Miller's Coal Creek a total gift

Alex Miller's latest work Coal Creek wasn't meant to end up as a novel.

The Castlemaine author was more focused on writing a book about his long friendship with the biographer Hazel Rowley, who had recently passed away.

He thought Coal Creek might end up as a short story.

But the voice of semi-illiterate but highly endearing narrator and main character - Bobby Blue - took hold. 

A character reminiscent of his younger years as a stockman in central Queensland, Miller said Bobby's voice stayed with him for 10 weeks as he wrote his 11th novel. 

"It's most unusual for me - I have taken seven years to write a novel, and it usually takes me at least two years," he said. 

"But that young man took hold and he decided to tell the story his way.

"I was writing eight to 10 hours a day and I found the whole process quite suspenseful.

"I didn't know where it would end up and the ending came as a surprise to me too. 

"It was a total gift."

Coal Creek brings readers back to the region featured in Landscape of Farewell and Journey to the Stone Country. 

"Bobby Blue's voice holds a tone of modesty and self deprecation," he said. 

"I see a lot of my younger years in him; I worked in the central Queensland bush for many years when I left school. 

"It was a great adventure but I had an ambition to succeed in the city."

The two-time Miles Franklin award winning author has done just that, with Coal Creek shortlisted for an Indie Award.

"I always thought becoming a writer was verging on the impossible but I met the right people who encouraged me and believed in me," Miller said.

"I don't think anything much has changed since winning awards and I've been fortunate to be able to work in my own way. 

"I suppose if you hang around long enough, you're bound to strike a bit of luck. I've been fortunate that I've had a lot of it."

Miller says he will now return to the story of Hazel Rowley - as well as write a non-fiction memoir on his friend Max Blatt.

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