Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Brendan Cowell visits the Tuesday book club

Brendan Cowell is an actor and writer whose debut novel, How it Feels, is an electrifying ode to youth. He came to Shearer's to have a chat with our Tuesday night book club about How it Feels.

In his introduction he spoke about his Nan who stole the show at the launch by jumping in with remarks while Andrew Denton was giving a speech. Brendan’s Nan read the book and commented that she found parts of her body she didn’t know she had!

Brendan talked about his youth and how he started writing poetry at the age of 10 and later read his work to the Word of Mouth patrons at the Harold Park Pub.  When up to 100 people were attending his readings he realised he could hold an audience and decided to have a go at writing a play. The book that inspired him at an early age was The Buddha of Suburbia by Hanif Kureishi.

When asked about why he wrote a novel,  Brendan mused that when writing for the theatre so many people had access to drafts and were willing and happy to change the writing.  However when working on a novel he found he owned the “room” again and was free to write a story. 

Brendan grew up in the Sutherland Shire and How It Feels is set in “The Shire”.  People from the area have challenged the book, as Brendan wanted to question why people were smiling behind their manicured lawns and feeling safe in their world when the area has the highest suicide rate in the country. He mentioned that at the time of writing How It Feels, he was reading Charles Bukoski and M J Hyland.
When asked how he came by the title, he answered the book was concerned with how it feels to be young. The main character Neil Cronk was not liked by some of the members of the Book Club.  Brendan’s defence of his protagonist was to argue that he was a beautiful lost man, typical of a person who actually is quite vulnerable and lashes out through fear.  

When asked if was he writing another novel, his guarded reply was yes, and although he couldn’t give away any of the plot he said it was about a very topical issue. He gave a captivating reading from chapter 28 of How it Feels

Brendan Cowell was entertaining, honest and gave a fascinating insight into his excellent debut novel.


  1. I liked how he said that he needed to get the book out of his head and onto paper while he still could, while he could feel "the intensity of youth". It was good to be at his first ever book reading, and to discuss the plotlines of How it feels with him; AND it was cool that he brought his mum. :)