our family has joined the ‘binge-watch’ generation and are streaming to our little hearts content. Currently, we are over-dosing on Season 3 of House of Cards (think West Wing meets Breaking Bad). As President and First Lady, Frank and Claire Underwood (Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright) are the most likeable sociopaths on TV.

In light of my lacklustre music-listening habits (see above), I’m also enjoying the TV drama series Vinyl (Foxtel, HBO). Set in the glam and hedonistic world of 70s New York, it’s the story of record exec, Richie Finestra (Bobby Cannavale) and his efforts to resurrect his ailing record label. Created by Martin Scorsese and Mick Jagger, the series is worth watching for the music alone. Punk, blues, rock – I’ve never watched such a music-heavy TV show.

Finally, I also had the pleasure of seeing the film, Brooklyn, based on the book by Colm Toibin (which I have not read). If I could live in a movie, it would be that one. This is a story of love in all its forms – romantic, familial, and the big one – a love of ‘home’.

Cassie caught the writing bug at the age of 10 when she had a poem about ballet published in Dance Magazine. A love of words led to a career in the media, but these days she writes more fiction than fact. A number of her short stories have achieved success in various writing competitions and in 2015, Cassie graduated with an MA in Creative Writing. She blogs about books and writing at BookBirdy.com.

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