We sat down for a chat...with Alyssa Brugman
Alex As Well is a contemporary coming of age novel with a difference, exploring intersex and gender assignation. Its Australian author, Alyssa Brugman, tells us a bit more about it and herself. And bonus, equine pics too!
Alyssa Brugman: I was listening to the radio in the car. Jane McCredie was talking about her book Making Boys and Girls. She was saying that gender is a spectrum, not a dichotomy. I thought to myself, ‘Golly, as if adolescence isn’t difficult enough without…’ and then *bing* Alex just popped into my head.I was also doing a PhD in Narratology at the time and the manuscript was submitted for examination with my thesis.
WSD: In your novel, there are 'two' Alexes. Which Alex is your favourite?
Alyssa Brugman: There is a section of the book where Alex’s mother is giving her testosterone without Alex being aware of it, and Alex’s male side reasserts himself more at that point in the novel. He flirts with a class mate. I enjoyed writing that part of the manuscript because the two sides of Alex debate what to do and discuss what is appropriate conduct. The male part of Alex contributes power and vibrancy to the character too.
WSD: Learning and evolving as a writer is a topic you explore on your blog. What did you learn from writing Alex As Well?
Alyssa Brugman: I wrote a PhD thesis on unreliable narration, and the original manuscript of Alex was submitted as the companion piece, showing examples of the narrative strategies that I talked about in the thesis. I learned a lot of technical names for things I had done before in other books, and now I can see them when I read other people’s books. It’s kind of like opening the bonnet of a novel seeing all the different parts of its engine.
WSD: Are you a vegetarian?
Alyssa Brugman: No, but I do try to eat meat products that have been sustainably farmed. We eat camel meat. Camels are in plague proportions in parts of Australia, and we eat kangaroo meat because they are less destructive to the land than cattle and sheep are.
WSD: What is one of your favourite 'things' in or about Australia?
Alyssa Brugman: Just today I came back from a trip to Outback Queensland (top right hand corner) where we mustered some brumbies (feral horses) and broke them in over two weeks. That was exhilarating, and really sharpened my horsemanship.
Alyssa Brugman: Our business offers hoof care and advises on nutrition. It’s a terrific job. I drive around and talk to people about their ponies all day. Doing horse feet keeps me quite fit. I’m fortunate to have two jobs that I would do for fun. I also have eleven horses. I know, it’s a completely ridiculous number of horses to have when I only have the one bum.
You can read M's review of Alex As Well here.