Murray Middleton, won the 2015 Vogel. His online bio note reads: ‘Murray Middleton is an Australian author, born in 1983, and is based in Melbourne. He won The Age Short Story Award in 2010 with The Fields of Early Sorrow. He won the 2015 The Australian/Vogel’s Literary Award and was named Sydney Morning Herald Best Young Australian Novelists for 2016 with his collection of short stories, When There’s Nowhere Else to Run.’
Melanie Kembrey interviewed him for the Sydney Morning Herald and the extracts below come from that interview.
‘”I am never going to feel like I at all belong with any of those people [former well known authors who won the Vogel],” Middleton said. “It’s always intimidating when you read the works of past winners because you realise you’re nowhere near as good as any of them.”
‘Despite his modesty, Middleton beat 100 other hungry writers to claim the award and this is only the second time a short story collection has won in its 35-year history.
‘…Middleton himself has been charging, more than running, at the doors of the publishing industry for close to a decade after studying a writing course at university.
‘”I think I originally liked the idea of being a writer. I think a lot of people like the idea of it. The last decade has been about understanding the actuality of what is involved in it. Most of my time is spent at a desk getting shocking posture,” Middleton said.
‘While he won the prestigious Age Short Story Award in 2010, his previous two attempts to take out the Vogel’s were unsuccessful…
‘Middleton has been involved in a rigorous editing process for the past seven months with the renowned Australian writer Cate Kennedy as his mentor.
‘During the day he worked as a teacher’s aide and when the school bell rang he stayed back to thrash out 15 drafts of the collection.
‘”I think I have learnt more in the last seven months than I did in a five-year writing degree, particularly about owning every artistic choice you make, because it stops at me. Every word in there I am responsible for, for better or worse,” he said.
‘Middleton, who lists Nam Le, Raymond Carver and Elliot Perlman as influences, now hopes to try his hand at writing a novel… ‘”I want to try to work on pushing myself, using new techniques, trying to master them. I want to bring something new to the table…”‘
Middleton was also interviewed by Stephen Romei literary editor of The Australian, the interview is abridged.
‘“I’ve been working towards this for more than a decade and while I don’t see myself as being a particularly talented writer, I do see myself as a bloody hard worker. That’s the only advantage I have. Above all else, it just feels nice to be published. It makes me want to get back to the desk and have another crack at it…”
‘He started to write only because he was accepted into a university writing course—“It was quite low on my list of preferences and I wasn’t overly excited.’’
‘But he eventually had some success with a short story and decided to “play to my strengths” and enter the Vogel. Middleton’s stories are wide-ranging and diverse in terms of place and people, prodding at contemporary Australian life and values.
‘Middleton said hardly any of his friends knew he was a writer. “I’ve always tried to avoid defining myself as a writer, or an artist of any sort.” That, at least, may have to change now…’