The Creative Conversation #2 Transcript - Hannie Rayson (Best of)

For those who don't have time to read the whole thing, the best of my interview with Hannie Rayson, super adventuress creative lady, can be found below.

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Click on the image for the podcast interview with Hannie RaysonOn the success of Hotel Sorrento

The lesson I think for other people about this [...] is that Hotel Sorrento took me about five years to write, and I had a baby in that time, and lots of things happened to me. It was such a voyage of the soul, it was a such a creation of just passion and commitment and love, that play, and I suppose it’s over twenty years ago that I wrote it, but it’s still being performed, and those royalties just drop down out of the sky. So sometimes I think it’s my version of having written ‘Happy Birthday.’ 

On her love for playwriting

I love [the theatre] and the fact that the words can also be beautiful on the page. That’s a bit different to the current aesthetic where the words are...to be literary is somehow sort of to be old-fashioned in some ways, for some people. But I actually think that the meaning and the power of the work comes from the words and that you want it to be theatrical and wonderfully realized in the space. I’m big on the actual words.

On the fiscal realities of being a writer

I’ve had this sort of notion about myself as a writer that the money doesn’t relate to what I do. There has been a downpipe that has come into my house and that’s been money that’s come down that, not a huge amount, but enough has come down that - but it’s had no bearing whatsoever to the actual work I do at the word processor. So it doesn’t matter if the person is commissioning for a lot or a little, the job is the job and that’s what has to be done, and then if there’s not enough money there then you have to do something else to sort of supplement it.

On her daily routine

I walk every morning early, I walk in with my husband to the ABC where he works, every day. And then I walk home and then I start, really. Routine wise it’s better for me not to do emails, and all the other stuff, cos it is running a small business and there’s a lot to do. [...] And it depends what stage I’m at with the work, with the plays, or anything else I’m doing, writing articles or writing speeches, I do a lot of public speaking now, and they all have to be prepared. But you know, the great thing is to spend as much time as you can immersed in the world of the play because it takes a while to get in there, and the minute you’re out for a couple of days you’re really out, and then you have to take two, three days to get back. So I try and be very immersed in it.

On creating characters

Obviously I’m basing it someone I vaguely know or I’ve met, and you make amalgams of characters and all of that. So I’m dreaming myself into the character, I’m creating very elaborate backstories and elaborate biographies which I write down. So even I’ll know what kind of brand of cigarettes the man smokes, or whatever. I know the music that the woman listens to. I just try and know everything I can so that they are totally and utterly real. So that the exciting thing for me is that I get up in the morning and I feel that those people live inside my word processor. And it is actually a weird process of having imaginary friends, which is peculiar. 

On first drafts

I really do believe that the first draft is the draft which is the anarchic draft where you just sick ‘em onto each other and see what happens, cos they will be surprising. [...] It really takes ages to get [a first draft] out of me.

On the drafting process

Really what I’ve learnt as time’s gone on as a writer is that I would get sick of it after having finally finished the first one, and I have to keep bash myself up to keep drafting and redrafting, and not writing a new play each time. And I feel my latest play, Extinction, which I’ve written for the Manhattan Theatre Club, that really taught me about the discipline of draft after draft after draft, and what that can, and how that yields a better, better, finer polish. 

On writing and adventures

Even when I was in my twenties, there was a great friend of mine, and she had a business card and it said ‘Wendy Harmer: Adventuress.’ And I thought, I really want that business card. And I think part of being a writer is, you know, if you’re a writer who is committed to this, is to have that as your business card. Because it does give you a licence to be an ‘adventuress.’

On her advice to young writers

I think being curious is the most important asset anyone’s got, and once that’s gone you can roll over and die. So it’s really important to keep grilling and asking yourself and other people about life and meaning and power and all those important questions about how the world’s organized and how human beings function in it. That and everything else. And tenacity. Really, truly, being an artist in any media is about the last man standing. Everyone falls over along the way cos they want to do other things and we can all start out with great expectations, but you know, it’s tenacity and self belief and great doubt that makes you, as well as great faith of course. But on a practical level [...] people who are likable get work. And people who are pains in the arse don’t. No matter how good they are. Especially in the theatre because it’s such a social medium. It’s such a collaborative workplace. And you know if you are difficult and a pain in the arse, it’s harder to get work. The other thing that’s good too is to the ability to talk about what you do, because that’s the package now. Everybody wants people who can spruik.