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Don’t judge a book by its cover

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Bacchus Marsh author Wayne Marshall is celebrating the publication of his short story collection Shirl. Photo - Helen Tatchell

By Meg Kennedy

He was shortlisted for his unpublished manuscript in 2019; 12-months later, Wayne Marshall is a published author.
The Bacchus Marsh resident, who also co-organises the annual Peter Carey Short Story Awards, is celebrating the release of his book Shirl, which officially hit bookshelves today (Tuesday, 28 January).
Shirl is a collection of dark-humoured short stories, that take a range of what-if scenarios to their fabulist and comedic extremes, touching on the broader questions of Australian identity and masculinity.
Mr Marshall answered questions for the Moorabool News about his new book.

You began writing Shirl in 2013. How have the stories developed in that time?
I began working on Shirl in the winter of 2013, but it was a slow start. I’d given up writing at the time after an unsuccessful attempt at a novel, and was undergoing treatment for cancer.
Once my health improved, I was able to write more. But it wasn’t until 2015 that I started producing some of the stories that appear in Shirl. At the end of that year one of those stories was published, which gave me an enormous confidence boost.

Is there a story in Shirl that has really stuck with you?
My favourite story in the collection is probably ‘Gibson’s Bat ‘n’ Ball’. It follows the rise and fall of a sports theme park in 1990s Melbourne, underpinned by a troubled father-son relationship.
The key for me is no matter how far-out the stories get, they have to feel real.

How has living in Moorabool influence the creation of Shirl?
It had a huge influence. I find Bacchus Marsh such a beautiful and peaceful place to walk, and I guess those walks have fed my imagination, as several of the stories are set in towns not unlike Bacchus Marsh.
But there’s just a fantastic sense of community here, especially as a writer.

What do you hope readers take away from the book?
I’m not so interested in what readers take away from Shirl as their experience of reading it. I think short stories can be fun and exciting, full of surprises and twists, and I want to give readers that ride. I want them to be entertained, basically.

Have you been working on anything new since completing Shirl?
I’ve been working on something new since the middle of last year. It could perhaps be something longer than a short story, but we’ll see!

A book launch for Shirl will be held at the Bacchus Marsh Lerderderg Library at 12.30pm on Saturday, 15 February, with live readings, food, and copies of the book for sale.