WHEN Arundhati Roy won the Booker Prize with her first and only novel, The God of Small Things, she said: "I just wrote this book because I wanted to write it and not because I wanted to change my life."
Frustration, obscurity, povery: Why do writers bother?
She hated the endless interviews, the posh hotels, the constant scrutiny. She has since become a different kind of writer, a polemicist who weighs in on political and social debates, and she is unlikely to follow up her extraordinary novel with another book of fiction.
Like so many other Australian novelists, Walker works as an academic as well as a writer. Despite a recent bout of illness, she has not let up on the steady work towards a new book, a process that's slow but methodical: like a good cook, Walker makes sure she "uses all the pastry", wasting not a word.
"I am not as prolific as I would like to be, but I've always got up in the early hours, four or fiveish, and written. Up to a point, the business of financial remuneration is crucial, but I don't think it comes into all that many of the things that bring us satisfaction."
Walker's graceful enunciation of the role writing plays in her life answers the question "why write?" with finality. "I see extraordinary writing all the time and everywhere," she says. She believes that, although "there are a lot of people writing a lot, I don't see people whose life has been destroyed because they haven't been published. If something works, then there's a good chance that it will be published."