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The Healing Party by Micheline Lee Q&A: 6 April, 2017

"With her debut novel, The Healing Party, Micheline Lee breathes new life into the dysfunctional family narrative. Emotionally honest, at times funny and remarkably original, Lee’s novel paints a compelling portrait of a family grappling with their faith in the face of grief and conflict." – Stella Charls

Micheline Lee was born in Malaysia and migrated to Melbourne when she was eight. After completing law at Monash University, she lived in Darwin for 15 years. She has worked as a criminal prosecutor and as a painter, holding exhibitions in Australia and overseas. Micheline now lives in Melbourne with her partner and son. Shortlisted for the 2017 Victorian Premier's Literary Award, The Healing Party is her first novel.

Micheline will join us for a Q&A on Thursday, 6 April between 8 and 9pm. Please leave any questions you have below. (And discuss her writing at your leisure!)

Want to buy The Healing Party? Receive 10% off when purchasing it from Readings at State Library Victoria. To receive the discount online, enter the promo code BOOKCLUB in the promo code box during online checkout. To receive the discount at our State Library bookshop, simply mention the Thursday night book club at the counter.

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Hi Micheline, thanks for doing the Q&A. 😊

I imagine that writing about religion could be a touch controversial nowadays, especially when approaching things like fanaticism. How did you approach the subject in your research and drafting? And how has it been received? Did you have any concerns about public reactions?

Thanks!

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Well meaning friends told me not to write about religion because it would repulse people. My experience however as a child involved in the Charismatic movement affected me strongly, and writing was a way of deciphering all the conflicting feelings I had about that period. In novels, religious people are commonly ridiculed or treated like some alien specimen. I wanted to show them as real, multilayered people. Many readers have said they love the Chan family, their ambiguities and the way they can believe in seemingly wild things but at the same time have their feet firmly on the ground. I wanted to show that there was a wonderful side but also a destructive side to the magical thinking that we see in the Chan family.

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Hi there,
Thanks for being here – we’ve got a few questions for aspiring writers on Tablo:
You’ve been a painter and criminal prosecutor – how did you come to writing or have you always written?

Can you give us background about The Healing Party – what inspired it?

What was the most difficult aspect of bringing your book to life?

Anything stand-out you learnt in your editorial process?

How did you get published? Was it a difficult process or relatively easy?

Do you have any general advice for new writers on getting through a first draft and also on getting published?

Were there any writers or books that influenced your work (and how)?

Thanks again very much appreciated!

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You’ve been a painter and criminal prosecutor – how did you come to writing or have you always written?
The healing party was my first creative writing. I didn’t feel like a novice however. I found that many of the processes I used as a painter, the conceptualisation process, sense of structure (contrast, tone etc), also served me as a writer. I started writing because my disability progressed to the point where I could no longer properly manipulate a brush. Change can bring great surprises.
Can you give us background about The Healing Party – what inspired it?
My starting process for writing is the same as it was with painting. There are certain images or scenes that rise up and hold me with their emotional power. They drive my writing. I try to work out by writing what I’m thinking and feeling and why that image or scene seems so numinous. It was the memory of my Mother’s face looking out of a hospital window some weeks before she died, and a subsequent dream I had that drove me to write The Healing Party.

What was the most difficult aspect of bringing your book to life?
I’ve heard other writers say the biggest hurdle was the fear of exposing yourself, and I found this to be the same for me.
Do you have any general advice for new writers on getting through a first draft and also on getting published?
You hear writers emphasise that writing is a discipline and you need to set a word target for each day. There is a lot to be said for this but I find that what may seem like a writers block can be the prompt that you need to tunnel down further in your thinking and your feeling to discover something difficult,
Were there any writers or books that influenced your work (and how)?
Helen Garner’s fierce and at the same time compassionate delving into our shadowy sides inspired me to aspire to do the same, Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead trilogy showed me how to write about spirituality, and Christina Stead’s The Man Who Loved Children taught me about representing the pressure cooked insular world of the family.

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