Where are you originally from and where do you live now?
I'm originally from Australia but I haven't really lived there for almost 15 years. My family and I have lived in and near Vilafranca del Penedes for the last 8 years and before that we had a couple of years in England and three years in Japan.
What work do you do apart from the ECClub?
I am a writer and freelance journalist as well as a teacher of English to adults, mainly in companies. My first non-fiction book, titled The Remade Parent, was published recently here in Catalonia and advanced groups in the ECClub have been reading it this year, which I'm very happy about.
How would you describe your groups there?
Since 2011 I have had a number of different intermediate and advanced groups in and around Barcelona, including L'Hospitalet, Sant Cugat, Balmes and Urquinaona. Each group has it's own distinct atmosphere and dynamic but generally the groups are small with between two and five members. What comes through in all the groups is that there is a strong relationship with reading and a curiosity about human experience inside and outside of literature.
What kind of books do your members prefer to read?
Of course it varies greatly but if a book is well-written and has interesting or unique characters, a good plot and uses clear language it is always enjoyed. Opinion is usually a bit divided on each book because it is rare that everyone likes the same book for the same reasons. Some members like the challenge of learning new words and phrases from what we read.
Which books did you like the most last year? Why?
I thought “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” was an excellent piece of writing and “Knots and Crosses” by Ian Rankin was surprisingly engrossing. Also, I'd certainly recommend J. M. Coetzee's “Boyhood.” Previously we read “The Cellist of Sarajevo” which is a brilliant example of historical fiction. This year, I really enjoyed “The Blazing World” and of course rereading George Orwell's masterpiece, “1984.”
What's the best thing about being an ECClub group leader?
That's an easy question to answer for me. The people I meet at the groups are the best part of the job. I always learn a lot from them as readers because the activity of absorbing yourself in a book is such a subjective and personal time. That means that some things that the members say about the book had never occurred to me and I get a new insight into what we have read that way. As a writer, I pick up a lot of knowledge about what people like and don't like about books but I have also learnt a massive amount about Catalonia and Spain from the members too. Some of them feel like friends to me, which is a lovely benefit.
Have you written any other books?
I'm writing my second book at the moment. It's a travelogue/memoir of a trip to (and around) parts of Spain that are usually neglected by travellers and almost always neglected by foreign tourists. I'm about halfway through finishing it and hope to have it completed by the end of August.
“ You write every month in Catalonia Today, but how about your work with the press in Japan or Australia?
Since living here I haven't written many articles for Japan or Australia. I had a small piece in the Guardian's online edition in the UK not long ago but I'm concentrating on writing my next book and my columns for CT every month. That's all I have time to do!
“ How about your Catalan?
Well, I understand Catalan well when I read it and usually understand most of it when it's spoken (depending on the clarity of the speaker) but I don't speak it unfortunately. I wish I did because it would be great to be able to. Castilian Spanish came easier to me so I have stuck with that up 'till now. I'm a very strong supporter of the Catalan language (and culture) though and I'm extremely proud that my son speaks it fluently.
“ Do you miss Australia?
Apart from my family there I don't miss much. Sometimes I do miss the genuinely multicultural side of Australia and the wonderful, wide open space of the desert but on the whole I definitely prefer living here where culture is more than just sport and society is less materialistic.