Australia/UK | 2011
Evie Wyld has lived in South East London for most of her adult life, with frequent trips to Australia, and to her family’s sugar cane farm in New South Wales. Much of her writing begins with the landscapes of her childhood, remembering being alone Out the Back and making up stories.
After doing the Creative Writing BA at Bath Spa University and the same MA at Goldsmiths University London, where she concentrated mainly on short stories, she spent three years writing her first novel After the Fire, a Still Small Voice which is published by Jonathan Cape in the UK, Pantheon in the US and Vintage in Australia and Ambo Anthos in the Netherlands. The book won the John Llewellyn Rhys prize, as well as a Betty Trask award. She has been shortlisted for the Orange Prize for new writers and the 2011 IMPAC award.
She works in a small independent bookshop in Peckham, South London, called Review, and lives in Stockwell.
The wysteria had just come out when I got to Santa Maddalena, and the whole area buzzed with bees and fat black beetles. From the huge table in my studio I could watch the chickens in their enclosure. The pool was unfilled when I was there, but I liked that there was no concession to non-swimmers — about two meters deep the whole way through, with no shallow end for the more cautious waders.
I found a spider in the studio that I couldn’t keep away from. One day she had a beetle, still alive, but cocooned up in her web. For an hour, I sat next to them and watched the beetle fight its way out of the web, the spider retreat. It still doesn’t feel like time wasted.
At home in London, I find it hard to write in my flat. I’ve convinced myself that I need to go somewhere else to write, so that I’ve made the journey and feel stuck there. At Santa Maddalena, my journey was across a courtyard and so things got moving a lot quicker. First thing in the morning, and then the long stretch after lunch became the times I found most useful, perhaps because of the fantastic coffee, or because of the different character and light my studio took on at those times.
I have never met a person with more patience and energy than Ted, all of which seemed directed into making my stay as smooth and peaceful and useful as it could be. Home now, I thrash about looking for someone to answer my various inane questions, or help me waste time in a moment I’m in need of distraction — the only down side of Santa Maddalena is I don’t know how to function without a Ted.
Beatrice is the beating heart of the place, and it is her home that I stayed in, a generosity that I cannot quite get to grips with. Her sense of humour which is fantastically dark at times, must be partly born of dealing with the hundreds of ego led authors staying in her home, treating it like theirs — as we all did, because that is what she insists upon. One of my favorite things about Beatrice is when she waves her arms and says “Here, we do what we like, and so I am going to bed,” which encapsulates how it works at Santa Maddalena — you are both welcomed and left alone, looked after and invited to look after yourself. It’s a perfect combination for work. I finished a draft of my second novel, who knows how well it is finished, but I know that the amount of work that went into it at Santa Maddalena would have taken six of my London months.